"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Culture difference re: blame

     By this time after a disaster in the West, survivors would be furious. After shock, for Westerners, comes anger. We would be trying to find someone to blame for the delay in getting sufficient help and trying to pin responsibility on whoever (Tokyo Electric?) made the insane decision to cluster nuclear plants along the coast of a nation prone to earthquakes.
     The East, at least Japan, deals differently with blame. The designated scapegoat assumes all responsibility. Thus, it was very Japanese when the director of Tokyo Electric (TEPCO), which owns the nuclear plants, recently offered to "apologize for the troubles." My understanding of Japanese culture is that taking responsibility for the damage and inconvenience to the Japanese people caused by the breakdown of the plants might require the director's honorable seppuku or self-disemboweling (vulgarly called "harakiri," which means gut-cutting).
     But Gov. Yuhei Sato had a very Western response to this ceremonial offer. He rejected it, saying, "What is most important is for TEPCO to end the crisis with maximum effort. Considering the anxiety, anger and exasperation being felt by people in Fukushima, there is just no way for me to accept their apology."
     He was saying, "Never mind taking blame for this--fix it!"  
     When the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami  hit Japan, Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara's immediate response was the assumption of even more blame. He attributed fault to the Japanese people as a whole: “The identity of the Japanese people is selfishness. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami as means of washing away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment."
     Although this is not a stone we Americans have a right to throw at any other nation, the mayor's reaction is perfectly consistent with the Judeo-Christian principle of responding to natural disasters ("acts of God") in one's own country with humility, prayer, and confession of sin. God promises, "If My people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles chapter 7, verse 14
     Ninety-nine percent of the people of Japan do not claim to be the people of the God of the Bible nor are they "called by His name" in the sense that the children of Abraham are, but I can assure them beyond the shadow of a doubt on the basis of the character of that God that humbling themselves and turning to Him in their crisis will be met with His mercy, protection and peace. It is God's nature to "oppose arrogant people, but be kind to humble people." James chapter 4, verse 6. God's son, Jesus Christ, says, "Everyone whom the Father gives Me will come to me.  I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me." John chapter 6, verse 37
     It beats disembowelment.


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