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by attempting to deprive them of a valid reason for not participating in Shinto ceremonies.
And there is no doubt that there still remains an element of embarrassment to Christians. Nominally and theoretically, Shinto is no longer a religion; it is “merely a cult embodying the principle of veneration for ancestors, and having for its chief function the performance of rites in memory of the [so-called] divine ancestors of the empire's sovereigns.” But the common people will continue to regard Shinto in the light of a religion, and to worship and pray at the shrines. Until, therefore, the masses are educated up to a knowledge of the distinctions between “human” and “divine,” “secular” and “religious,” “ reverence” and “worship,” they will continue to bow their heads, clap their hands, and mumble their prayers at Shinto shrines. Christians, of course, ought not to indulge in such practices; but, because such things are done by those who do not know better, should they refrain entirely from participating in national celebrations and patriotic ceremonies ? Or should they, regardless of what others may be doing, take part in whatever way their consciences will allow? Is this a case in which Paul's instructions about eating meat and things offered to idols would be applicable ?
This is really much the same question that arose some years ago with reference to bowing before the Emperor's portrait. To that ceremony the common word for “worship ” [reihai or hairei] was applied; and therefore many Christians conscientiously refused to perform it. Now, those Japanese words are composed of rei, a very common term indicating any polite act, and hai, which in its original ideographic form was written with a picture of two hands clasped, and therefore naturally indicates worship. But this word hai is an integral part of such words as haiken (a very polite expression for “please let me see "), haishaku (please lend”), haikei (the humble phrase at the beginning of a letter). In all these cases the word hai expresses a humble request to a superior, originally made with clasped hands and bowed head. These words are in daily use by Christians, including missionaries, without conscientious scruples, because they are apparently cases of what rhetoricians call “ fossil metaphors.” It would appear, then, that hai, which gives reihai its significance of “worship,” may have shades of meaning, just as we speak, not only of the “worship of the one, true God,” but also of “heroworship.” It is, in fact, a question of terms in a language and among a people where such fine distinctions are not drawn between the secular and the religious, the common and the uncommon, the holy and the unholy. In a country where each person must humble himself before others and must express that humility in words and deeds that to Occidentals suggest Uriah Heep, and where profound bows are the most ordinary occurrence, bowing to the Emperor's portrait is scarcely “worship.” It is no
more “worship” or “idolatry” than baring the head when the United States flag was raised at San Juan de Porto Rico, or when the British sing “God Save the King,” or than standing with bared and bowed heads before an open grave. To repeat, the whole question is largely one of terms in a language under going great transitions and modifications through contact with Occidental thought and speech.
In this connection the whole subject of translation comes up. What Japanese words, for instance, shall be used for “God,” “spirit,” “love,” "home,” “worship,” “personal," and many other terms? The ideas included in such words do not exist in the Japanese mind, and therefore there are no absolutely equivalent terms. Either old words of lower concepts must be used, or words must be coined; in either case the full idea of the original is not transferred to the Japanese mind without considerable explanation. But this is a digression.
This disestablishment of Shinto is another instance of the peculiar method by which reforms, whether political, social, or moral, are usually accomplished in Japan. In Occidental nations political reforms have been initiated by the people, by the power of public opinion; and popular rights have been wrested by the ruled from the unwilling rulers, whether feudal barons or monarchs. But in Japan all the political and social reforms of the last few decades have been imposed by the ruling classes upon the indifferent