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5 articles on Christianity in Japan

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5 articles on Christianity in Japan

They say Christians are getting smaller. This is true, but only for the traditionally "Christian world" – the West. This, of course, is sad, but not surprising. Recall that Christianity originated in Israel, but could not be kept in its cradle; The church, such as we know it, was formed in the Mediterranean at the time of late antiquity, but Christian Antioch, Alexandria, and New Rome have not been around for many centuries. Then Christianity was perceived by the barbarians — the Celts, the Germans, the Slavs: do they refuse it now?

It is important to remember that for us – not Russians or French, but for Christians – “every foreign country is a homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country” according to the author’s “Epistles to Diognet”. The Christian and Christianity as a whole do not have a national identity (as well as a social and gender identity – so, in any case, the apostle Paul taught). Maybe now the “holy city” in its historic journey again changes its temporary shelter?

A few years ago, the number of Christians in the third world countries exceeded the number of Christians in traditionally Christian countries. On the Pacific coast there are three Christian countries: the Philippines, small East Timor and South Korea (and in the communist North they still kill for Christ …). The active Christianization of China was interrupted by Mao – but not forever: it is in China that the number of conversions to Christ is now higher than in any other country. Therefore, if one of the many modern horror stories comes true, and China really conquers everything and everyone, it is very likely that the Christian country will conquer the world. Meanwhile, in Africa, the multi-million “black Orthodoxy” was born, Latin America, this amazing cocktail of races and cultures, is building before our eyes a new Christian civilization … And what about Japan?

Christianity penetrated Japan in the 16th century, survived a turbulent history, including the most severe persecutions that almost destroyed it (persecuted Christianity, by the way, so much loved by Zen Buddhism). Being the third religion in terms of the number of supporters in the country, Japanese Christianity can boast not so much a mass character (unfortunately) as a strong, distinctive cultural and intellectual tradition.

The people who created perhaps the most elegant culture in the world — what did he “do” with Christianity? The pagans, who in the last century believed that their emperor was a god (it was a state law) – how did they perceive the Good News? Consider a few examples.

1. Shusaku Endo: a classic of Japanese literature – Christian

He is considered the founder of Japanese Christian literature (rather symbolically, since Japanese Christians have already written before Endo) and is called “Japanese Green” (interestingly, Graham Green himself read and appreciated Endo). In a word, Endo is a recognized classic of Japanese literature.

In the library Tradition. Ru collected, if not mistaken, all translated into Russian works of Endo. We will tell about two, in our opinion, his main novels.

The novel "Silence" is considered the main achievement of Endo. The form is historical (and essentially philosophical), the novel tells about the persecutions of Christians arranged by the shogunate. Critics wrote that the main theme of the novel is the difficulty, if not the impossibility of being Christian on Japanese soil (regardless of “Silence”, this question really was sick for Endo, was his torment). We give quotes illustrating the main image of the novel. It is clear from them that the problems of “Silence” are far beyond purely national:

“Selenia was burned, residents were driven away,” he explained. Dead silence hung over the land, over the sea, there was no sound, except for the dull splash of waves hitting the side of the boat. “Lord! Why did you allow this outrage? – whispered the priest. – Even the church, erected for Your glory, You left it to reproach! Really, when you expelled these unfortunates, you silently looked at their torment and did not give them a sign in order to breathe courage into them? Why? What is the reason for your silence? We are not as strong as Job, to whom the test of leprosy was revealed. Job is holy, and the Christians here are only weak, poor, poor peasants. Their patience is not unlimited. So do not send them suffering beyond measure … ”The priest prayed, but the sea remained as impassive as before, and the darkness stubbornly kept silence. I heard only monotonous dull splash of oars. "I seem to be completely discouraged …" he thought with a shiver. He felt that his strength was running out, he would not endure this agony, if Divine mercy did not give him courage. Suddenly the splashing of the oars stopped. ”

“How did He feel that night? Did he foresee the silence of God? Rodriguez tried not to think about it. To drive away annoying thoughts, the priest shook his head violently. He again saw the sea, covered with a gray fog, where Mokiti and Ichijo, crucified on a cross, die … The sea, where wears, like a piece of wood, exhausted Garrpe … The sea, where straw men sink one after another … Waves, waves – sullen waves endlessly and without edge; and above them is the Lord, stubbornly silent. “Eloi! Eloi! Lamma Sawahfani … ". At nine o'clock Jesus cried on the cross, and his voice flew up to the darkened heavens. No, it was not a prayer. Only now the priest comprehended: it was a cry of horror before the silence of God. ”

The final of “Silence” is tragic, complex and ambiguous …

A masterpiece of Endo filmed his compatriot Masahiro Synod. And in 2017, the film was released by “Silence” by American director Martin Scorsese, which also speaks of the greatness of this novel.

