Friday, August 07, 2009

Christian Tourist in Shinto Shrine?

Horrors - I missed a day or two! Thursday, we played at the Weasel's Den....miniature golf and walked all over main base again. Friday, we went on the Hachinohe tour. I'm waiting for a zillion photos to load and trying to figure out the best way to blog it....topics or one very long post! LOL
The recent days did raise a question that I'd love to hear thoughts on. All thoughts are, of course, welcome, but I'd especially like to hear how Christians who have lived in other cultures or how missionaries have handled it.

We love Japan. We are finding new things to respect and admire daily. This is a culture that STILL, by and large, has boundaries of respect, honor and kindness as their foundation.

On a tour to a Shinto Shrine yesterday, Jared and I encountered new thoughts.....where do we draw the line? We do NOT want to be rude Americans. We do NOT want to offend our hosts. We were uncomfortable being told we had to purify ourselves with a water ceremony before entering the shrine. I sort of got around this by thinking of all sorts of verses about purification....and such....and figuring it could be a symbol in my heart of what I know God has done internally. We didn't have to figure it out, because the man who worked there decided it was taking our group to long to purify and said the 10 who had purified made us all pure. ::snort::

We were asked to pray (which includes bowing, throwing coins, ringing a bell, clapping your hands and such) at the Shinto Shrine. We didn't. They said Shinto accepts prayers to all gods...but I felt that my God doesn't allow me to bow to other deities.... though I COULD have prayed to God...but I didn't want to bow to the thing.... AGAIN we were a big group and so they moved us on and I'm sure no one would have FORCED me to do this...but I was unsettled, wondering if I'd offended the guides...and hating that....not sure if I'd made too much of a deal of it in my thoughts.....Then Jared mentioned the same thoughts. He wondered where the line is between being a polite tourist and being a Christian tourist in a Shinto Shrine.
Kim? Tammy? I would love to know what Japanese CHRISTIANS think about this. Would they do it as it's cultural? Would they NOT visit the shrines? Do they consider it a big deal?

What guidelines would you use to determine if something is o.k. to do as a tourist, or crosses the line as a Christian? At this point, we simply pray and act...and maybe that is the best policy. Certainly God knows our hearts and the Holy Spirit is capable of stopping us from crossing lines.

For instance we were the only family who didn't buy good luck amulets for all the children and horoscopes/fortunes. LOL If those photos would load I could put the Shrine photos right here....maybe I'll come back and update this post.





Feeding the holy fish




Photobucket's official Jared...the longhorn sign IS obscene. ::snort:: We were asked, "Please to ask young boy not to make finger signs in sacred place."

Choosing Joy!
©2009 D.R.G.

~ Coram Deo ~
Living all of life before the face of God...


Anonymous said...

Still so thrilled for you!
We visited many shrines and a few temples. We had make-shift "3-5-7" ceremonies for our own children, but not Shinto versions. Check it out - the children's holiday in the month of November. A special time for praying for children and "wishing them good luck," as well as Girls Day in March and Boys Day in May. Our local church did a special children's blessing day in November in place of the Shinto holiday, and the kids all came in their finest kimono. Oh, you're going to grow so much there!!

Anonymous said...


We can show disrespect to other religions stuff..... I email you if I don't forget.

love/prayers --- Mom T.

Kim said...

Ahhhh. I have many thoughts on this. First, my husbands - he NEVER goes near a temple or shrine. He just refuses to enter. That really works for me, in general, though I am not as convicted about this as he seems to be.

Meaning, if I am on an outing with Japanese (non-Christian) friends, and they want to show me a shrine, I don't refuse to enter. However, I never wash at the water place or do any of the smoke waving at the places that have those for purification. When I go up to look at the god praying place, I just politely fold my hands in my "lap" (while standing) and say a prayer for those around me who do not yet know the True and Living God. I never throw money in, ring any bells or clap to wake up the gods.

Now that I am a Mama, Jun and I discuss what is and isn't the True and Living God. During the summer there are many summer festivals with portable shrines as well as a fair-like atmosphere with booths for food and some games. Lots of people dress up in summer kimonos (yukatas), and walk around eating fun things. I THINK we will try to separate the fun fair stuff from the shrine stuff, though they are right next to each other. We do A LOT of talking about this - Jun and I. However, Ryu HATES the festivals too, so...we may not have to worry about this, either.

The festival we are looking forward to is the fireworks festival. No gods - just FIREWORKS! Ours is tomorrow night!

I would expect my Japanese friends to be courteous if they entered a church, so I offer the same courtesy (I think) when I go to a temple or shrine with them. The questions that you can ask them about following the visit - why did you do this or that, what did you pray for, etc. can open doors to share about how you worship/pray. But, never ask questions to just get your foot in the door - really care first.

My 7 bits - sorry so long!

Kim said...

The first commenter talked about some of the blessings Japanese have for kids at different ages. Our church does these blessings for us. The kids still get to dress up in cute kimonos, but the True and Living God is the one who blesses them.

I use the True and Living God with Jun, however, in Japanese, many Christians idetify the Christian God and the Maker of Heaven and Earth. The word "god" "kami" is the same for all gods - so we use this to differentiate.

Daughter of Trust said...

very interesting predicament...I was curious to see what people had to say

Janette said...

