Category: East Asia


Matthew Moore on Buddhism and Political Theory

Prof. Matthew Moore explores the interesting (and limited) political theory embedded in Buddhist thought and compares it with some Western political thinkers including Friedrich Nietzsche and John Howard Yoder. We discuss the concept of “the self,” and how the notion of limited citizenship plays out in the polity for Buddhist thinkers. We even discuss whether or not robots should meditate at the end of our interview.

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Darren Slade on Missionizing North Korea

Of all the countries in the world, why would anyone consider North Korea a territory for Christian evangelization? With one of the most repressive and atheistic regimes, that thrives on a cult of personality of its founding leaders, this would not seem to be fertile ground. Darren Slade discusses the political and religious background of this communist nation and what missionizing strategies have been employed in an environment that is extremely hostile to Christianity.

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Joel Fetzer on Confucianism and Democracy

Max Weber once argued that Confucianism did not lend itself to liberal democracy because of its allegiance to social hierarchy and harmony. Prof. Joel Fetzer of Pepperdine University examines this claim with evidence based upon the recent democratization of Taiwan. He argues that although Confucianism was not a cause of the recent democratization, the philosophy is flexible enough to allow for compatability with a variety of democratic norms including indigenous and women’s rights. We also examine the cases of South Korea, China, and Singapore.

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Andrea Molle on Spirituality and the Martial Arts

Sivis pacem, para bellum … if you want peace, prepare for war. Can the practice of marial arts be consistent with spiritual enlightenment and inner peace? We visit with Prof. Andrea Molle, a professor of political science at Chapman University, who has written about the connection between spirituality and martial arts, as well as being a black belt who is active in the Aikido community. Andrea explains how various martial arts enhances religiosity and how the connection between combat and spirituality developed over time. He also discusses his experience with teaching martial arts to youth at a Southern Californian Christian church.

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Kevin Cooney on Christianity in Japan

Prof. Kevin Cooney of Northwest University gives us a general perspective of what spiritual life is like in Japan, focusing first on Shintoism and Buddhism, but then exploring the hidden history of Christianity. He discusses the suprisingly early arrival of the “Nestorian Church,” followed several hundred years later by Jesuit missionaries. What happens when the Catholic Church is forced to go underground and how does the opening of Japan to the West and then its imperialist phase impact Christianity? We also explore where Christianity sits today in Japan and how religion relates to fertility rates.

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Robert Woodberry on Missionaries and Democracy

Did Protestant missionaries help plant the seeds of democracy throughout the world? Prof. Robert Woodberry takes us on a historical tour-de-force around the globe showing how “conversionary Protestants” helped to promote literacy, spread printing technology, facilitate civic organization, defend religious and civil liberties, and protest the abuses of slavery and colonialism. We discuss how this happened and why Protestants were uniquely situated to do this, although we look at similar Catholic efforts in recent decades. We conclude with speculative thoughts about the Arab Spring.

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Christian Novetzke on Kung Fu Fighting & Eastern Religions

Get into the octagon with Prof. Christian Novetzke as we spar intellectally about the relationship between the martial arts and Eastern religions. Karate, jujitsu, tai chi, tae kwon do, and even yoga are discussed in our fascinating interview that also explores Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism and the connection between Christianity and the mixed martial arts (i.e., cage fighting). We discover the importance of self-actualization that connects all these different philosophies and martial activities.

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Kevin Cooney on Religion and the Rule of Law in China

Prof. Kevin Cooney of Northwest University joins us to discuss his recent trip to the People’s Republic of China where he visited with numerous Chinese scholars to discuss the role of religion and the rule of law in that country. He shares his insights from that trip, including his experiences in touring different parts of the country and learning about the religious landscape. Prof. Cooney contrasts the scene in China today with what he experienced back in the mid-1980s when he was teaching English in that country.

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Lan Chu on Catholicism in Vietnam

Is the Catholic Church likely to be a force for political liberalization in Vietnam? Prof. Lan Chu takes up this question and also talks about the history of Catholicism in that country with special attention on how the Church has survived under a communist regime. Our discussion also includes various comparisons with Eastern Europe and Cuba, and Prof. Chu provides some speculation about what the future of Vietnam might look like.

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Thomas Farr on Religion, Religious Liberty & US Diplomacy

Prof. Thomas Farr discusses the important role of religion and religious liberty in foreign relations. Dr. Farr brings both a scholar’s insight and his experience as a 21 year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service and recent director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. We examine why American diplomats have often had a blind spot for religious issues and then turn our discussion to why promoting religious liberty is in the national security interest of the United States (and other nations).

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