This probably isn’t news to you if you’re any type of Japanophile, but a recent study by the University of Chicago reveals that out of 30 countries surveyed, Japan had the least number of “strong believers” in God (and it’s on the decrease). Only 4.3% of respondents believed strongly in a God, compared to 60.6% in the United States. The Huffington Post gives a short summary and provides a table of responses used to determine the belief one has in God.
Anime reflects this lack of belief in God or any higher power. While religious practice is strongly emphasized in anime, worship of God is lacking (this season’s Sakamichi no Apollon standing as an exception). The Japanese are what Ian Reader cleverly calls “practically religious.” Their religion is a part of everyday life, an imbedded cultural aspect. Going to shrines on New Year’s or saying “itadakimasu” before eating is more a reflection of culture and etiquette than it is faith for the Japanese.
Still, from a Christian perspective, I wonder which percentage God is more concerned about – the Japanese one or the Christian one. While the Japanese don’t even pretend to claim to believe in God, the majority of Americans still proclaim their unwavering belief that God exists. But I think that a typical non-believer might think as I do, that there aren’t that enough Christians in the U.S. that follow God’s second greatest commandment, to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
There’s juxtaposition between what we say with our mouths and what we do in our actions (I’m no exception). It reminds me of what Michael H. Hart said in his book, “The 100,” in which he presented his list of the 100 most influential figures in history, from least important to most. Jesus landed third, not first, mostly because his followers didn’t “turn the other cheek” and otherwise follow his commands.
In other words, too many Christians are hypocrites. If Jesus were here right now, it wouldn’t surprise me if he embraced the Japanese people, while turning to the Americans and proclaiming them “Pharisees.”
While I have hope that the Japanese people will come to know the power of God’s grace (there are certainly many missionaries there, including contributor Yuki-Anne and formerly the Mikoski family; co-blogger Zeroe4 is there right now in Discipleship Training School), I’m reminded that the land here in America is what smells rotten. Jesus hated hypocrisy, and the U.S. is full of it. And if less Christianized nations look the U.S. as a model, that’s a problem.
After all, how do expect others to change when the gospel hasn’t changed us?
Note: Read the entire University of Chicago report here.