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Friday, October 28, 2016

Koto-Nakare-Shugi (=Let’s-Don’t-Rock-The-Boat Principle) : The Root-Issue Of Japanese Churches And Culture





"Koto-nakare-shugi" is said to be an invisible but deep-rooted cultural phenomenon in Japanese society including Christian churches.

Koto-Nakare-Shugi (事なかれ主義 =let’s-don’t-rock-the-boat principle); 
-this idiom means to cause "trouble" where it is not welcome. Causing trouble, or doing/saying something where it would only disturb a situation, that is otherwise satisfactory and "peaceful" as it is.

I have been voicing the gender-feminism issue inside the churches on my Japanese blog for the last two years or so. When I say gender-feminism issue, it includes female ordination issue, homosexual issue, the recovery of headcovering, male headship at home/in the church, creation order, biblical manhood/womanhood and so forth. 

Today, however, I want to confess to you with tears that I am almost on the verge of breakdown because of this particular cultural/spiritual phenomenon called "Koto-nakare-shugi" which is so dominant in Japanese cultural structure. 

This structure looks gentle and polite on the surface but it nonetheless raises a merciless hammer over your head if you dare to go against the cultural tide and say "no!" to its new policies and directions. 

You might wonder, "but, Kinuko, I don't think it is just a Japanese phenomenon. We've seen it in the western evangelical world, too." Yes, you are right in saying that it is seen in everywhere but the peculiarity of Japanese culture is that there is a silent but persistent, overwhelming pressure which suggests we must even avoid pointing out the existence of these controversial issues. 

In the west, on the other hand, whether you are egalitarians or complementarians (or somewhere in the middle), you might feel you are allowed to voice your opinions and discuss these issues freely. And it naturally causes lively and fair discussions and consequently, it helps each of us to listen to both sides of the argument carefully and decide our own course. 

In the Japanese setting, however, it won't happen like that. And if you dare to do, and keep on doing so, then, sooner or later, you are cornered and then start to believe that you are the most weird, eccentric, unmerciful, and obstinate person in the whole world, thus it is better to just shut up your mouth and let the stream go as it wishes.

I ask my dear brothers and sisters to pray for me. My spirit wants to stand up for Him and the Bible truth but my flesh is so weak and powerless. "Koto-nakare-shugi" inside/outside of me discourages/weakens me to go on this gender ideological/spiritual battle and I am almost ready to give up this fighting in the Japanese church setting. I wish I would be a strong soldier of Christ! Thank you for reading this post. May God bless you all.


20 comments:

  1. Dearest Kinuko, may our dear LORD JESUS bless you and hold you in these struggles. You can't do it on your own. But HE will help you. You are not alone. I want to pray for you. This is a spiritual battle. A passage from Ephesians 6 has helped me often:

    10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

    With love in CHRIST, your sister Sabine

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    1. Dear Sabine, I don't know how to thank you for your kind words and the quotes from Ephesians 6. Do you remember my previous post (Testimony of a former female preacher)? Ironically, a few hours after publishing that post, a gift was delivered from my previous leader who is a female pastor in Japan who loved me (and loves me) and cares for my spiritual welfare with the sincere spirit of Christ. Though I am convicted from my serious study that to be a female pastor is unbiblical, my affection and human tie with her and other egalitarian brothers/sisters who have loved me and supported me over the years, hinders me from observing the phenomenon purely in the light of the Scripture. Moreover, my transition from an egalitarian female preacher to a complementarian headcovering sister occurred AFTER coming to Greece as a missionary, so, most of my connection with Japan are that of egalitarian churches, which in fact, makes my inner-conflict even harder. I've written letters to some (seemingly) conservative pastors/seminary students, inquiring their position over the gender-feminism issue, but most of them seemed to avoid expressing their position clearly and thus, I could hardly receive any positive response.

      As you wisely told me, this must be a spiritual battle. And it is a battle against my flesh (fear of man), too. I wish I would open my mouth and say with Martin Luther that "I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen."

      Sincerely, Kinuko

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    2. Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD. Exodus 14, 13
      Dear Kinuko, in all these trials - and I have read what you wrote down here - we can become still and wait on the LORD, praying of course. I have seen HIS help always. Not often has HIS help been as I had expected it or anticipated it. But HE cares! It is HIS battle.

