Oh my! According to Kyodo News:
Ozawa lashes out with scathing remarks on ChristianityWhere to begin? Not with "Islamism" for sure, whatever that might be.
The Japan Times
Ichiro Ozawa, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan criticized Christianity on Tuesday, saying the religion is "exclusive and self-righteous" and that Western society is "stuck in a dead end."
Ozawa also said "Islamism is also exclusive, although it's somewhat better than Christianity" regarding exclusiveness.
The comments will no doubt cause a stir as he is the most influential figure in the ruling party.
He made the comments to reporters after meeting with Yukei Matsunaga, chairman of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a body of 102 Buddhist sects and groups, in Koyacho, Wakayama Prefecture.
Christianity "is an exclusive, self-righteous religion. Western society, whose background is Christianity, has been stuck in a dead end," Ozawa said.
I doubt that Ozawa is expressing anything resembling his views of Christianity. Ozawa's nonsense jawing is about votes -- lots of them -- and a personal vendetta.
Yesterday Ozawa was paying his first visit ever to Koyasan. His host was Koyasan's lead abbot and thus the symbolic head of the Shingon tradition in Japan. In addition, the gentleman in question is the chairman of the Japan Buddhist Federation (Zen Nihon Bukkyokai).
How likely is it that Ozawa, having arranged this unprecendented meeting, would not try to butter up his host with a passel of pro-Buddhist rigamarole?
For the more political psychology minded, Koyasan is located in Wakayama District #3 - the electoral district of Nikai Toshihiro, once Ozawa's most trusted lieutenant. Nikai parted ways with Ozawa and rejoined the Liberal Democratic Party after Ozawa forced the break up the LDP-Liberal-New Komeito coalition in 2000.
Nikai is the only remaining LDP House of Representatives member from Wakayama. He won reelection with the open support of the New Komeito -- a very interesting choice on Nikai's part. Acceptance of New Komeito support means a willingness to be seen as being beholden to the apostate lay Buddhist Soka Gakkai -- the public enemy #1 of most mainstream Buddhist sects.
From Ozawa's point of view, a short jaunt to Koyasan offers the opportunity to lure Shingon tradition voters disappointed with Nikai to the pull the lever for the DPJ in the 2010 House of Councillors election. Both of the current members of the House of Councillors for Wakayama are from the LDP and the DPJ would certainly love to walk away with one of those seats next July.
Of course, these political considerations were the furthest thing from Ozawa's mind yesterday. As he told gathered reporters, "I did not come here in an elections effort. I paid reverence and now my heart is cleansed."
Duplicity -- is it in his very nature or did he learn it from past masters?
Now as for whether or not Ozawa's remarks on Christianity were "scathing" might depend a lot on what he actually said - and what one believes "scathing" means.
Ozawa referred to both Christianity and Islam as being haitateki ( 排他的 ) meaning "rejectionist of other beliefs" -- which Kyodo News has rendered as "exclusive" -- as opposed to Buddhism, which he posits as exhibiting a greater inclusiveness.
Is this, in fact, wrong? Also, is it such a peculiar thought to express, coming out of a meeting with the chairman of an organization linking 102 different different Buddhist congregations?
As for Ozawa's accusation of Christianity's being dokuzenteki ( 独善的 ) I am not confident that it has same resonances as "self-righteous." In literal terms, dokuzenteki means "the sense that one's own way alone is good." Is "good" the same as "right" in this instance?
Now as for the "dead-end" quote, the Asahi Shimbun quotes Ozawa as saying:
「排他的なキリスト教を背景とした文明は今、欧米社会の行き詰まっている姿そのものだ。」This Kyodo translates as saying, "Western society, whose background is Christianity, has been stuck in a dead end."
When I translate all of what Ozawa said, however, including the vital sugata sono mono da ending, I find Ozawa delivering a somewhat different message:
"As for the civilization that has as its background this exclusionist religion of Christianity, right now its manifestation is this Euro-American society that is hitting a wall."Ozawa is still being dismissive of Christian civilization but on the grounds that its (purported) triumphalism is not backed up by proofs of its excellence.
Now as to the question whether Euro-American society is a manifestation of Christian civilization - that is beyond the boundaries of my bailiwick.
I would have to chalk up the somewhat overwrought article as an attempt drum up international interest in the never-out-of-style "Ozawa is evil" line when the real story -- Ozawa Ichiro will say anything when pandering in the hopes of winning votes -- is not news at all.
Note on sourcing: I do not normally quote articles at length out of respect for copyright. The Japan Times, however, scrubs its archives so quickly one cannot follow normal linking protocols to material presented on their site.
Image: Head of the Amida Nyorai statue in the Kotokuin, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. November 8, 2009. Photo credit: MTC.