the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Friday, April 11, 2008

the doors on the alter

In the front of the chapel, there's an alter. It has two big candles on
it, and in the middle is a big brass IHS cross. The alter is in an
alcove at the back of the stage, there are doors on it. At the end of
chapel, we extinguish the candles and close the doors. It seemed weird
to me, but I could never quite put my finger on why.

This week one of the English teachers explained the doors to me. The
doors are left over from pre-World War II.

During World War II, all Japanese public gathering places were required
to have a picture of the Emperor so that the entire country could
worship the Emperor together. If they didn't have this picture, the
building was closed to the public. Rather than close, the Japanese
churches choose (or rather complied) to having a picture of the Emperor
placed in their buildings. (It's important to note that because of the
war, all missionaries left Japan.) At Seiai, the picture of the Emperor
used to be in alcove. In fact, before the war, there was no alcove in
the back of the stage.

The fact that pre-war, mainline churches complied to this is often a
point the mainline churches fight about with the younger and more
evangelical post-war churches. Younger churches say the mainline
churches shouldn't have complied at all. They should have accepted
persecution. But the fact remains that the younger churches weren't
around then, and may have done the same thing had they been in that

In Shintoism, when you leave the room, the God leaves too. So when
people left the service, the doors of the alcove were closed because the
Emperor was no longer there. This also keeps the god clean.

The cross now stands where the Emperor's picture once was. But our God
is still here! His Spirit is always with us! He doesn't leave at the end
of the service. He doesn't leave if you close the door.

When we were cleaning up after the service (putting a cover on the
pulpit, putting the big Bible away, extinguishing the candles), I told
the chaplain we don't need to close the door because God is still here.
She smiled and closed the door.

I think there are many things in Japanese church that have been adopted
from Japanese culture. Some things, like the pulpit cover, are good. It
really does keep the pulpit clean. But there are things like the alcove
doors. Those things are not Christianity at all. They reflect other
beliefs and values that we don't believe.

This is what I was thinking as I went back to the office and tried to
get ready for my next lesson. As I thought about it, I couldn't stand
it. I ran back downstairs and opened the alcove doors. I thought about
putting a big stick at the bottom of the doors so no one can close them
anymore. But I think I better clear that with the chaplain first. :)

In some ways, it really doesn't matter. But in some ways, it really does.

...A little yeast works through the whole dough.


Blogger *cq* said...

hehe. way to go brother! ;p

4/11/2008 11:52 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home