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Japanese Worship Service

Z-girl and I went to a Japanese Christian worship service today.  Zoe is taking a begining Japanese language course at the college as part of a dual enrollment program and her professor invited her class to come to Sunday service for the Japanese community.  Her professor is not only a teacher of language, but is also an ordained Christian minister both here in the states and in Japan.  Z didn't want to go alone so I went with her.  Although our background is Catholic - neither one of us has set foot in a church since she went through the sacrements of communion and confirmation 8 years ago.  Not going to get into the whys and wherefores of THAT right now, but since her professor was gracious enough to invite people, aaaannnnd Z-girl was curious, I figured I'd go chaperone.  Besides it would be a good language immersion experience for us both.  I lived in Japan when I was a child and my family has ties there.  I am far from fluent in the language so I'm looking forward to brushing up with Zoe's help.

Everyone was very welcoming and friendly although I kept having visions of an angry Japanese God looking down at me and wondering just where in the hell I'd been all these years AND what the hell was I doing in a Protestant Church, anyway?  This is how I imagine what Japanese God looks like:

  Yeah - that's right - he looks just like Toshiro Mifune....

Anyway, the service was pleasant and the sermon was interesting to say the least.  Luckily there was english translation through most of the service, but it was still strange.  I hadn't been to a protestant service in 15 years, easily.  Zoe had never been to one.  No kneeling, no chanting prayers, no incense, no communion, no Homily.  Not bad - just different.  The verbal dogma is the same though and I won't get into THAT either, except to say that the longer I stay away from church the more ridiculous it all sounds to me when I do go. There were spots of genuine humanity, though.  Particularly during a portion of the service called "Testimony" when a girl not much older than Zoe told her story of coming to the Faith.  Although I thought her logic and reasoning for doing so was due more to teenaged angst than any real life/faith crisis, I was moved by her willingness and bravery to share her story with a roomfull of strangers.

  The sermon itself was a masterpiece of intellectual verbal gymnastics designed to marry science and the Bible to prove God's existance.  The sermon wasn't for the faithful in the congregation but for the many visitors of different faiths (read:Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists and Skeptics) that were there.  The crux of the proof lay partly in the syllogism presented that since we all believe that love and friendship exist, even though they are essentially invisible, then it is only logical common sense to believe that God, the Creator exists. And to stretch things a wee bit further it was postulated that the Bible was the ultimate arbitor of the Truth, because well, God is the only pan-dimensional, omniscient Creator of Everything and since it's known that he wrote the Bible then its obvious that the Book is THE blueprint for Mankind and everything we need to know is in there.  Then the sermon took a turn when Zoe's prof stated that the fact that the earth revolved around the sun was in the Bible long before Galileo came along, but that the Catholics got it wrong because they didn't read the Book right.  Well - okay then. Faith is a wonderful, powerful, bewildering, and yes, silly thing.  And nonsense in any language is still nonsense be it English, Japanese or Klingon.  Although brilliantly composed, the sermon just had too many holes in it that most of the congregation filled in with faith and some of us, like me,were left baffled and incredulous that an entire college community actually bought this gibberish on a continuous basis every week.  Rational, thoughtful, logical college Dons come into chapel on a weekly basis and shut off their minds for an hour to listen to the Fairy Tale. And some of them actually have the stones to have disdain for stories like The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, or most any other of the flights of fancy in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature.  But they'll buy into...ah, well.  I must stop and remember again that faith is complex and powerful and not to be mocked if only out of common decency and respect for my fellow man. .

After the service was a wonderful Japanese potluck but Zoe wasn't hungry and I was fearfull of socializing as I was still filled with incredulity at what I'd just been through.  Fearfull that I might have to be honest and say what I was thinking.  I was uncomfortable with having to lie to Zoe's professor.  Even though he's a minister of a faith not my own, I still have that Catholic respect for the uniform.  Walking to the car we talked about how nice the service was and that both of us were actually catching some of the rudimentary words in the Japanese.  Z-girl said she wanted to go again and I said that was fine, but we should talk about what's being said.  I want to hear what SHE thought of it all.  Zoe's not well versed in religious faith and its time she learned more now that she can process it on her own and find her own Way, whatever that mey be.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 5th, 2011 09:51 am (UTC)
I had a close friend in college whose father was a Unitarian minister. Her act of teenage rebellion? She became an Episcopalian. Which she is to this day. Maybe you have to know something about those respective creeds to realize how hilarious that is.

I often wish I could bring myself to believe in God: It would make life so-o much easier. I can't though.

My Tibetan pal-cum-ESL student Balorma who believes wholeheartedly in reincarnation tells me this lifetime is an advanced curriculum for me -- kind of like AP Chemistry or something. I dunno -- all I can tell you is that it's hard and I feel like I'm flunking the exams.
Sep. 5th, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)
Well, typical of people in my family, I can't make a decision. I WANT to believe there's a God, but for every proof I see around me, there are equal proofs against. Same feeling goes for an afterlife. Reincarnation just seems logical and tidy. I like the idea of karmic retribution and redemption. Sigh. It makes sense that if you're grinding through life that its because you are in a final phase of the Journey. I've always inherently felt that those who sail through life on a golden barge are merely at the starting line. But I'd still like to come back and have a go at being Mick Jagger, Paul Mcartney or Picasso, but alas I don't think my soul is meant for that.
I will say this for the God side of things - there have been a few times, particularly the last time I went hiking out west and stood on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, that I felt something OTHER. A brush on the cheek carried on the wind. Or perhaps it was just altitude sickness.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )