Myths, Missions, and Mistrust: The Fate Research Paper

Pages: 4 (1189 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Myths, Missions, And Mistrust:

The Fate of Christianity in 16th and 17th Century Japan"

Japan's history during the 16th and 17th century is quite spectacular and so it comes as no surprise that these centuries were also two of the most important in Japan's history. In his article entitled, "Myths, Missions, and Mistrust: The Fate of Christianity in 16th and 17th Century Japan," Nelson explores the failures of the Christian conversion operation that was brought to Japan by the Jesuits missionary Francis Xavier. Nelson (94) argues that one of the main reasons for the demise of Christianity was the Japanese rulers who saw the missionaries and, to a larger extent, the Christian religion, as troublesome. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Christian missionaries were overtly disrespectful of Japanese customs and they were interested in spreading Christianity as quickly as they could (e.g., the baptism of "ten to twelve thousand souls"). Still, the Christian missionaries were determined and they were simply "acting on cultural beliefs and ideologies formed in and transported from Europe" (94). But Nelson's argument is that the missionaries made some key mistakes in their undertaking related both to "understanding Japanese priorities and in choosing appropriate strategies for their missionizing" (94). Because of this, Christianity was viewed as seditious and the rulers in Japan were not about to let these foreigners threaten their kingdoms.

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Christianity during the 16th and 17th century was closely related to colonialism and this is reiterated by Nelson (2002) by the examples he gives of the Spanish and the Portuguese using Christianity to help set up their spice route. European monarchies knew the importance of trade during that time and thus they put much money and manpower into finding routes. Exploration for economic purposes led to the establishment of colonies (94). Military opportunism, also closely related to Christianity, was a constant worry to the Japanese. They were aware of the power of the Spanish and what they had done in Mexico and they were always looking for ways to defend their country from this type of domination.

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Nelson (95) makes it clear that what the Christians wanted to do in Japan was something that had been done in the Americas and of what is today Cuba. He states that the purpose was not just to convert pagans but it was also "to influence the replication of European civilization and economy in its favor by working closely with (and, when necessary, leaning heavily upon) the Spanish administrators (95). Just as the conquistadors and missionaries perhaps found "few 'intelligible' customs or social patterns within the cultures of the Aztecs," the same thing would undoubtedly happen in a place like Japan where life was so dramatically different than it was in Europe. Interestingly, Nelson (95) points out that the Aztecs were not completely unintelligible as a people or as a society. They were "highly organized into distinct social classes and had fashioned cities and villages…similar to European patterns. More important for the missionaries' work were a number of religious beliefs potentially resonant with Christianity" (95). However, unsurprisingly, the missionaries did not use the religious beliefs that were resonant with Christianity as a stepping tone to Christianity, which makes one wonder if the missionaries were taking into account any of the local customs or beliefs of the people that they were coming into contact with -- either in Mexico or Japan. This is one of the most important flaws in the whole Christian conversion mission in Japan.

There were some rulers that were not only intolerant of Christianity; the ruler Oda… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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