Sunday, May 22, 2005

Polytheism as Politics

Protesters Besiege Laura Bush During Jerusalem Visit I ask a simple question. Should it bother us as Christians that our leader sends his wife on a pilgrimage to the holy sites of two other religions? Of course, this is not the first time that such activities have occurred: Bush 'Worship' at Shinto Temple Troubles Christians in Japan and U.S. From this article:
Sadly, many Japanese and Korean Christians were severely persecuted because they refused to participate in Shinto rituals, which involved bowing down and worshipping the emperor and other false gods. “Japanese Christians are furious,” Dr. Morey says. “They were killed because they wouldn’t bow before the image of the emperor,” he says. “Korean Christians had their hands chopped off because they wouldn’t bow and worship the emperor,” he adds. Korea was ruled as a colony of Japan between 1910-1945. “Their descendants see the Bushes making a mockery of those who, like Daniel and his three friends, refused to bow before a heathen idol.” For the most part, American Christians who admire President Bush hope and believe he acted innocently, out of respect for local customs and traditions. But Japanese Christian leaders do not take it lightly. “According to the Shinto ritual, clapping hands and bows are the set of Shinto style of worship,” says Rev. Isaac Ishiguro, of the historic Mino Mission in Japan. “In Japan all the media reported, ‘Bush Sanpaied at Meiji shrine.’” he says. “The verb ‘Sanpai’ in Japanese means, san—visit or go, and pai—worship.”
Various empires of the past have used religion as a tool of politics. Cyrus of the Persian Empire often styled himself as a god of a local pantheon. The Roman Empire kept local religions intact, so long as they would be willing to add Caesar to the order of worship. I must confess that I tend to relegate such practices into the dim recesses of the distant past. After all, we're so much more civilized and sophisticated, right?

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