Friday, March 20, 2015
It was partly thanks to the Japanese that the Christians became the scourge of the earth! The Jesuits -- officially the Society of Jesus -- were not great in number. Inspired by the founder Ignatius of Loyola - a former soldier from Spain - a group of six friends set sail with traders to spread the word, and Francisco Xavier found himself in Japan.
There it was the Jesuits' initial success with the Japanese, who initially found the Jesuits very compelling, that inspired Europeans to make large monetary donations to the Jesuits and for the Jesuits and other Christian religious orders to set off proselyting around the world, and -- as the Japanese had been warned by the British inhabitant of Japan William Adams -- subsequently colonizing some, or many of the countries in which there were Christian converts.
In Japan initially the the Jesuits and the Japanese were mutually appreciative of each other. The Jesuits wrote back with glowing praise regarding the Japanese people. Xavier wrote "[Japan] surpasses in goodness any of the nations lately discovered...none that has more natural goodness than the Japanese" (Xavier in Coleridge, 1872, p237) and "They are wonderfully inclined to all that is good and honest, and have an extreme eagerness to learn" (ibid, p238).
According to Francisco's writing - which can be read online -- the Japanese appeared to have been impressed with the humility, poverty, chastity, bravery (in the face of Buddhist repression) and helping the poor - perhaps in contradistinction to the lay appreciation of Buddhist priests. The Buddhists also had no explanation for how the world was created, the Buddha having refused to answer the question regarding the origin of the illusory world, telling people to get over it. The Christians who as we know, claim that God created the world with his word. Impressed by all this initially, there were a great many Japanese converts including among their leaders. Later Jesuits were less popular.
After the long period of Christian repression, when Christian missionaries returned in the post revolution, Meiji period, there were far fewer converts and Japanese remain largely disinterested in Christianity to this day. There is however, a great consumerist splurge at Christmas, a reinterpretation of the message of love as one related to Erotic love, and a great many illuminations especially in my town of Yamaguchi, where Francisco Xavier preached.
Coleridge, H. J. (1872). The life and letters of St. Francis Xavier : in two volumes. Asian Educational Services. https://archive.org/details/thelifeandletter02coleuoft
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.