      Look to HIM, not to the waves.
      In CHRIST, Sabine

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    3. Dear Sabine, thank you so much for your reply. Yes, by His spirit, you came to the precise point; that is the problem of fear! In fact, it made me realize that the hidden cause of "Koto-nakare-shugi" which is rooted in me and in Japanese cultural structure is a fear. --fear of rejection, fear of being stood out, fear of being labeled as a "peace-breaker", and...most of all, a fear of carrying my own cross and following His step which was full of humiliation, rejection, isolation and lamentations. My flesh longs for human acceptance, affirmation, favor and it hates to be crucified and abandoned by men. "Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me." (Psalm 69:15). O Lord, help me to look to You and not to the waves! Help me to sink into Thy word: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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  2. It's way too early for you to give up on the issue, Kinuko. I have good news for you. Do you remember both you and I posted comments to Christian Today Japan(CTJ)? Recently I came to know an interesting fact in regard to it. The staff of CTJ seem to thoroughly check out comments that are posted. I have a friend on FB who has posted a lot of harsh comments to CTJ. He told me that they sometimes deleted his comments on account of his wording of comments being inappropriate. Why do they do that? Because they check out all the comments they receive. And you what? After we posted our anti-homosexual comments to CTJ, I've seen no article that affirms homosexuality whatsoever! I believe that the staff and the chief editor read our anti-homosexual comments and they have withdrew from publishing pro-homosexual articles. So, take courage, Kinuko. God IS with us!

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    1. Dear Bro. David,
      Thank you so much for your uplifting comment. I do respect you as a courageous and steadfast man of God. I also read your posts as a response to my previous Japanese article today. It was such an encouragement to me that someone cared to take his time and responded to my inquiry. Thank you so much again.

      The example which I used inside that article (a gay-pastor who has bore genuine spiritual fruits) was actually based on the (*a bit modified but) true story which I have witnessed and gone through with my friend and I want to share it with you. My friend was saved (through campus youth minister) while she was studying in the US as an exchange student but after coming back from the states, she started to struggle inwardly because the brother who guided her to Christ was actually a gay-minister who is living with his partner near the campus.

      Her struggle was much because she told me that he was indeed a spirit-filled, genuine believer who loves Jesus with all of his heart. So, my friend and I decided to fly to US and met him. Yes, she was RIGHT! I saw him, conversed with him, ate with him and saw his faith and character. In fact, I had never seen such a gentle, sincere and kind Christian in my life. No wonder she was drawn to Christ through him.

      So after much consideration, I told my struggling friend that she does not need to doubt her salvation and that I believe that God indeed used bro. S (the gay-minister) as His vessel for her salvation. but that does not mean He affirms the homosexual act of bro.S.

      (continued to part 2)

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  3. Bro. David, I welcome your critique regarding my following hermeneutical presupposition. If you think I am wrong at some points, or need to consider some other factors, please tell me freely! I am pleased to hear your opinion. Here is my question and the response from Bro. Jeremy Gardiner. (with his permission I will quote some of his sayings.)

    [Kinuko wrote to Mr.Gardiner]
    "I'd like to ask you one question regarding the hermeneutics. : Are hermeneutical justification of female preaching/pastoring INTERRELATED with hermeneutical justification of homosexuality?

    As I read Wayne Grudem's books ("Evangelical Feminism And The Biblical Truth", "Evangelical Feminism: A New Path To Liberalism?") and your articles (esp.about the phusis.), I've come to assume that the two are in one line and that they are linked to each other.However, I .....wonder if my presupposition is o.k.or not.

    I agree that some affirm female preachers not because of feminism but because of their own (Bible-believing) specific interpretation. However, when I researched the history of female ordination in various denominations in USA, I observed that there is a certain stream/pattern that once one denomination starts to ordain women for any reason, then, sooner or later, this particular denomination starts to accept homosexuality as well....So, what do you think of this point?"

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  4. [Response from Mr.Gardiner]
    "Regarding your question I really recommend you read this: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2013/06/12/an-open-letter-to-egalitarians-about-liberalism/ It's actually written by Grudem and I think will help.

    Basically, it is consistent for people who hold to the cultural view of head covering to embrace egalitarianism---but that doesn't mean they will. Likewise, it is consistent for those who say hair lengths are cultural matters, to view Paul's thoughts on homosexuality in Romans 1 the same way. However, that doesn't mean they will.

