Readers in Council,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Contrary both to common parlance and to what Dipak Basu writes in “What need for missionaries?” (June 7), I think rather than describing Christianity as a ‘Western’ religion it is more accurate to describe all three of the main monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - as Asian religions. Mesopotamia, Arabia and the Levant are, after all, part of the Asian continent, albeit the western edge of it. There might even be intellectual space to frame Judaism as an African religion since its great prophet, Moses, was an Egyptian Jew. But to control definitions means control of the debate, and to consistently frame Christianity as Western distorts the picture.
It is true that Christianity, for better or worse, has endured a preponderance of European cultivation and on the back of Euro-centric historical trends - like imperialism, for example - it is European Christianity that was exported globally to the regret of many but to the benefit of many, as well. But to read Basu on religion it sounds only for the worse. However, Basu is an economics professor, not a theologian, historian, or pastor, so his views, to which he is certainly entitled, are amateur and clearly partisan. It is his partisanship that moves me to write now.
While freely admitting all the wrongs committed - and still committed - by various Christians in the names of their Church and their God it strikes me as ingenuous to insinuate, as Basu and others do, that it was malice that motivated Christian mission. On the contrary, it is love, not malice that motivates the Christian message of hope, not violence, to the world.
Basu notes that under Hinduism and Buddhism “Humans ... are instructed to accept nonviolence as the supreme principle.” Stated another way, those religious/philosophical traditions instruct people to accept passivity towards the toils of existence which might be called the root of their problems to begin with. I don’t see much hope in passivity and, therefore, I might say there is a great and continuing need for Christian witness.
Published on Sunday, June 10, 2012 as “Great need for Christian witness.”
There is a lot of facile talk about religion. People have an opinion, possibly the product of their learning and experience, and they sincerely believe that they know what they are talking about. But I suspect that most of us do not know what we are talking about most of the time. And whether we know what we are talking about or not our intercourse is framed by language and society that are artificial, human inventions, neither immutable nor absolute. Everything is drama, and our debates are part of the drama. Religion, like politics, is a passionate topic and people get carried away. I am happy to have been able to get my ideas on this topic that so far has been carried mostly by Christine Wallace of Tokyo and Jennifer Kim of Obihiro, Hokkaido in the Readers in council page.