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Thread: Shinto Religious Shrine at the YMCA

  1. #1
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    Default Shinto Religious Shrine at the YMCA

    Just looking for some opinions - not going to pass judgement myself.

    Elsewhere on this forum it was mentioned that an instructor who teaches at a Young Men's Christian Association has a kamidana in his YMCA dojo. For those of you who don't know, a kamidana is a religious Shinto-specific altar used to deify the gods, usually with offerings of food.

    What are your feelings concerning the appropriateness of a pagan religious altar being used in a kid's Christian organization?

    Is this bad budo?

    Or is this a religious item that can be explained off as being used for other than religious purposes?

    Jeff Cook
    Wabujitsu

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    Man, not being a Shintoist myself, I feel I can't reply on that score.

    I am a Christian, though, and I think Christians should be very tolerant of such things. There's a Catholic doctrine in particular that says Catholics should engage in an open dialogue with persons of other faiths in order to learn from them and share with them.

    I bet the kamidana has been secularized, though. I'm sure a lot of Shintoist and likewise Buddhist things have. I wonder if that bugs the heck out of persons of that faith?

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    Jeff, do you mean mine dojo? They never had any problem with it. It is still in there and survived the flood waters. If they ever get the asbestos cleaned up by the hazmat team, they might let me back in to get it out.
    John Lindsey

    Oderint, dum metuant-Let them hate, so long as they fear.

  4. #4
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    Default I wouldn't say it's bad budo...

    ...because the presence of of the shrine really has no impact on the quality of the trainining the students recieve.

    If the instructor was deliberately attempting to convert the students to Shinto (especially if they are minors) then I would have to say that it was inappropriate. The dojo should be a place for learning the martial arts, not a vehicle for religious or political recruitment.

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    Default Wrath of God?

    Saw this thread and could not stay away from it. First, I am very sorry to hear about not only the terrible flooding in the Houston area, but particularly that your dojo was destroyed. I have no doubt that you will quickly get things back together there.

    Now on to Jeff's question regarding the Kamidana and it's appropriateness in a Christian organization. As a person that has literally grown up at the YMCA and has continued a relationship to present, my answer would that it is not appropriate. Here is why.

    First, although the YMCA is more and more of a "fitness club" type of environment, it is still a Christian organization. Note the name, "Young Men's Christian Association". While Charles may argue that he believes that Christians should be tolerant of such things, who are we to force tolerance upon them? Remember, it is their organization and you are in their building. We should not expect that they be more tolerant, but that we be respectful of the Christian roots and mission of this organization to not bring into it an object that has an important place within another religion.

    Second, the YMCA staff may not fully understand the religious significance of a kamidana, thus the complacent response that John has received from them on the matter. However, if you think about it, we have all heard of folks that have objections to bowing for religious reasons. We are usually able to work around this, when we explain to them that bowing is a greeting, like handshaking here in the West, and a showing of mutual respect. For the most part, that takes care of the problem. However, a kamidana is a different matter. As the kamidana holds a place of honor in the dojo and is bowed to at the beginning and end of class, those same reluctant students (that you previously convinced to bow) may not respond well to bowing to a "thing" as opposed to another person. You can tell them that they are bowing to show respect for those masters that have gone before, however the problem with this is they are still bowing to a "thing" (that so happens to look suspiciously like an alter). Many will see this as no different then bowing to an idol or other graven image. So while your hosts at the Y may not have a problem with it, I do see a potential problem with it in your future. Eventually you will get a student in that (a) recognizes the kamidana for what it is (religious alter), or (b) one that is already reluctant to bow, and will strongly object to bowing to a "thing". Either way, you can expect them to raise heck with the Y. So the better plan would be to avoid the potential conflict altogether.

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    Yes, John, I was referring to your dojo and your kamidana. I left your name out of it to avoid biased opinions, and to draw people into a discussion who would otherwise shy away from it if they knew you were the topic of discussion; it is your board, after all!

    I am glad to hear that the Y does not currently have a problem with it. I am also glad to hear that it survived the flood.

    Why don't they have a problem with it? Is it not a problem because they don't know what it is, or is it not a problem because you have explained that it has no religious significance? Or is it possible that they do not have a problem with it because they are religiously tolerant?

    Lots of us have a kamiza in our dojos, and we would certainly be enlightened by further discussion of your kamidana situation.

