Silence/Christianity in Japan

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Religion forms the backbone of a nation; with this dutiful title governments may come to base many of there principles to coincide with the teachings of the nationally accepted religion. In some oppressive cases the government may even dictate the belief system that will be accepted though out the empire -- Leaving no tolerance for those who wish to practice a different religion. Furthermore some countries/faiths felt compelled to convert anyone who was a non believer in an attempt to expand the territory of their belief system. This plan was carried out through missionaries. At one point in history, Japan seemed the most fruitful destination for the Jesuit missionaries. In 1549 Francis Xavier, one of the seven original Jesuits, landed in Kagoshima harbor in Japan and proclaimed "the delight of my heart ...the country in the Orient most suited to Christianity."(Endo, Silence, viii) At first much initial success was experienced, the number of convert swelled to 300,000 within one generation. However as the 16th century came to a close the shoguns expelled the Jesuits, and required that all Christians remaining must renounce their faith and register as Buddhists, and shortly after began to harass any who disobeyed this harsh edict. The first executions soon followed, and this began the age of Japanese Christian martyr. Silence a novel composed by Shusaku Endo, is the tale of a few of these courageous martyrs. Endo also presents the idea that "if Hellenistic Christianity is not does not fit Japan, neither does it suit the modern West; if the ear of Japan is eager to catch a new strand in the vast symphony, the ear of the West is no less attentive – search for new cords that will correspond to its awakening sensibilities" (Endo, Silence, xvii). The Hellenistic religion of Christianity -- although changed is in fact well suited to any individual who with in their heart believes in the principles of the faith. County is no object in the quest for ultimate concern of religion. This view of individual devotion and personal preference was highly contradictory to the teachings of the Catholic Church at the time. The faith preached by the missionaries was extremely orthodox Christianity. No room was left for interpretation or debate. Converts were expected to adhere to the rigid structure provided to them by the missionaries. Endo concurs with the belief that Christianity is in fact appropriate for the country of Japan, vindicating for the Christian fighting for tolerance within Japan. Endo displayed a distinct reverence to all those who were valiant and devout enough to surrender their lives for the faith. Regrettably they received, at times a tainted interruption of the faith. This is how the adaptations to the faith came into play. The poor translation made the language barrier a monumental factor in the purity of the word. The language barrier presented many problems. "I cannot help laughing when I hear the mumbling Portuguese and Latin words in the mouths of these ignorant peasants. The sacrament of confession they call ‘konshan'; heaven they call ‘parais'; hell is ‘inferno'."(Endo, Silence, 32). On many occasions the words of the gospel were misinterpreted and taught with incorrect meanings. The word for God is a prime example. The name of the Buddhist god of sun, Fereche was given to the Christian God. "Some Japanese, hearing the sermons, thought that our God was the sun which the people of this country had revered for many generations." (Endo, Silence, 70). Despite the rapid rate which Hellenistic Christianity spread through Japan a new school of though can be hard to grasp. To allow for higher comprehension a large emphasis placed on the virgin mother Mary. Her unconditional love and kind spirit was highly comparable to the values of Japanese culture. Her motherly love was universal transcending all cultural borders and penetrating the mindset of the converts. This led the converts to grasp on to her and endow her with...
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