This could be interesting. Barack Obama, who has said his Christian faith is integral to his private life and public persona, arrives Friday in Japan on the initial leg of his first trip to Asia as president — just as a top politician there has called Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous.” …
“Islam is better, but it is also exclusive,” Ichiro Ozawa, secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Party, told Japanese media after meeting the head of the Japan Buddhist Federation on Tuesday.
Christianity “is an exclusive and self-righteous religion. And society in the United States and Europe, which are based on Christianity, are at a dead end,” the Nikkei newspaper quoted Ozawa as telling reporters, according to a Reuters report.
Ozawa not surprisingly had kind words for Buddhism, which he said “teaches us from the starting point of how human beings should be, their state of mind and way of life.”
Perhaps Ozawa, who is something of the Karl Rove of his party, might want to take a refresher course on those lessons. It’s not likely Obama will express any personal displeasure, however. Christians are a tiny minority in Japan, where they were ruthlessly persecuted in past centuries, and Muslims are even fewer, so it’s not wise to make trouble for them.
While most of Japan is considered fairly secular, Buddhism, along with the indigenous Shinto religion, is closely bound up with the nation’s history and pride. There are some concerns about a resurgence of religious-nationalistic fervor. In 2000, then-Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori referred to Japan as a “divine nation with the emperor at its center,” as Reuters reports, which evoked memories of the religious underpinnings of Japan’s wartime aggression.
Mori later apologized. Ozawa seems unfazed, at last report.