    Jeff Cook
    Wabujitsu

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    Default Re: Wrath of God?

    Originally posted by Robert Carver
    Now on to Jeff's question regarding the Kamidana and it's appropriateness in a Christian organization. As a person that has literally grown up at the YMCA and has continued a relationship to present, my answer would that it is not appropriate. Here is why.
    I think the original question was, is this Bad Budo?
    George Kohler

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    Dojo-cho

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    No George, his original question was:

    "What are your feelings concerning the appropriateness of a pagan religious altar being used in a kid's Christian organization?"
    I gave my opinions based on a very long association with the YMCA, and I am not trying to beat up on John. You can take my experience dealing with YMCA's if you like, or you can discard it.

    In the perfect world or a private dojo, we can do just what Janty suggested, enter the dojo with an open mind and leave our personal thoughts (or preconceptions) behind. Those that cannot can leave and go elswhere.

    However, the YMCA is not a perfect world and it does not work like a private dojo. It is a long established organization with its own cultural standards and values. Those standards and values happen to be Christian. I know from experience that many people join the YMCA not because it is the best place to workout, or the cheapest, but because it is an organization that from their personal convictions, shares the same standards and values. When a person takes part in a YMCA program, they expect that program to reflect those same values. Now that does not mean they expect a Christian martial arts program, but at the very least they expect a religiously neutral or one that does not conflict with their convictions. The problem with showing a student at a YMCA the door because they do not agree with bowing to a Shinto shrine, is that they will probably not go quietly. Because of their personal convictions, they will go the the Y administration and complain because they perceive the bowing to a Shinto shrine to be "anti-Christian" and therefore not reflecting the values of the organization or their expectations for a program taught at the Y.

    However, in answer to the "bad budo" question, no it is NOT bad budo. However, I do think it brings up the question as to where Martial Culture can conflict with the religious values of our students or with an organization that we teach at. Because we all pretty much agree that this is not bad budo, therefore I would suggest to the moderator that this thread be moved to a more appropriate forum.

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    Robert,

    The YMCA`s takes and charges MONEY from the MA instructors who use their FACILITIES... Religion, especially Chrisanity has always been a business...
    ... and where the money comes, Tolerance can be found with the Christan leadership...
    With any kind landlord/tentant relationship, I doubt a landlord has the the right to restrict or prohibit religious practices or objects.
    Unless of course the instructors is scarificing (killing) goats, or other animals ( I think the health department might have a problem with that...).
    <b><font size=5><font face=arial><font color=red>JAPANESE TREASURES</font color></font></font size><i><font size=4>THE BUDO SOURCE</i></font size><BR>Custom Calligraphy, Certificates & Stamps - Books & Videos - Weapons & Training tools - Clothing & Footwear - Art & Decoration - Religious Items and much more... <font color=navy>direct from JAPAN ! ! !<br></b><a href=http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=8980><img src=http://images.andale.com/f2/115/106/3857151/1005497913770_InquiryJT.jpg></a> <a href=http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=540><img src=http://images.andale.com/f2/115/106/3857151/1005496536211_OrderJT.jpg></a> <a href=http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=9993><img src=http://images.andale.com/f2/115/106/3857151/1005496537280_CatalogJT.jpg></a>

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    Ah Ah Ahhhhh! No boys, let's behave. Mark, cynism aside, I do not think that was a fair comment...

    Christianity has always been a business

    Hey, I am as open-minded as they come when it comes to religion... but let's not go there... okay?

    And no, I am not sticking up for Robert 'cause he's from Baton Rouge... I remain impartial as always.
    Jason Chambers
    Owner,
    Tatsujin Photography & Design

  11. #11
    Yamantaka Guest

    Unhappy RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE

    Being an atheist, perhaps this isn't the thread for me...Anyway, two things trouble me :
    [QUOTE]
    "What are your feelings concerning the appropriateness of a PAGAN religious altar being used in a kid's Christian organization?"

