The Protestant Missions — September 6, 2011 at 3:27 am

Obstacles of the ” Church in Japan” and Doshisha’s falling away! 1895.


The Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander

The Church for September, 1896, published an article by Rev. T. T. Alexander, D.D., on “The Problems before the Church of Japan.” What he said upon two points will throw some light upon the condition of Christian work at the period that we are now considering. The first problem mentioned was that of how the masses were to be reached. He said:


“The last ten years have witnessed a very widespread evangelism in Japan. Both missionaries and Japanese evangelists have gone on evangelistic tours throughout the land, penetrating into the remotest country districts, not only preaching but, as far as possible, making the work permanent by establishing regular preaching places or churches. They have been followed and in many cases preceded by colporteurs and Bible-women carrying the Gospel to the very doors of the people. In the great centers, like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, churches and preaching-places may be counted by the score, in some of which the Gospel is preached daily. Preaching services are frequently held in the public parks. Opportunities are sought on festival days and at national or local expositions; and mass meetings are often held for preaching the Word. In short, there has been a steady, faithful, and persistent effort made to give the Gospel to the people, whether they would hear or forbear. Over and above more direct results, a general impression has been created that, after all, Christianity is not such a bad thing, that in fact it may be a very good thing. And yet, it must be confessed, the masses have hardly been touched and the question How shall we reach them? ‘Presses hard upon the church to-day. . . The lower and peasant classes are still powerfully under the influence of the past and largely Buddhist in faith, loose in morals, idolatrous and superstitious to the last degree. The middle classes are more hopeful but still largely indifferent, not to say hostile, toward Christianity; while the higher classes, for the most part, are skeptical and distant in their attitude. Young men of all classes are generally non-religious and atheistic”

Concerning the problem of education, Dr. Alexander wrote:

“This is one of the most important and most pressing of all the questions now before the church. Christian education must be had; but how can it be secured? The government schools from the kindergarten to the university are on a purely secular basis, religious instruction of every sort being strictly ruled out Religion may, however, be freely taught m private schools and these may be multiplied indefinitely without interference on the part of the Government. On the face of it, therefore, the problem would seem to be easy of solution. As long as so much liberty is accorded private schools, there ought to be no serious difficulty, one might suppose, in providing Christian education for all who will avail themselves of it. Now it is true that there are a great many Christian schools in Japan for both sexes and of different grades, most of them dependent upon the missions for financial aid as well as for help in teaching, and so long as the missions are willing to continue their support the schools can be kept going. The chief difficulty, however, does not lie here, but rather in the fact that private schools as such labour under very decided disadvantages when compared with the government schools. The latter confer upon their students certain privileges which private schools cannot confer — such as freedom from military conscription while in school, admission to competitive examinations for civil service, etc. To put it in another way, students of private schools are not exempt from military conscription and hence may be drafted into the army at any time; they cannot enter government schools except by examination, and when they have graduated from the private schools they are forever excluded from the civil service, so that no public career can ever be open to them, no matter how great their abilities or attainments. Hence the number of students, particularly of boys, in Christian schools is kept down to a comparatively low figure; even Christians preferring to forego their natural preference for a Christian education in order to secure for their sons the advantages which the government schools alone can give.”

In order to avoid the disadvantages under which private schools laboured, some of them sought and gained recognition from the Government as being on a par with the public schools, and so entitled to the same privileges. With some of the Christian schools this change apparently involved no interference with religion; but whether because of the rulings of local education officials, or because the spirit within the school itself led to the minimizing of the religious element, the Doshisha decided that it was necessary to drop all Biblical study from the curriculum of the academical department. This became the subject of much earnest discussion in meetings of the faculty held for the purpose of revising the course of study; the foreign teachers protesting against the change and against other action that seemed to them subversive of the principles on which the school had been established. It was becoming more and more evident that the two elements, represented on the one side by the missionary teachers, and on the other by the most influential Japanese teachers and trustees, could no longer be harmonized. At the annual meeting of the trustees in April, they passed resolutions in which, after thanking the American Board for its former aid, they said: In order to make clear our relation to the American Board, we decline to receive, after the close of 1896, its customary gift of annual subsidy and its aid of missionary teachers.” An explanatory letter sent by the President of the Trustees to the missionaries said: “I can assure you that the Trustees have no intention whatever of turning you out from the institution where some of you have worked so long and so devotedly, nor any desire that your connection with it should cease. I say confidently that we all desire and earnestly hope that you will stay here and aid us in the good work of Christian education.” The thought of the writer seems to have been that the missionaries might continue to give their services to the Doshisha as individuals and not as representatives of the Board that continued to support them.

The Mission of the American Board held its annual meeting in July. A letter sent to the Doshisha Trustees said:

“The fundamental principles of Christianity, which were dear to the hearts of the founders of the Doshisha, to those of the American friends who have given thousands of dollars for its support, and which are not less dear to the hearts of all the members of our Mission, have been publicly assailed or ridiculed from the platform of the school and in other ways by persons connected with the administration; and instead of listening to the earnest protests of the representatives of the Mission, the Trustees have in one instance promoted an instructor who has been most active in assailing the Christian foundations of the institution to be the head of an important department. . . ..
There is no longer a unity of feeling and practice in the Doshisha but rather such a wide divergence as to render it unwise, if not impossible, for any of our number to continue to cooperate as teachers in the school.”

It was thought best by the foreign teachers that their connection with the school should cease at once, instead of in the middle of a school year, and accordingly they sent in their resignations. In September the President of the Doshisha gave to the Kyoto Government a paper containing the following promises:

”l. The moral education of the Doshisha Ordinary Middle School will be founded upon the Imperial Educational Rescript Avoiding the needless discussion of the extremes of ethical theory, its aim will be practical. It will seek to inculcate an earnest spirit of loyalty and filial obedience by which the people shall each honour his own ancestors and all shall reverence the spirits of the Imperial Ancestors. The teachers will always seek to cultivate in the minds of the pupils an earnest desire for the country’s good for this we regard as the very highest aim of popular education.

“2. On the National Holidays the pupils will be called together, the Imperial Educational Rescript will be read to them, and they will be carefully instructed as to the Imperial will, or taught of the great virtues and illustrious deeds of past Emperors, or of the lives and teachings of the ancient sages or other addresses suitable to the National Holidays may be given them in order to cultivate a spirit of loyalty to the Emperor and of love to the country. This is the purpose which we hope to carry into practice.

“3. In the graduation and like exercises in the Doshisha Ordinary Middle School religious exercises or ceremonies as a means of propagating religion will not, of course, be held, but there will be an effort to deeply impress the students with the precepts of the Imperial Educational Rescript.”

Now the Constitution of the Doshisha said: “Christianity is the foundation of the moral education promoted by this company.” Persons who criticized the present substitution of the Imperial Rescript for Christianity were accused of holding the view that the two were opposed to each other; an argument that could be made very effective in such a country as Japan. The future course of events showed that another important step had been taken in the departure of the institution from its original standards. Indeed, there seemed to be no need for the declaration made to the Kyoto Government unless it was to show to the officials that Christianity was no longer the controlling principle of the school.

Even non-Christians criticized the Doshisha:

The action of the Doshisha Trustees was severely criticized by many Japanese Christians and to some extent by others. One Shinto periodical spoke of the relations of the institution to the American Board as that of a child to its parent, and reprobated the unfilial spirit that had been shown. “Regarded altogether apart from Christianity,” it said, “the conduct of the Doshisha is unseemly. How much worse does it appear when it is remembered that the chief actors in the scene just witnessed profess the gospel of love, peace, and charity.”

see here for The Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander

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