Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Pearl Harbor Day, Al Mohler, and nice confluences

Shokai has, from communication, some interesting questions today, on Pearl Harbor, Japanese aggression and Zen:

I got to thinking about the shady, often unmentioned relationship between Zen and the Japanese aggression before and after the attack. If there were Zen Masters present in Japan in the 1940s, as surely there were, why is there no record of them discouraging or protesting the war? Did they not find the militant attitude objectionable? Did they approve of the war, or even encourage the actions?

...the conclusion that is made is that Zen, with its emphasis on non-verbal experience, has no moral or ethical teachings, which allowed first the samurai class, then later the military, to go off the ethical deep end, and commit the atrocities of Pearl Harbor, and elsewhere through the Second World War.

No moral or ethical teachings in Zen? Nothing could be further from the truth. The author needs to spend less time in a library and more time in a zendo before attempting to identify the problem with Zen and its relation to the militaristic mind set of Japan in the first half of the 20th Century.

The fact is, there was a separation of a moral code from practice by these "samurai." The 8-fold path, 4 Noble Truths all work together, and it's a bastardization of Buddhism to act as though they don't.

Eventually (as with all suffering), there was enough of it for some folks, such as Gempo Yamamato Roshi, to sit up and take notice, but that was towards the very end of the war.

What does this mean for us today?

Can "Evangelical Christians" use this history?

Joe Carter cites a guy today as an "important Evangelical" who is cited admirably by Al Mohler, of whom Carter says:

Dr. Mohler is a prime example of the type of evangelical leader who has a profound impact on our country while remaining relatively unknown outside of Christian circles. He was one of the key figures in the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention, a monumental change that affected the largest Protestant denomination in America...

As bold as he is intelligent, Mohler often takes positions that are “politically incorrect” (e.g., his claim that Jews and Muslims don’t worship the “same God” as Christians) or that would raise the eyebrows of his fellow Baptists (i.e., his view that couple who choose “deliberate childlessness” are in violation of God’s moral order). He is also an eerily prolific writer, producing a quality article on culture and society for his weblog every weekday.

Anyone who wants to know the direction that conservative evangelicalism will take in America would do well to keep track of this influential theologian.

Meanwhile, a poster at Daily Kos has engaged Mohler on his own moral failings:

Anyway, in light of your recent comments that our denomination's "God is Still Speaking" television commercial is a "diabolical misrepresentation of the Christian faith," I wonder if you would mind giving me some pastoral advice. How exactly is it that I should tell this grandmother that her grandson is not welcome in our church? Should I explain to her that in order to maintain the body of Christ pure and unblemished, her loved one must be cast out?

If we take the angle that homosexuality is a sin, I'll have to explain to her that she should take the handful of scriptural passages that condemn same-sex intercourse at literal face value, but that she should then disregard Jesus' example of welcoming to himself those traditionally shut out of religious participation: children, the lame, lepers, sinners, tax collectors, and so on. How should I do this? She may very well respond with Jesus' consistent exhortations to avoid judging one another. How shall I respond to her?

I see on your weblog your thought that Jesus welcomed sinners, but expected them to repent of their sins. Since all the examples of Jesus' calling people to repentance involve social sins--that is to say, hurting other people--how should I explain this to this grandmother? If you could remind me how it is that being gay hurts someone else, I'd really appreciate it.

My saint may want to leave the church after such an exchange. What should I tell her friends, who have known since before my own parents were born? How should I minister to her, or to them? I'm afraid I may not have much of a pastoral relationship with her after this. She may feel hurt, as if she or her grandson had been somehow found to unworthy of God's grace and mercy. How should I tell her that God still loves her family, even though His church has banished her grandson?

I also spoke on Sunday to a family that's been visiting the church lately. They have two grandsons who have been attracted to the church through a new children's program we're running. One of these boys has a father from Ghana. The other is at least part Hispanic. We're very happy to have them with us, and we hope that they will choose to join the church at some point.

As you no doubt remember, the "God is Still Speaking" commercial also features an African-American boy who is turned aside by the bouncers outside a church. If our ads are "diabolical misrepresentations," as you suggest, won't I have to tell this family that in fact they're not welcome either? How should I tell them that our church is for white folks only? Should I tell them that the gospel passages where Jesus heals people from outside the Jewish nation were wrong, and he shouldn't have done it? Should I let them know that his commandment to "go out into the entire world, making disciples as you go" was just a joke? Oh, and what about the part of Acts where Peter baptizes an Ethiopian man? Does that not apply, either?

Clearly Mohler has forgotten what at least as of today, Japanese Zen Buddhists have not forgotten: that their wrongs have effects that live on.

Why do people like Mohler (and Carter) do this? Well, maybe to give folks like me an opportunity...

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