The Protestant Missions — November 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Mr. Fukuzawa Yukichi opposition to Christianity and Count Itagaki.



It will be remembered that so late as 1881 Mr. Fukuzawa Yukichi had published essays in which he opposed Christianity as dangerous to the nation, and had even gone so far as to urge that the Government take measures to prevent its extension. It seems very strange to find this leader of public opinion publishing only three years later an essay entitled “The Adoption of the Foreign Religion is Necessary.” After speaking of the way in which some animals protect themselves from danger by taking on the colour of their surroundings, he said:

“It is an undeniable fact that the civilised countries of Europe and America excel all other lands not only in political institutions, but also in religion, in customs, and manners. It is natural therefore that they should be inclined to despise nations that differ from them in these particulars, as that other nations should appreciate their superiority and strive to imitate their example. Thus these features of a superior civilization in Europe and America constitute a certain social distinctive colour world-wide in its character. Any nation therefore which lacks this distinctive badge of Western civilization stands in the position of an opponent, and is not only unable to cope with the superiority of enlightened Americans and Europeans, but is directly or indirectly exposed to their derision. Hence one of the disadvantages under which inferior nations labour when they present a different colour from that of Western nations. The adoption of Western religion, along with institutions and customs, is the only means by which the social colour can become so assimilated as to remove this bar to intercourse and this cause of opposition.”

“The civilized nations of Europe and America have always held that non-Christian countries could not be treated as enlightened nations. Such being the case, if we desire to maintain our intercourse with Western nations on the basis of international law, it is first of all absolutely necessary that we remove completely the stigma from our land of being an anti-Christian country, and obtain the recognition of fellowship by the adoption of their social color.

“Our suggestion may seem to imply a base currency and a subordination of our country to the sway of foreign powers, but such is by no means the case. According to the natural principle of all mundane intercourse, the inferior party can never hope to exercise a superior influence over the stronger. … To yield to enlightenment and to adopt civilized manners would not by any means indicate the policy of a sycophant, but simply a policy of self-defense by adopting the protective color of civilisation among civilised nations.

“Looked at from this point, it would appear that we ought to adopt a religion which, prevailing in Europe and America, exerts so considerable an influence over human affairs and social intercourse, so that our country may become a part of Christendom, presenting the same social appearance as Western powers, and sharing with them the advantages and disadvantages of their civilisation. We believe that the diplomatic adjustment of international intercourse with the outer world can be effected only by pursuing the course here suggested.”

“As before stated, if we are not mistaken in our arguments, there is no alternative for our own country but to adopt the social colour of civilised nations in order to maintain our independence on a footing of equality with the various powers of the West. As an absolutely necessary preliminary, however, the Christian religion must be introduced from Europe and America, where it is propagated with the utmost enthusiasm. The adoption of this religion will not fail to bring the feelings of our people and the institutions of our land into harmony with those of the lands of the Occident. We earnestly desire, therefore, for the sake of our national administration that steps be taken for the introduction of Christianity as the religion of Japan.”

“It must, however, be borne in mind that, although we have frequently adverted to religious subjects, we have refrained from expressing an opinion as to the nature of any — i.e., as to their truth or falsity. From the standpoint of a private individual, we may say that we take little or no interest in the subject of religion, as it does not affect our personal feelings or sentiments.”

In a later article Mr. Fukuzawa said that in order to have Japan put on an equal footing with other nations,

“We must change our professed belief and wear a religious dress uniform with others. We mean by professed belief, what we profess to believe apart from the question of what may be our true doctrine. It would be sufficient to make it publicly known that Japan is a Christian country. . . . We do not mean that the majority of our countrymen should be Christians.

A small number, one for every hundred, will be sufficient. All that is required is the assumption of the title of a Christian country. The steps necessary for the Christianization of the country are to register the creed of Japanese Christians, permit the conduct of funeral ceremonies by missionaries, and gradually introduce baptism among the upper and middle classes.

We cannot attach too much importance to Japan’s entrance into the comity of Christian nations.”!

