By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
ORANGE, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- When President Bush entered the ornately beautiful Shinto Temple erected to house the spirits of the late Emperor Meiji he clapped once and bowed deeply, following the common etiquette of worship at such shrines. At the same time, the Prime Minister of Japan was left sitting in the car—forbidden from entering the shrine by a postwar constitution written by the U.S.
“The Prime Minister of Japan is forbidden by their constitution from even participating in the Shinto religion because it’s emperor worship that led to World War II,” says Dr. Robert Morey, author of over 40 books dealing with false religions, cults and philosophies, and founder of the California Institute of Apologetics.
“So the Prime Minister stayed in the limo while Bush and his wife went into the temple and clapped to awaken the demon and then bowed in worship and signed the book of worship,” says Dr. Morey, referring to the Bush temple visit made February 18 as part of his Asia tour.
Emperor Meiji ruled Japan from 1850-1914, during its transformation from feudalism to modernity. He set Japan on a course toward World War II by promoting a revitalized Shintoism that favored emperor worship and the removal of foreign influences from Japan.
“It was an act of idolatry,” says Kiyomasa Akashi, with Logos Ministries in Tokyo. “Even worse, it was an official, public idol worship,” Akashi says. “He did bow before the shrine where the Meiji Emperor is enshrined as a god.”
Sadly, many Japanese and Korean Christians were severely persecuted because they refused to participate in Shinto rituals, which involved bowing down and worshipping the emperor and other false gods. “Japanese Christians are furious,” Dr. Morey says. “They were killed because they wouldn’t bow before the image of the emperor,” he says.
“Korean Christians had their hands chopped off because they wouldn’t bow and worship the emperor,” he adds. Korea was ruled as a colony of Japan between 1910-1945. “Their descendants see the Bushes making a mockery of those who, like Daniel and his three friends, refused to bow before a heathen idol.”
For the most part, American Christians who admire President Bush hope and believe he acted innocently, out of respect for local customs and traditions. But Japanese Christian leaders do not take it lightly. “According to the Shinto ritual, clapping hands and bows are the set of Shinto style of worship,” says Rev. Isaac Ishiguro, of the historic Mino Mission in Japan. “In Japan all the media reported, ‘Bush Sanpaied at Meiji shrine.’” he says. “The verb ‘Sanpai’ in Japanese means, san—visit or go, and pai—worship.”
The Japanese news media clearly reported Bush’s ‘worship,’ in direct contrast to Prime Minister Koizumi’s restraint. Before Bush left he signed a special book—which appears to be more than just a registry. “If you sign the book, it means you actually did worship the god, not simply visit the site,” says Akashi. “The record remains in the shrine for a long period of time.”
Some see Shintoism as a quaint cultural tradition, but others disagree. “Shinto has existed for a long time of history,” says Akashi, “but it’s not a culture nor tradition of the Japanese people—it’s a religion and a cult.”
“Because of an ultra-long recession of the Japanese economy, the government is swiftly reviving the old Shinto nationalism in order to gain national pride,” Akashi adds. “Kids in public elementary and high schools as well as teachers are now being forced to sing Kimigayo (“Praise Song of the Emperor”) and salute the Hinomaru flag (to the sun goddess Amateratsu) at graduation ceremonies.”
“Christian leaders and missionaries in Japan sent letters of warning and petition to the White House and the U. S. Embassy,” says Akashi, which apparently were unheeded. The White House declined to comment on this story. A State Department official said President Bush merely went to pay his respects and that he "was not involved in any religious activities, ceremonies or rites." The official noted that Presidents Carter and Reagan visited the same shrine.
In the aftermath of September 11, amid Bush’s efforts to show respect for other faiths—particularly Islam, some see a drift toward universalism, which denies the exclusiveness of Christianity. Another example was Bush’s mosque visit immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“He used the code word when he went to worship in the mosque,” Dr. Morey says. “He said, ‘I worship with you the universal God.’”
Many believers would find it difficult to believe President Bush is drifting into universalism, which blurs the distinction between the God of the Bible and the Allah of Islam. In universalism, “All the gods of all the religions are masks on Popsicle sticks that he puts in front of his face,” Dr. Morey says. “So it doesn’t matter if you’re worshipping Shiva with the Hindus or Jehovah with the Jews or Jesus or Allah.”
“Since the 1970s, the locus of universalism has been the plurality of religions,” according to Donald Dunavant, Ph.D., with the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. “All exclusive language, in which truth claims are asserted about the uniqueness of Christ…is regarded as arrogant and divisive in relationship to other faiths,” he adds. “Universalism promotes dialogue with other faiths that both acknowledges their legitimacy and affirms that love embraces all peoples of all times.”
Such thinking seems to dominate popular culture. “The politically correct people are in charge of the public school systems, the universities, and the media,” Dr. Morey says. “They have brainwashed President Bush to believe all religions worship the same universal God.”
“That’s why he has no difficulty worshipping in a mosque with the Muslims or in a Shinto temple in Japan,” Dr Morey adds. Many believers will hope Dr. Morey’s concerns and the fears of Japanese Christians are unfounded, as President Bush continues to live out his Christian faith in a pluralistic society.