Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And the Lord said...

Starfish High is a Catholic high school.

The kanji characters is the school name can be read as the Japanese word for "starfish", but apparently it is also a code word for Mother Mary.

"Code word?" You heard me right. Code word.

See, in the 1600's, after Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated his enemies and united the country under a shogunate, he made sure that all foreign influences were shut out of the country. This included Christianity, which had been introduced in 1549 by the missionary Saint Francis Xavier (not to be confused with Professor). Tokugawa didn't pull any punches, either. He nearly wiped out Christianity in Japan with a combination of imprisonment, forced recantations, and executions. One of the most "popular" methods of forced recantation was fumie, which required the practicing Christian to recant by stepping on a picture of Christ.

The Christians who remained went underground with their faith, using code words for different religious figures. They kept everything very secret and hidden. To be found out meant to face execution.

I don't know nearly enough about the history of Christianity in Japan, but our school director, Father Kobayashi, is a local priest, and he teaches Starfish High's religion classes. I'll ask him more about it, and if I find out anymore cool code words, I'll post them here.

Funny story about Father Kobayashi's religion class: I was taking care of some stuff in the English Den, and on my way back to the office, I happened to over hear a bit of his lesson with the 2nd year boys.

Father: "Can anybody tell me which state is the state where Mormonism really took off?"
Me (thinking): "Insanity." (It's just a joke, people. Calm down.)
Student 1: "California?"
Father: "No, but you're close."
Student 2: "Texas?"
Father: "Getting a bit colder..."
Student 3: "Miami?"



I had to hold myself back from barging into class and laying the smack down. This is the kind of workplace I find myself at everyday.

I've been reading passages from the New Testament in our morning meetings for the past three days. It's one of the requirements of the job, apparently. My coworker, Jack, refused to do it, and I debated about whether to do it or not, but I figured, "Why the hell not?"
On second thought, let me rephrase that.
I figured, "Why not?" I read it in English, which makes more sense than the insane polite Japanese speech that the Bible is written in. Not a clue. I don't mind the Bible passage in the morning, but I wish we had more to choose from than just the four Gospels. The parable of the mustard seed is all fine and good, but I would really get into a passage about Samson smiting some bad guys, or David taking out Goliath with a sling.

This brings up a larger...complaint?...I have with the school. Not really a complaint, but I say that for lack of a better vocabulary. When I went up to interview for this job last November, I was surprised to see my friend Hiroshi (the Mr. Yamane of a previous post) crossing himself and praying. "You, of all people, are most definitely not Catholic."

"Nope. It's just part of the job."

This just rubs me the wrong way. I have no problem with working at a Catholic school. I have no problem with Catholicism, or with Christianity in general. I have no problem with the morning prayer, or the prayer before and after staff meetings.

So what IS my problem?

Aside from two or three teachers who actually are Catholic, these actions hold no real meaning to most of the staff here. This comes back to why I don't pray with everyone else, and I don't cross myself. I'm not Catholic, so it feels hypocritical for me to do that. I don't want to "just go through the actions" for the sake of appearances. I just doesn't feel right to me.

So I don't. But I make sure that I show respect for the prayer by staying quiet. I had to stand in for another teacher and run the morning and afternoon meetings for his class one day. During the schoolwide prayers, a few of his students were talking and screwing around. "Look," I said. "Pray or don't pray. That's up to you. But keep your traps shut and show a little respect!"

I don't understand my school.


Blogger Smoooth said...

It sounds like you feel a lot like Daniel who got thrown into the lion's den.

Daniel was captured and taken to BABALON the great where they tried in small ways to move him towards a change in faith . . .

Okay I realize no one is trying to convert you and you are not a captive taken against your will, but you do have conviction and a belief system that is tugging at your sensabilities . . .

Daniel refused to participate in or follow any rules or laws that asked him to directly disobey his beliefs but he still managed to live and work among the Babalonians for a very long time. He was even promoted and esteemed for his unwillingness to cave in to others beliefs and for his ability to still be all he could be in his job and in his relationships with others. Check it out . . . just a thought and its a better read than just Mathew, Mark, Luke and John :)

Saturday, October 29, 2005 11:56:00 PM  

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