Who Is to Blame for the “Jihad Generation”?

Someone recently told me that “Diplomacy always fails; military confrontation alone is able to solve problems.” While the current crisis involving ISIS requires military intervention, efforts in diplomacy must never cease. While I cannot imagine governments negotiating with ISIS, I also cannot imagine a situation where diplomacy is abandoned.Governments must make sure that they do not disenfranchise and relationally disengage minority populations and religious groups. Afzal Amin, a former Bri … [Read more...]

Your Ultimate Concern Is Your God

Theology is the study of that which concerns each of us ultimately and its bearing on everything else. Paul Tillich wrote about the subject of “ultimate concern” at length, but not exactly in the same vein (See for example Paul Tillich’s treatment of this theme in his Systematic Theology, volume 1 {Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951}; refer here to a discussion of Tillich and the essence of religious attitudes being that of “ultimate concern”).One does not need to be strictly reli … [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Reflections on “Mu” and the Resurrection at Ganshoin

As I prepare for church this morning, I think back to two recent trips to Ganshoin, a Zen Buddhist temple in Obuse in Nagano, Japan. Those sojourns inspired conversations with Buddhists and Christians alike.The temple is perhaps best known for famed Japanese artist Katsushiksa Hokusai's painting of the Phoenix or “Ho-o Staring in Eight Directions.” The painting appears on the temple ceiling (pictured in this post). The temple grounds also feature the grave of daimyo Fukushima Masanori and the … [Read more...]

The Blood of the Martyrs & the Seed of the Church, Love and Tolerance

Last week, I visited Nikko, Japan, one of Japan’s greatest historical and memorial sites. Nikko features Toshogu, Japan's most extravagantly adorned shrine, and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Tokugawa shogunate’s founder. In keeping with his instructions for the year following his death, he was enshrined as a deity at Nikko by designation of the Imperial court. Ieyasu’s aim was to serve Japan from Nikko as its perpetual guardian. By most if not all standards, Ieyasu was a brilliant milit … [Read more...]

Thoughts on Diversity in Japan and the United States

The other day I was talking with an American of diverse ethnicity in Japan. We were discussing how homogeneous Japan is and how difficult it would be for Japan to foster diversity similar to the United States. In light of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and a host of other such tragedies, one might wonder if fostering diversity American-style is a good thing. As a culture, we have such a long way to go, as the CNN interview with Russell Simmons makes clear.In … [Read more...]

What Makes Someone a Person and not a Thing?

What makes someone a person and not a thing? Can such differentiation even occur? Do these questions matter, and if so, why?The differentiation of persons and things bore great significance for Martin Luther King, Jr. for matters of morality. In his estimation, moving from a culture of things to persons would help us confront well such problems as economic exploitation, racism, and militarism (Please listen here to King’s critique of the Vietnam War along such lines).While I don’t know pr … [Read more...]

Imagine a World without Forgiveness

Recently, during a conversation over dinner in Japan, a Buddhist scholar told me that he believes John Lennon’s song “Imagine” was inspired by Buddhism’s Heart Sutra. Lennon’s song reflects upon a world without heaven, countries, possessions, religion, and war.  Perhaps the following lines from The Heart Sutra served as influences to Lennon in writing the song: Therefore, in the void there are no forms and no feelings, conceptions, impulses and no consciousness: there is no eye, ear, nose, tongu … [Read more...]