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 carâ€”forbidden from entering the shrine by a postwar constitution written by the U.S.
â€œThe Prime Minister of Japan is forbidden by their constitution from even participating in the Shinto religion because itâ€™s emperor worship that led to World War II,â€ says Dr. Robert Morey, author of over 40 books dealing with false religions, cults and philosophies, and founder of the California Institute of Apologetics.
â€œSo 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,â€ 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.
â€œIt was an act of idolatry,â€ says Kiyomasa Akashi, with Logos Ministries in Tokyo. â€œEven worse, it was an official, public idol worship,â€ Akashi says. â€œHe did bow before the shrine where the Meiji Emperor is enshrined as a god.â€
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. â€œJapanese Christians are furious,â€ Dr. Morey says. â€œThey were killed because they wouldnâ€™t bow before the image of the emperor,â€ he says.
â€œKorean Christians had their hands chopped off because they wouldnâ€™t bow and worship the emperor,â€ he adds. Korea was ruled as a colony of Japan between 1910-1945. â€œTheir descendants see the Bushes making a mockery of those who, like Daniel and his three friends, refused to bow before a heathen idol.â€
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. â€œAccording to the Shinto ritual, clapping hands and bows are the set of Shinto style of worship,â€ says Rev. Isaac Ishiguro, of the historic Mino Mission in Japan. â€œIn Japan all the media reported, â€˜Bush Sanpaied at Meiji shrine.â€™â€ he says. â€œThe verb â€˜Sanpaiâ€™ in Japanese means, sanâ€”visit or go, and paiâ€”worship.â€
The Japanese news media clearly reported Bushâ€™s â€˜worship,â€™ in direct contrast to Prime Minister Koizumiâ€™s restraint. Before Bush left he signed a special bookâ€”which appears to be more than just a registry. â€œIf you sign the book, it means you actually did worship the god, not simply visit the site,â€ says Akashi. â€œThe record remains in the shrine for a long period of time.â€
Some see Shintoism as a quaint cultural tradition, but others disagree. â€œShinto has existed for a long time of history,â€ says Akashi, â€œbut itâ€™s not a culture nor tradition of the Japanese peopleâ€”itâ€™s a religion and a cult.â€
â€œBecause of an ultra-long recession of the Japanese economy, the government is swiftly reviving the old Shinto nationalism in order to gain national pride,â€ Akashi adds. â€œKids in public elementary and high schools as well as teachers are now being forced to sing Kimigayo (â€œPraise Song of the Emperorâ€) and salute the Hinomaru flag (to the sun goddess Amateratsu) at graduation ceremonies.â€
â€œChristian leaders and missionaries in Japan sent letters of warning and petition to the White House and the U. S. Embassy,â€ 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 Bushâ€™s efforts to show respect for other faithsâ€”particularly Islam, some see a drift toward universalism, which denies the exclusiveness of Christianity. Another example was Bushâ€™s mosque visit immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
â€œHe used the code word when he went to worship in the mosque,â€ Dr. Morey says. â€œHe said, â€˜I worship with you the universal God.â€™â€
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, â€œAll the gods of all the religions are masks on Popsicle sticks that he puts in front of his face,â€ Dr. Morey says. â€œSo it doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™re worshipping Shiva with the Hindus or Jehovah with the Jews or Jesus or Allah.â€
â€œSince the 1970s, the locus of universalism has been the plurality of religions,â€ according to Donald Dunavant, Ph.D., with the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. â€œAll exclusive language, in which truth claims are asserted about the uniqueness of Christâ€¦is regarded as arrogant and divisive in relationship to other faiths,â€ he adds. â€œUniversalism promotes dialogue with other faiths that both acknowledges their legitimacy and affirms that love embraces all peoples of all times.â€
Such thinking seems to dominate popular culture. â€œThe politically correct people are in charge of the public school systems, the universities, and the media,â€ Dr. Morey says. â€œThey have brainwashed President Bush to believe all religions worship the same universal God.â€
â€œThatâ€™s why he has no difficulty worshipping in a mosque with the Muslims or in a Shinto temple in Japan,â€ Dr Morey adds. Many believers will hope Dr. Moreyâ€™s concerns and the fears of Japanese Christians are unfounded, as President Bush continues to live out his Christian faith in a pluralistic society.