Endo's other novel, Scandal, seems to us the most interesting and most “Japanese” creation of Endo. His hero is an aging Japanese Christian writer, successful and recognized … Do you understand who the author is talking about? This writer stumbles upon the traces of his twin, who performs terrible, cruel and dirty things. An honest and deep romance about evil, about sin … and about yourself.

2. Sono Ayako "Blue of Heaven" – Christian and serial killer.

Sono is a well-known writer in Japan and beyond, a follower of the Endo tradition. "Blue of Heaven" – her only novel, translated into Russian. Amazing piece.

Yukiko, the main character is an ordinary woman: modest, unpretentious, simple. Except for one thing – she is a Christian. By chance, she meets Fujio, a serial killer. To love your neighbor is to love “not at all”, but to love someone who is near, near. And if the killer is near? “Crime and Mercy” is a truly Christian formulation of the problem of “crime and punishment.”

3. “Idiot” Akira Kurosawa: Dostoevsky in Japan

Kurosawa's Idiot – without even looking back at Dostoevsky's novel – is a great film. The action of the novel in it is transferred to post-war Japan.

It’s even more interesting that many people seriously call this tape the best film version of The Idiot. When talking about Christianity in Japan, the following is important to us: how the great Japanese cinematographer understood the great Christian – and foreign to himself – a writer.

4. The film "The Sun": Japan through the eyes of Alexander Sokurov.

The situation inverse to Kurosawa's Idiot is the situation: as a modern Russian – and Christian – the director perceives Japan, namely the most painful point of its history: the surrender in World War II and the emperor’s refusal of the status of God (as in Sokurov – in reality, unfortunately, this is its formulation is very vague). But historical realities are not so important here. It is important that the "Sun" – a true masterpiece, and a Christian masterpiece.

"The Sun" is the third part of Sokurov's cycle of power. The first two were devoted to Hitler and Lenin – albeit different, but lonely and disastrous for their peoples ways of deifying power (from a Christian perspective – demonizing power, for God is one).

Emperor Hirohito is, according to the law and the faith of the Japanese, a god. His country, in madness and pride, began a terrible war, and now it loses in terrible sacrifices and destruction. Do you choose the path of Hitler and Lenin? No: the emperor chooses the salutary path of humility, the path of genuine love for his country. He goes to the "shameful" world and renounces the status of God. If you have not watched this movie – believe me, it is worth watching. Among other things, we note the wonderful game of the actor who played the main role: it is difficult to describe it in words – this must be seen.

Sokurov also has three documentary films about Japan – "Eastern Elegy", "Humble Life" and "dolce …".

5. History of Japanese Orthodoxy: Sakura in Bloom and the Planet of Orthodoxy

After two examples of Japanese Christian culture and two examples of the interpenetration of Japan and Russian Christian art, let us note a couple of sources on the history of Orthodoxy in Japan. "The flowering branch of Sakura" popularizes the history of Orthodoxy from St. Nicholas to the present day. "Japan. Hong Kong. The gift of St. Nicholas "- a film from the documentary series" Planet of Orthodoxy. "

Bonus – Christianity in China and Korea

The history of Chinese Christianity is a mystery to most of us. Lomanov's book "Christianity and Chinese Culture" opens the veil, describing the period from the arrival of the Nestorians in the VII century. before the uprising of the taipins at the end of the nineteenth century. The special value of the book is that it is not only about history; emphasis is placed on the dialogue of Chinese culture and the gospel. The antiquity of Christianity in China is amazing: who among us knows that during the Ecumenical Councils the Chinese have already heard about Christ?

The Taiping is a kind of Christian movement that tried, guided by Christian ideas, to build a communist society – the State of Heavenly Prosperity (common property, women's equal rights, etc.). Their rebellion was one of the most widespread in Chinese history, and led to one of the bloodiest wars in human history in general.

We also mention Lee Jong Hyang – Korean Christian director. Under the link you will find her two films.

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