Kevin Cooney on Christianity in Japan
Date: October 8th, 2012
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Japan is not known for being an overly religious country. Indeed, compared to its neighbors in Korea and even the People’s Republic of China, the Japanese look downright secular. Prof. Kevin Cooney of Northwest University joins us to talk about the interesting religious landscape in Japan. Having lived there for five years as a Christian, Kevin offers some unique insights on Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. We start with a general survey of what Japan would look like spiritually to a person who just stepped off an airplane in Tokyo today. This leads to a bit of a discussion on Shintoism and Buddhism. However, Tony asks Kevin what it was like to live as a practicing Christian in Japan where only 1% of the population identifies as such. This sets off a discussion about the “secret history” of Christianity that dates back to the “Church of the East” (sometimes referred to as the Nestorian Church). This history pre-dates the arrival of the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier who arrived on the shores of Japan in the early 1549. We then map out what happens to Christianity in the subsequent centuries, particularly when Christians are forced underground in the midst of religious persecution. Kevin tells interesting stories of how underground mining museums still present representations of Christians being married by priests, and we also cover how these Christians were forgotten by the Vatican yet remained rather orthodox (small “o”) in their theological outlook. Our journey continues through the Meiji and Toisho eras and through World War II where, ironically, the largest concentration of Christians in Japan was destroyed in the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. What happens after this event, particularly the disillusionment following Emperor Hirohito’s surrender and announcement that he was not of divine character, sets up our conversation to again examine the contemporary religious landscape of Japan. Kevin shares his thoughts on why Christianity has taken firmer hold in South Korea and China as compared to Japan. We leave off with an intersting discussion of fertility rates, how this relates to religion, and the future of the Japanese nation. Recorded: September 29, 2012 in Match Coffee & Wine Bar (Duvall, WA).
Kevin Cooney’s website at Northwest University.
Kevin Cooney on Religion and the Rule of Law in China.
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