    It is right for you to point out the inconsistency, but that doesn't mean they'll likely end up rejecting what the Bible says on gender or sex. However, if they get consistent they will and some liberal denominations have. Pentecostals in their embrace of egalitarianism have made a step towards liberalism, but that doesn't mean they will continue getting more liberal as Grudem says in that article."

    -end-

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  5. Oh sweet Kinuko don't give up! I understand the frustration but remember our Lord was persecuted too. Many souls are at stake. There are people who will listen to you. And the Holy Spirit will guide you and tell you when to speak out on this issue and when to be silent. God bless you dear!

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    1. Dear Regina, thank you so much for your kind words! I do appreciate your friendship in Christ. When I was almost on the verge of nervous breakdown due to these controversial and sensitive issues, my Mom asked me what was wrong with me. Because my Mom is not a Christian and seems like she does not like to listen to the topics of Christian faith, I respect her preference and don't dare to share my faith issues with her.

      However, at that particular moment, something urged me from inside and I opened my mouth and started to explain to her about the internal tension/dissension among Christians due to the ideological/hermeneutical differences. I showed her the short video of Mary Kassian ; " Feminism and the Christian Woman" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI8_e4smDeo

      and shared with her why I am struggling and for what I am fighting, and fighting alone. Then something amazing thing happened. She simply understood me!

      That night, alone in my room, I cried uncontrollably. Because ever since I became a Christian (17 years ago), I had never felt my Mom understood me. She is an able English-Japanese interpreter and has lots of secular (but very good) American friends, so one can easily assume that she affirms secular egalitarianism but it was not true!

      I found out that through direct and lively interaction with Americans over the years, my Mom has been influenced by so called "good Christian culture" indirectly (and without her knowledge.)

      She also said to me sympathetically that "Koto-nakare-shugi" is so rampant in every fiber of Japanese society that one feels almost suffocated by the atmosphere that we can just talk about "safe", harmless, superficial, non-controversial, and non-essential topics. Oh, Regina. I think this comment's got too long! Thank you for reading it. May God bless you and your new life in the new state!

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  6. I think that Japanese christians are apt to avoid talking about sensitive issue because of that we are absolute minority in this country. To protect our faith,christian fellowship under social pressue not always in favor of christianity,we are often apt to be spiritual withdrawal(hikikomori).Some says that Japanese christians are so few,should not contend to avoid stumbling.

    I think that problem may be shortage of power for seeking bible truth more.Japanese evangelical/pentecostal churches seems to be in defence against cultural pressue which thinks having no religion or cultural/liberal faith is intellectual.

    I am not disappointed.I hope you,and our brethren in the world to pray for our nation,for them to seek truth and God.
    May God be with you always,and encourage to go on His way.

    Sanae


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    1. Dear Sanae, thank you so much for your sincere comment. This time, while I was in Japan, I often remembered your sayings and really understood what you have felt and gone through in this land. One thing which made me surprised was that everywhere I went, there were Halloween decorations and advertisement. Two years ago, I did not see this phenomenon at all. My spirit cried out because of its shallowness and superficiality of our culture, which is prompted by the mass-commercialism. I have felt and seen unutterable空虚 (emptiness)、刹那主義 (passing pleasures)、sufferings of many sincere and serious Christians in Japanese society.

      So I was impressed all the more, by the living testimonies of our brothers and sisters in Japan (including you!). May God encourage and strengthen believers in Japan. (*One missionary told me that even though many of them do not know Christ yet, through natural disasters etc..He has prepared this people for His refined vessels to carry the Gospel to the end of the world. May it be so!! Amen.)

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  7. As an occidental woman, I didn't know about this cultural phenomenon in Japan ! Oh it must be so difficult to try to discuss about important spiritual issues for the Church, with this so strong cultural/social principle. But how beautiful and incredible that your Mom actually understood you !!
    Maybe you could write open letters/blog posts adressed to Japanese believers about this "Koto-Nakare-Shugi" cultural thing, and explain them that this is an example of what the Bible would actually call "men's traditions" and how these men's traditions can make difficult to welcome the Word of God. One of my friends also told me this smart philosophic remark : "God wants to give us Peace, but most of times we just prefer to be left in peace". It reminds me this Japanese principle : please don't cause troubles, let the conversation/situation stay "peaceful". Japanese are like many of us : we always prefer things to be confortable and not wavy instead of standing in the real Peace of God ;)

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    2. Dear Caro, wonderful observation! While I was reading your reply, a simple and fundamental question came into my mind: DOES TRUTH REALLY MATTER to you? If so, HOW MUCH?

