Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Unseen World

"An Australian business leader once told me when he shared his faith with a Japanese CEO the response was dismissive: 'Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man in touch with another world. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager at home only this world like I am.'" - Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life

Nighean Gheal has recently discovered the joys of Japanese Anime, especially that of Hayao Miyazaki, creator of Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. I have found them extremely enjoyable myself as well: they are well written, have fantastic artwork, and have storylines with good messages, especially for young girls (of which I am extremely interested.

One of the themes that Miyazaki deals with is the concept of natural spirits that dwell alongside the human world. This themes may not be surprising, as Miyazaki is Japanese and has been at the very least surrounded by the religion of Shinto, the native religion of Japan which concerns itself with man's relationship with the kami, essences or deities which may be human like or natural forces which inhabit the world with us.

As I went to bed last night thinking of how much I enjoyed My Neighbor Totoro, I was struck by the fact that these films - and indeed the Shinto religion - posits the fact that there is a supernatural world that exists around us and that we participate it. The thought then sprung to my mind of the quote from Os Guinness' book listed above, where a Japanese business reflects that most of the Christian leaders he had met were men that only reflected this world.

This, it occurs to me, is a challenge for Christians.

No, I'm not calling for some kind of sudden realization of seeing Angels in my yard and Demons in my car in the morning ("Out Out, ye Demons of The Dysfunctional Air Conditioner"). At the same time, we proclaim that there is a world beyond this one, that there are presences among us - indeed a God among us - that intervenes in our lives.

The comparison I can make is that of telling my daughters that we are driving through an area with deer. They will strain and seek under every clump of darkness looking for the deer - and then the excitement when they find one! Compare that with just driving through a forest going "Look kids, trees". There is no anticipation, no excitement - just acceptance that things are as they appear to be.

Guinness postulates that secularism of Western Culture has done this to us. I suppose so, but it occurs to me that Christians have done this to ourselves. We have so carefully stripped any way of God coming to us except intellectually and perhaps emotionally (occasionally, it depends on the circumstance) that when we read as in Psalm 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" or in Psalm 96: 11-12:

"Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord."

that we cannot see either God at work or God's handiwork rejoicing in Him by doing what He created them to do.

Again, I'm not calling for dryads in the oaks or wood spirits living in my bamboo. But do we as Christians reflect that there is another realm among us by how we live? Or are we convincing the world that we are just like they are, except we have a frosting layer of religion on top?


  1. Anonymous7:56 PM

    This is why Quakers (and other Jewish, Christian and Muslim transcendentalists) see God present in each and every part of the Creation. It's why Orthodox Jews have several thousand types of mitzvah categorized - to thank God for their sneezing, for doors opening correctly, for water continuing to flow, for the spawning of fish, and everything bigger and smaller. This is a good impulse on you r part. You don't need to be Shinto (or Chippewa) to feel deity in rocks and trees - you just need to remember that everything that is, Is - SEWS

  2. "Deity in the rocks and trees". That's a fine line, and actually a far better explanation than my longwinded article.

    The presence of God in all of creation. I think I can deal with that thought - it gives a way to frame it in my own mind.


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