    [QUOTE]
    "Now that does not mean they expect a Christian martial arts program, but at the very least they expect a religiously neutral or one that does not conflict with their convictions. "

    When we call something PAGAN, it brings a popular connotation of "Heathen", "barbarian", "evil" to that thing. It seems to me a prejudice against other people's religions. It's like calling Palestinians or Ira members "terrorists". With that word, "we know WHO they are..."
    And if we expect anyone to be "religiously neutral" and not conflictive with our convictions, how can we deny them the same thing?
    Unhappily, it seems almost every religion in the world teaches prejudice and intolerance above everything else (christians possibly included, for the most part...)
    Best regards

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    "Pagan" is NOT a derogatory term for a non-Christian or non-Judaism religion. It is an accepted, technical term. Look it up. I do not understand why you would be troubled by that term. If the "popular connotation" is indeed as you describe, then perhaps we should educate the ignorant masses on the proper definition of the term.

    As far as it being "bad budo," applying that definition is a highly individual one. What one person finds to be "bad budo" another finds to be a perfectly acceptable business practice, religious practice, or whatever. Case in point: in many aboriginal tribes, having sex with a 13-year-old is socially and legally acceptable in that country, in that context. Here of course, with our legal standards and societal morals, it is completely unacceptable.

    Mark, I'm not so sure about your legal suppositions. I feel that if you investigate that further, you will find that a Christian organization does have some legal influence over what is done behind their doors. Besides, they have an obligation to shield the Christian children of Christian parents from Shinto religious practices, or devil-worshipping, for that matter.

    Now, getting back to the "bad budo" question. We really cannot answer that question without more input from John. Questions remain unanswered. Were the Y folks fraudulently led to believe that the altar was not an altar? Was there a fraudulent ommission of any explanation whatsoever? Was it explained off as being a non-religious symbol but only offered as an item to further the student's cultural education? These are some questions that could shed light on the "bad budo" question.

    Personally, I certainly give John the benefit of the doubt, as do most of you. Too bad that generous attitude does not permeate the "bad budo" board with other members not quite so revered as John.

    Jeff Cook
    Wabujitsu

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    Actually, the YMCA was created in London during the 1840s as a Protestant Bible-reading organization for young men living alone in the city. Sports were introduced into its program during the 1880s and 1890s. The old guard complained, saying that Christianity wasn't supposed to be fun, but the reformers won the day by arguing that physical exercise and cold showers would protect urban youth from the evils of smoking, drinking, and masturbation.

    From what I've seen, the incentive to join the Y is generally not its Christian values but the desire of middle-class adults to avoid the working poor who frequent comparable city and county facilities.

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    Just a few comments. The kamidana was used as part of our bowing in and out ceremonies, but only for the adult class. I take the time the explain to each new student that what I teach is a Japanese art and that it includes elements of shinto. I don't try and BS them by saying that it is just a formal way to acknowledge the "tradition" as some do. It is Shinto... Amatsu Tatara Shinto to be exact.

    Now, the other question is if Shinto is a religion? I say that because I have met many Japanese who don't consider it such! Well, of course it is a religion to our Western standards, but it appears to exist in a "gray zone" to many Japanese...
    John Lindsey

    Oderint, dum metuant-Let them hate, so long as they fear.

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    Being part of the ignorant masses, I looked up "pagan" in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate.

    Pagan: 1. HEATHEN. 2. One who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods: an irreligious or hedonistic person.

    Heathen: 2. An uncivilized or irreligious person. [Also strange, uncivilized. See BARBAROUS.]

    Barbarous: 1. Uncivilized, lacking culture or refinement: PHILISTINE.

    philistine: 2. a. A crass, prosaic, often priggish individual guided by material rather than intellectual and artistic values: BABBIT. b. One uninformed in a special area of knowledge.

    Babbit: A business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards.

    So it seems that Jeff is saying that John is crass, lacking refinement, commercially motivated, and conforming unthinkingly to prevailing standards. If true, then yes, John might be guilty of bad budo. Documentation of this is required, however. Such proof could include, but need not be limited to, proof that John claims high rank in USMAA or equivalent diploma mill, dresses in red keikogi when not working as a department store santa, or has self-awarded his college, military, and martial art experience and degrees. Note that this is still lower case bad budo. (To me, upper case Bad Budo involves actual crimes, such as embezzling funds from the organizations to which he was associated, soliciting bribes, sexually harassing or physically intimidating students and family members, etc.)

    ***

    One of the more bizarre religious ideas I've heard involved this European religion that taught that eating the body and drinking the blood of the deceased deity brought salvation. Gads.

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