      Felix Manz, one of the first Swiss brethren and martyrs who practiced believers' baptism in the early 1500s, testified to the crowd just before he was drown into the icy Limmat river;

      "I testify with my death today that the baptism which we have taught and practiced is the baptism of Jesus Christ and the Bible." And then he was killed.

      At that time, there were many sympathizers of so-called, "Re-baptizers" but the historical documents show that most of the believers did not live up to their faith regarding the believer's baptism. For some people, the issue of believer's baptism was a life and death issue. Because for them, the Bible truth MATTERED.

      This is my prayer that as we are striving for living up for Biblical womanhood, THE TRUTH captures us and not vice versa. O may it be so!

      Dear Caro, I am going to quote the following section of the book which I sent you.

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    3. 49. Since many leading evangelical scholars disagree on
      the questions of manhood and womanhood, how can any
      layperson even hope to come to a clear conviction on these
      questions?


      Serious students of the Bible must walk a fine line between
      two dangers. On the one side is the oversimplification of the process of interpretation that neglects the disciplines of historical and grammatical study.

      On the other side is the temptation to pull rank on laypeople and emphasize inaccessible data and complicated contextual problems so much that they despair of confident understanding.

      We realize that there are “some things in [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16).

      This recognition will guard us from overstating the simplicity of Scripture.

      But we believe the emphasis should fall on the usefulness of all Scripture. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

      We do not want to discourage any serious layperson with the thought that the usefulness of Scripture is out of his or her reach. We also want to stress that under divine inspiration, the apostle Paul was committed to clarity and forthrightness in his writing:

      “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2).

      We would also encourage laypeople to view controversies
      over important issues not only as evidence of our sin and ignorance but also as evidence that truth matters, that it is worth striving for, and that harmful error is not carrying the day unopposed.

      Paul said to the Corinthians, “When you come together
      as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized”
      (1 Cor. 11:18–19).

      We are far from doubting the genuine Christian standing of evangelical feminists.

      The point here is that controversy is necessary where truth matters and serious error is spreading.

      Laypeople should therefore take heart that the battle for truth is being fought. They should realize that many of the plain things they virtually take for granted in their faith today were once hotly disputed and were preserved for them through controversy.

      On this issue of manhood and womanhood, we encourage
      laypeople to consider the arguments available to them, to think for themselves, to saturate themselves in Scripture, and to pray earnestly for what Paul promised in Philippians 3:15: “If in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

      -Wayne Grudem & John Piper, "50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood"

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  8. "controversy is necessary where truth matters and serious error is spreading.

    Laypeople should therefore take heart that the battle for truth is being fought. They should realize that many of the plain things they virtually take for granted in their faith today were once hotly disputed and were preserved for them through controversy."

    This quote helps me a lot : Yes, if Truth really matters, it is IMPOSSIBLE to escape controversies !

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    1. Dear Caro, yes, you are right. If Truth really matters, it is impossible to escape controversies. Truth confronts us. It divides. It forces us to choose our way. And I learned that the genuine love for Truth gives us power to fight against non-truth, lies and sins seriously. Several months ago, I summarized the following Youtube message for young Christian youths who are suffering from the habit of masturbation.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=583aZdjisS8

      Then some people responded me and really thanked me for translating this message. Because this pastor--unlike many pastors in the world--clearly says it is sin and gives them good and godly tips and encouragements.

      Sins and temptations are everywhere---inside and outside. It is a hard battle!!O Lord, help us to walk this earth like innocent white flowers! In Jesus' name. Amen.

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  9. Thank you for sharing the link of this video ! It is so wonderful to see a real man of God having courage to say clearly "this is sin". We need so much more real men of God !

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    1. Dear Caro. Yes, that's so true! We need courageous men of God on the pulpit who do not water down the Gospel message but dare to confront the audience with the power of Holy Spirit. Here is one impressive quote;

      "It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher."
      --George Whitefield

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