Christian countries

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Suppose you heard this:

The UK is a white country. It is easier for those of other races to be here when Britain has confidence in its white identity.

How would you feel? How would you feel if you weren’t white? Would that make things “easier” for you? Or would it make you feel like you were a (possibly unwelcome) guest in a country that isn’t yours and doesn’t really value you. Read more about Christian countries

Working the Graveyard Shift

I get really incensed when people call Japan a “difficult” or a “slow” country. It really isn’t the Japanese people’s fault that they aren’t buying what we’re selling. It may be that we’re not selling it all that well. Gilbert Arland’s quote seems relevant:

When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, improve yourself.

But at the same time I will admit the equally prevalent saying that Japan is a “missionary’s graveyard”. Things just don’t happen very quickly here, or at least as quickly as we would like. It wears us down. Perhaps that just speaks about our impatience. I don’t know. What is interesting to me, though, is how different missionaries deal with this. Read more about Working the Graveyard Shift

Can we be theological chameleons?

When I went to Bible college, we were taught about a variety of theological viewpoints, with the implication that you would pick the one you liked the look of, since, you know, we’re all Protestants and so there’s nobody to tell you which one you should choose. (Although we will happily treat you like a heretic if you choose the wrong one.) And in terms of learning to work in multi-denominational teams and whatnot, that was all very useful to help us understand each other and, hopefully, not treat each other too much like heretics.

But we were also taught about contextualization and about presenting the Gospel in ways that make the most sense to the recipient, and so now when I come back to this idea of choosing which theological camp you belong to, I can’t help thinking, “Do I only get to choose one?” Read more about Can we be theological chameleons?

A sign that divides

A funny thing happened last week. One of the communities that we’re part of here, a deaf signing group, went on an outing. The plan was to visit a deaf school, walk from there down the hill through a temple to view the autumn leaves, and catch the bus home from the bottom of the hill. Because of having Caitlin with us, we came by car, which messed everyone up. (Rule one of Japan: Don’t be different.) So the group leader, being a good Japanese leader and so knowing that the most important thing is to keep the group together, did something very clever. Read more about A sign that divides

Apologetics these days

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Something in the newspaper the other day got me thinking about apologetics and the tradition of Christian debating. The more I think about it, the more I think that Tertullian was right: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” It seems to me that Christian apologetics is a losing proposition, for several reasons. (Some of which I’ve written about before.)

I don’t tend to go in for apologetics per se because if you’re trying to convince someone of the reasonableness of your position, you’re already on the back foot. It’s basically like trying to convince people that you’re sane - if they don’t think you are, arguments won’t help. But there is another aspect about the way that most proponents today go about apologetics that makes me think that they’re doing it wrong, wrong, wrong. Read more about Apologetics these days

Interesting times

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It’s now clear that we live in the proverbial interesting times.

Long-established dictatorships in the Middle East crumbled within a matter of months in the face of mass non-violent assembly - although nobody is yet sure quite what happens next. That doesn’t happen all the time. Entire European economies are failing in slow motion. Tens of thousands of people are currently right now in protest at… well, basically at the whole way Western society works. Sure, that happened to some degree with the student protests in the 1960s, but this is global. The relationships and even the rules of international diplomacy are being rewritten as a result of a small bunch of volunteers who believe that information wants to be free, and they’re not alone in that belief.

Each of those is a once-in-a-generation thing, and they’re all happening at once. I think all this means that we’re sitting on an inflection point, the kind of thing that keeps the history books interesting. Read more about Interesting times

Why I didn't read your newsletter

Many of my friends are also missionaries, and missionaries tend to communicate with each other and with their friends “back home” by sending out newsletters. You know like those “family news” letters that people put in with their Christmas cards, the ones you never read or regret it when you do? Those. I feel like I ought to care about what these people are doing, especially if they’re my friends, and yet I end up binning most of these newsletters either totally or partially unread.

Now there could be several reasons for this. It could be because I’m a cold, uncaring person with a miniscule attention span. I am willing to give that possibility a lot of thought. But I think there are other potential reasons that aren’t due to my own narcissism: Read more about Why I didn't read your newsletter

Bean Soup, Inc

There’s a famous Japanese joke called Zenzai Kousha - the Red Bean Soup Public Corporation. It’s a satire of Japanese bureaucracy: A man sees a sign on the street saying “try our sweet bean soup!” So he goes in, and has to stand in line for an interview where they take his name, address, age, occupation, how often he has a bath (“Twice.” “A day?” “A year.”) and so on.

Finally he gets given a form that he has to take to the accounts desk and pay 100 yen document preparation fee. At which point he has to have a health check. (“On the eighth floor.” “Is there an elevator?” “That wouldn’t be very healthy.”) He gets to the eighth floor, and the doctor’s office is closed for lunch. When he finally sees the doctor, the doctor gives him a form which he has to take to the accounts desk and pay 100 yen document preparation fee. Next he has to get a certificate of permission for the use of fire in cooking. And so it goes on. Eventually, after crossing the town to get to the Red Bean Soup Public Corporation Annex, he gets his sweet bean soup, and it’s not even sweet - of course not, says the waitress, we’re a public corporation; we’ve already sucked all the goodness out of it.

Man, that final pun is totally impossible to translate.

Anyway, let’s change the subject, and talk about church planting in Japan. Read more about Bean Soup, Inc