There is a Japanese proverb which says kusai mono ni futa wo suru (=put a lid on the smelly things). It might be our fleshly nature to avert our eyes from our past sins and avoid dealing with them. We can observe this tendency both in our own lives and in our collective history.
Our Japanese church history has its own glorious points and shameful points just like the other church histories. Today, I’d like to share with you, especially with my dear Korean and Chinese friends, about the shameful and smelly parts of our history which we normally want to avoid talking about.
When Japanese imperial government started to control Christian churches in 1930s, sadly most of the leaders of the mainstream denominations accepted its demands under pressures and came under the national shintoism.
In 1942, Pastor Mitsuru Tomita (1883-1961), the then representative of the unified Japanese church (nikki), went to Ise shrine and worshipped ama-terasu god, entreating this shinto god to “bless” Japanese church.
It was bad enough but the saddest part is that those apostate pastors eventually became the tools of Satan and persecutors of the real saints. In 1938, Tomita was dispatched to Korea by the imperial government and he tried to persuade the Korean pastors to worship Shinto god.
Tomita told them that as long as they worshiped Shinto god, Japanese government would grant them religious freedom. “Moreover,” he added. “to worship at shrine is not a religious act but just a ceremony. I dare say that your stubbornness amounts to a desecration of the mercy of our Emperor!”
Upon this, Chu Ki-chol, a Korean presbyterian pastor replied to him. “Pastor Tomita, you have rich theological knowledge. But you don’t know the Bible. By worshiping at shrine, you are breaking the first commandment of Moses (=You shall have no other gods before Me. Ex.20:3). Then how come you say that it is not sin?”
As a result of his uncompromising faith, Chu Ki-chol had to suffer cruel tortures and died as a martyr in prison in 1944. Many other pastors suffered the same tragic fate.
Then what happened to pastor Tomita after the war? Was he ashamed of his actions? Did he repent?How did his denomination nikki deal with this issue?---as far as I searched, there was no sign of repentance from him. He remained as the leader of the churches until his death in 1961. It was not till 1967 that nikki denomination drafted “the confession of the responsibility of nikki at the time of world war II” and acknowledged the sins which Japanese Christians committed during the war.
When I ponder all of these things, my heart breaks with remorse. I am so sorry for what had happened and what we had done to our brothers and sisters in Korea and other Asian countries.
And I personally think it is a vital issue which we Japanese Christians have to face with complete humility and true repentance, because I have heard from our East Asian friends that they are still struggling how to overcome these terrible past issues.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First reconcile to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23,24.
Offering our gifts and worshiping God are very important acts in our Christian life but Jesus urged us to reconcile to our brother who had something against us at first.
Dear my Korean and Chinese friends, thank you for visiting my blog and reading this essay.
Maybe your grandparents had to suffer severely because of us. Maybe you have difficulty in forgiving us. Or maybe you even hate us. I can understand. And I feel so sorry for all of these. Please forgive us. There are also many Japanese Christians who are repentant and sincerely asking your forgiveness. Our sole desire is to be your good neighbors and to do goodness whenever God gives us opportunity.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, who is a Prince of Peace, dwell among us and heal the wounds of our dear friends. Amen.