The Makuya Television Program, Light of Life, started at the beginning of the year 2000. Ms. Yoshiko Kishi, a freelance announcer has been the narrator since then. In this interview she poses a few questions about Makuya to Mr. Akira Jindo, one of the anchormen of the program.
The Church of Non-church Believers
Yoshiko Kishi: While working as a narrator for the TV program, I often came across a few things that puzzled me. Today, I would like to ask you about the term “Non-church” movement. It was a little difficult for me to understand. Is this one of the Christian denominations?
Akira Jindo: Well, actually, there is a Christian sect called “Non-church” in Japan, but in its origin, “Non-church” was not a denomination. The term was originally meant to express a certain style of worship. We need no church buildings or institutions to worship God; we can encounter God directly, free from church regulations, and have direct communion with Him.
This “Non-church” type of worship was first advocated in Japan by Prof. Kanzo Uchimura*. I have a magazine here, the first issue of Mukyokai (Non-Church) that Professor Uchimura published in 1902.
Ms. Kishi, could you please read the latter half of this article? Here, we can read Uchimura’s answer to the questions raised in its introduction: “What is our church in this world?” and “Where is it?”
The universe created by God, the nature itself,
Is the earthly church for us Non-church believers.
Its ceiling is the blue sky.
And the stars are scattered on its board.
Its floor is the green pasture.
Its tatami mats are filled with multitudes of flowers.
Its musical instruments are the pine branches.
Its cantors are the little birds in the forest.
Its pulpit is the high mountain peaks.
Its preacher is God Himself.
This is the church for us, Non-church believers.
Jindo: Thank you. This is exactly how Jesus Christ taught. As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He showed that the whole creation was living by the love of God, by pointing to the lilies of the field and the birds in the sky. He healed the sick, brought the power and love of God to the wounded souls, and led them to experience the kingdom of God on earth. Such faith is clearly recorded in the Bible.
Likewise, we don’t need to specify any special places of worship. We can communicate with God everywhere; in our workplace, in the kitchen at home, or even on the train.
Non-Church Spirit of Jesus Christ
Jindo: Our teacher, Ikuro Teshima, upheld this “Non-church” spirit and started Bible meetings (Bible study) at his home soon after the end of World War II. He wholeheartedly prayed for the spiritual revival of Japan. He taught the Bible in homes, in rented halls, and even outdoors; he never built a church. He talked about the Non-church faith on the radio. Let us listen to his view.
[Ikuro Teshima on the radio]
Christianity is indeed an excellent and great religion. However, once a religion loses its original life, it easily deteriorates and dies out. Religious corruptions mainly come from human efforts to build large temples, shrines, and churches, as well as to maintain the institutions.
Prof. Kanzo Uchimura detested such “building-centered” religion. However, he was not the first person who cried out for the Non-church spirit.
It was Jesus Christ Himself who never built His own church nor established a new religion. He only preached an honest and sincere faith in God. In fact, this Non-church spirit is threaded throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Kishi: So Jesus Christ did not construct any kind of church buildings?
Jindo: That’s right.
Kishi: Still, people usually associate Christianity with an image of a tall church with a cross on top. Buddhism and Shintoism also have specific places to worship. These temples and shrines are the foundation of faith, where people bow and pray.
To my surprise, I entered an ordinary house and not a chapel, when I first visited Makuya. For you, what is equivalent to the foundation?
The Body Is the Shrine
Jindo: There is an old poem in Japan:
The body is the shrine,
God is in the soul.
How foolish it is
To search for Him elsewhere!
We consider the human body as a shrine within which the spirit of God dwells. This poem suggests the nonsense of seeking God outside of ourselves.
When I was young, I studied physical chemistry at the graduate school of UC Berkeley. One day, I was invited to a prayer meeting of Makuya. At the end of the meeting, people prayed for me and I had a mystic experience.
I didn’t understand what had happened to me, for it was totally new to me. I later realized that I had experienced God’s Spirit dwelling within me at that time.
I was very excited that night, and after returning to the dorm, I couldn’t sleep. So I picked up the Bible, and to my surprise I was able to understand and appreciate it! There is a phrase in the Bible: “The unfolding of Your words gives light” (Psalm119:130). That was exactly the experience that I had.
The next morning, on the way to the laboratory, the California sky looked clear blue. The trees and flowers appeared glowing in the light. I continued on with my research full of joy, as I sang aloud a newly learned hymn, “O how happy are they who have laid up their treasures above!”
If we have such joyful life within, we need no buildings, rituals, or external issues.
Kishi: So for you, such external matters or buildings are not the main issue. You can receive God within you at any time and any place. The important thing is to be ready to receive Him in your heart. Is that correct?
Jindo: Yes, exactly. Religion often starts from nothing as in a desert. Its energy is enormous at first. But once that energy is lost, people try to maintain its religious forms by creating human organizations or ritual systems. Then the main concern becomes the maintenance of buildings and organizations.
We, Makuya members, are also aware of this danger. How can religion dynamically retain its essential spiritual life? This, I believe, is the challenge that every religion faces.
Kishi: I think I understand the basic idea of Makuya people a little better.
Jindo: I’m glad to hear that.
(An excerpt from the original text.)
*Kanzo Uchimura (1861-1930)
A man of religion: At the recommendation of Jo Nijima, he went to Amherst College, there he was deeply influenced by President Seelye and had a spiritual conversion. Upon graduating from Amherst in 1887, he entered a theological school; however, he left from disappointment at lack of spiritual life. After returning to Japan, he published the magazine, Mukyokai (Non-church), and proclaimed the Non-Church movement. He also wrote How I Became a Christian, which is widely read. He is also known for his epitaph: “I for Japan; Japan for the World. The World for Christ; And All for God.”