Astonishing as it may seem to the reader that a man in Mr. Fukuzawa’s position should be willing to advocate such hypocrisy, he was followed by others that spoke and wrote in favour of the same policy. It is said that some of them went so far as to urge that the Emperor receive baptism so that Japan might at once be counted as a Christian country. Among the politicians that were agitating in favour of a constitutional government were some that hoped to make Christianity a tool for accomplishing their purpose. Many other influential persons recognised the moral power of Christianity and, though not willing themselves to yield to its restraints; they sent their children to Christian schools and contributed to the support of Christian institutions.

Count Itagaki Taisuke (板垣 退助?, 21 May 1837 – 16 July 1919) was a Japanese politician and leader of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement (自由民権運動, Jiyū Minken Undō?), which evolved into Japan's first political party.

The leader of the Liberal Party, which was agitating for popular government, was Mr. (afterwards Count) Itagaki. Early in 1884 he visited Imabari, Shikoku, in order to give a political lecture. This town was the seat of one of the most flourishing churches in Japan; and some of his party residing there had said that their leader would give the foreign religion its deathblow. Great was their surprise when Mr. Itagaki invited the pastor of the church to deliver an address upon the Christian view of politics. Not only did Mr. Itagaki applaud the sentiments that were expressed, but in his own speech he said that Christianity was one of the needs of the hour, for Japan could not hope to rank with Western nations until it possessed their religion. Soon after this, Mr. Itagaki invited the missionaries of the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches to visit Kochi, the city in which he lived. He asked the leading merchants, bankers, and politicians to meet them, was himself present at the public gatherings, and delivered an address in which he advocated the adoption of Christianity. There had before this been some interest in Christianity aroused by visits of Rev. J. L. Atkinson, and it was now greatly increased. Mr. Itagaki did all he could to aid the movement from outside, but did not profess to become himself a follower of Christ. Others, however, and among them some who afterwards held prominent places in political circles, became believers. A few months later, a church was formed that was self-supporting from the first, Mr. Itagaki presenting it with a building, and promising to pay one- half of the pastor’s salary.

The Japan Mail (July 12, 1884), speaking of the great change in public opinion, said that the best minds in Japan were beginning to appreciate what the Christian work of previous years had accomplished.

“The quiet work of these years, in school and chapel, by means of tens of thousands of books and tracts assiduously circulated, together with the influence of pure personal and family life, has prepared the way for such a movement as the present. The Christian Church in Japan, small though it be, is making a good record for itself— so good, indeed, that rascals make it profitable to counterfeit the true — while the indirect results of the new faith are traceable far beyond the reach of nominal believers.”

As might be supposed, the missionaries were much encouraged at the outlook. Many of them felt that the time had come for broader plans and more vigorous efforts. An address by Rev. C. S. Eby of the Canadian Methodist Mission, entitled “The Immediate Christianisation of Japan: Prospects, Plans, Results” excited much interest in those who heard it, and in others who read it as afterwards printed. The special plans it urged included the establishment of “a national Christian University, which shall not only offer better advantages than the Imperial University of Tokyo, but vie with the best universities in our home lands,” for which two million dollars should be asked from Christian philanthropists of the West ; a ” central Apologetical Institute or Lectureship of Christian Philosophy, which should be housed in an imposing building of solid construction containing a hall capable of seating from one thousand to five thousand people, and a library of choice apologetic and other literature;” the increase of the “missionary force by one hundred or more evangelists who shall have nothing to do but to preach;” and the uniting of churches having nearly the same polity and belief, so that there should be but five denominations, all ” working in harmony to gather in the fruits and build for all time.”

The Tokyo and Yokohama Missionary Conference, before which this paper was read, gave it an enthusiastic approval and drew up an elaborate plan for carrying out its recommendations. Doubtless the difficulties involved in such a programme were more or less evident to all; but none felt like opposing what was in itself desirable, however Utopian the plan might appear. It is needless to say that men and means were never supplied. The paper cannot be said, however, to have been without any good results. It did something to aid the slowly developing movement for union among closely related churches; and the establishment in Tokyo, at a later date, of the Central Tabernacle by Mr. Eby’s own mission, was a partial carrying out of his plan for an Apologetical Institute.

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