We visited everything we could. The teacher in me thinks that the respect for other cultures is high on the list of things Christians should do. Purification is no big deal to me- we did it to be culturally correct- just as removing shoes is a big deal to some cultures (the one you are in included). We purify our hearts for the Lord- they simply purify the outside as well. We always said a bit of a prayer to the Lord when we did it. We did not participate in bowing or anything else while inside. We stood respctfully back and did not get in the way of worshippers.
The children did get asked often of our own religion and my kids (6&7 then 11/12) had a pat answer. "We believe there is only one God and He gives us our strength." Sometimes there were more questions- often there were nods and moving on.
You are an obvious visitor. They understand you are probably not Shinto (or Buddist or...there are so many polytheistic religions in the area). Your witnessing is in respect- for if you do not show respect you will not be given respect.
My children both left Hong Kong and Saudi with a deeper sense of God's infinate love than I think they would have had in the states. As adults they are also sought after to help in cultural situations since they have had a glimpse on how others live....
Enjoy your time. It was a time of great spiritual growth for us.

Julie Zesch said...

and of course the obscene gestures seem perfectly appropriate in a shinto shrine


DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Thanks for the info, Kim. I really appreciate you sharing Ryu's point of view....Mike felt similar.... What a treasure it is for us to have a Japanese Christian Brother to bounce these things off.

Jeannette....and Mel...I love how you adapted for your children. I'm sure we'll do some similar as we look for a way to show respect and be a good guest and at the same time honor our personal convictions.

I was VERY uncomfortable when the guide told us that some Shinto God is "the same really as the Christian God almighty" because I do not have to clap and ring bells to wake the True and Living God (what a GREAT title that sums up the differences between Shinto gods and Yhwh, Kim!) when I need him, I don't have to throw coins at Him to gain His attention and He doesn't share His glory with all the other gods....interesting as I've been reading about Israel and Judah and their mixing of has Jared, which is, I'm sure, part of why we were so struck by the Shinto Shrine.

I'm sure we'll visit more....and it was fascinating...though it also calls us to intercession for those around us....but it's good to think these things out.

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Ah...and Roy...I'm quite sure Zander will not be making the Longhorn sign again at any shrines. He didn't catch that this was like church....the trees, the big fish....he loved it...but didn't realize it was church....

Renee said...

We have been to Buddhist temples in Thailand and mosques in Turkey. We were never asked to pray specifically... we did what was required to enter (shoes off or heads covered just as Catholic churches in Rome require no bare shoulders or shorts regardless of the faith of the person entering). The closest we got was buying a cage of bird to release === it had some meaning for Buddhists... we did it because Theresa was little and wanted to release birds....

I think also that being a military family as a guest in a foreign country is different than being a missionary.... our roles are different....

Kim said...

Just to give you something to ponder - I read (and maybe still have?) a booklet written by a missionary couple that proposes the theory that the Shinto religion is really an offshoot of Judiasm. One of the lost tribes of Israel. He compares the two religions and proposes some amazing similarities. I read it with a grain or cup of salt, but, it was interesting. If you want, I'll see if I still have the book.

Anonymous said...



Please forgive me for not reading back on what I said above..

I meant to say 'we CANNOT show disrespect for other religions....

Forgive me all.

love/prayers --- Mom T

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Well - Renee - I do understand what you are saying....but we are ALWAYS a Christian regardless of our other roles (military family)...and Jared and I were experiencing new thoughts and thinking through the boundaries as we were asked to pray to a god not our own. We've learned to stop, think, pray and talk when we feel that way. You are right that we are NOT official missionaries...but then as imitators of Christ, as followers of His...we are all called to be salt and light where He places in that sense we never quit being missionaries.

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Kim - I'm interested.

Cynthia said...

Interesting thoughts to ponder. I agree that we are all missionaries right where we're at....

Mommy of two said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog.
When we first arrived here in Misawa and were taken on the tour to the shrine, my husband and I felt torn but choose to "not bow to the giant chocolate bunny" as our 6 year old said. We told the tour guide we would walk quietly around the grounds while they went in. She, an American, was rather upset with us. It made me a bit upset but that night when we talked about it as a family, I knew we did the right thing when my son told me that Heavenly Father was probably happy with us

timsarmywifey said...

Very cool -- but I wouldn't have bowed either. When we were in Germany we visited the Worms Cathedral and my cousin made a big deal of loudly saying that "we don't need an intercessor between us and God!" ... as confession was going on at the time. I told him politely to be quiet that we might not agree but it was still their church and we were guests! Now not quite the same as a pagan shrine but you get the drift...
Personally I think you are always a missionary and the military pays for it but you know that. Being respectful and polite is not the same as worshiping- bowing, purification rituals and buying the amulets are forms of worship at the shrine. Your willingness to expose your children to other ideas and religions and then discuss them is a good thing. To many homeschoolers refuse to and then wonder why our kids don't recognize the counterfeit/convert... but I digress. Visiting those places in Japan is awesome - I'm jealous!
Personally I think your discomfort is the Holy Spirit in you butting up against the spirits at the place.. jmho. I hope my rambling makes sense. We do need to be respectful of others beleifs whilst pointing them to the truth.

timsarmywifey said...

ps... to funny about Zander but good opening for discussion on worship and Shinto beleifs.

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

**you are always a missionary and the military pays for it

My new phrase...God writes the orders and the military pays for it. ::snort::

Yes...respect doesn't mean full participation....I can respect your beliefs and still disagree with them...belieiving mine to be true.

Kim said...

While it is true that the military pays part of it, until someone has lived in a foreign country, regardless of the official job title, they will not understand the true price that is being paid. Of course, there are wonderful non-monetary benefits too. Just saying! So glad you guys are here!!!

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

{{Kim}} we are thrilled to be here too. You are in a position to uniquely understand and I value your friendship and mentoring of us as we adjust to our new home.