How to Christianize Japan: The Polynesian (Honolulu)
January 22, 1859
A correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger, writing from on board the U.S. steamship Powhatan, has some sensible suggestions relative to that provision of the Treaty just negotiated by Mr. Harris, with the Japanese, which provides that-
“Americans may build churches and worship their God, and religious freedom is also granted to all Japanese.”
This article, the Ledger writer justly says, is “a great triumph.”
“But it is a triumph which must be carefully received. Japan is not yet ready for the modern missionary; nor must it be lost sight of that it was to missionaries of 1600 that her long seclusion has been owing. It was the unchristian feuds of Catholic priests of rival societies, which then deluged Japan with blood, and we now have more rival societies, (denominations) than then; and I much doubt if feeling is not equally as bitter.
“The Japanese are like all liberal, and sincere, and humble Christians in one respect, at any rate. They cannot understand how people can worship the same God, or God who says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and yet who can fight over a convert and abuse each other, behind other people’s backs.
“How, then, is Japan to be converted? The answer is simple enough –by example. Let our citizens settle in and about the ports that have been, and that yet will be open to us. Let some of them be latent missionaries, if you will, but nothing active but strict morality and kindness of bearing. Thus will their love and esteem be won, for they are a people who appreciate the most trivial act of kindness.
“When our citizens muster in sufficient numbers at any one place, let them build a small church, just as they would at home. When one church will not hold them, build a second, a third, a fourth: and I will venture to predict that the Government will build their churches for them rather than throw any obstacles in their way. Thus may a part of Japan be converted, while the other part must unavoidably be degraded by the vices and rascality which follow in the wake of commerce.
“Now, take another view of this subject. Suppose that next year a dozen or more sincere but rival missionaries burst suddenly into Japan and begin to proclaim as many different creeds. One says, there are three gods to one: you must do this, and you must do that, if you expect to be saved. Another, there is but one God, and all men are destined by His mercy to be saved. One need not ask what the result of all this would be –it is self-evident. These honest and simple-minded, and sensible people would say; ‘We had better stick to our gods of stone, for these foreigners all seem to think differently.’
“Let commerce therefore, open the road for the missionary, as it has already opened it for the sailor –commerce, assisted by the example of those who settle among them and share occasionally their hospitality.”