Friday, April 07, 2006

What is the

Monbusho English Fellow Program?

Someone thought I was part of it when I taught in Japan, but I've never heard of it.

My teaching in Japan was different from most people's experiences; I taught at a private, Christian, girls' school. Although I was an English as a second language teacher, my official title was missionary.

This was not the bible-thumping, bicycle-riding stereotype, but I was a missionary nonetheless.

I almost quit after the first week because of it.

See, I don't feel that my beliefs have any more justification or "truth" than anyone else's. I don't think I know more, or that I have a closer relationship with God than anyone else. That "Missionary" label really got to me.

However. I changed my mind about leaving for several reasons. One was that the school, not my or any other church, was paying my salary. Yes, the school paid it to the church board, who then paid me, but none of the money from the wooden plates that went around on Sundays was making its way into my pocket.

Another reason was realizing that my job was not to convince anyone of anything. In Japan, about less than 1% of the population considers itself Christian. To be Christian, and therefore, monotheistic, is difficult with the cultural expectation of family obligation. It's a challenge to become Christian, and at the same time, in a way, negate your own family.

Also, Christians in Japan are thought of much the same way as I think of the "Born Again" and conservative, "you're all going to Hell" type of Christians here in the states. It's so difficult to become a Christian in Japan, that those who do, are pretty adamant about it.

I'm not like that. I grew up where most people are Christian. Where the culture and the society is Christian-based. It's not hard or weird or strange to go to church and believe in Jesus in my country.

So, I was an English teacher, but I also saw my role as one of offering another viewpoint. I'm not perfect, and there are a lot of folks who would argue my beliefs aren't "pure." I was approachable though, and quick to say I didn't know all the answers when I didn't. I was a Christian with whom others could actually speak, instead of one who just lectured.

I still don't believe any one religion has all the answers. I don't believe anyone has a closer line to the truth than another. What works for me, may or may not work for you. Yes, there is a line between good and evil, but even that line is wiggly (death penalty?).

If we could just spend less time finding out the faults of others, and instead spent that time improving ourselves, wouldn't the world be an easier place? Even if we didn't always agree?


grace's witness said...

You're right. The main reason for unbelief in Christianity most of the time is Christians. The reason people see Christianity the way they do is because they are reasonable people. They look to Christ's followers to find out what it's all about. After all, we as Christians are supposed to show people Christ. So when they do that, when they look at Christians and see judgmental hypocrites they reason that Christianity is about condemnation. How ironic, because it was Jesus who said, "I do not condemn you."

robtherunner said...

Interesting thoughts on Christianity. I am a believer as well, but share some of your sentiment about one religion not having all the answers.