Church drama a dilemma for Kishida – Analysis – Eurasia Review

By Levi McLaughlin*

On July 14, 2022Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced plans to hold a state funeral for his predecessor Shinzo Abewas beaten down while campaigning for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on July 8. In the weeks that followed, this funeral plan became unpopular.

A push of revelations flooded broadcast and social media about Abe and his family’s multi-generational ties to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification – a South Korea-based religion formerly known as the Unification Church (UC).

Public sympathy apparently tipped in favor of Abe’s accused abuser, Tetsuya Yamagamiwho killed the former prime minister in revenge against church leaders who allegedly bankrupted his family by convincing his mother to make ruinous donations.

Japanese media has been dominated by updates on politicians’ ties to the Unification Church. They unveiled the success of the church in appeal to conservative lawmakers by providing votes and logistical support to advance anti-leftist, misogynistic and homophobic ideals.

This notorious group has experienced decades of political protection against efforts to combat it by critics. Disgust with Abe and his fellow politicians’ ties to the Unification Church has propelled a moral panic over controversial religious organizations in Japan, reminiscent of the media alarm that followed the sarin gas attacks by the sectarian movement. Aum Shinrikyo in 1995.

The prevailing sentiment in the Japanese media has not been sadness over Abe’s shocking killing. A majority of the Japanese public oppose state funerals – a sentiment reflected even in a poll reported in the conservative newspaper, Shinbun Sankei, one of Abe’s staunchest defenders. More than 80 percent of those interrogates in late July 2022 felt that the ruling LDP had not satisfactorily explained its ties to the Unification Church.

PLD Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi announced on September 8, 2022 that 179 – nearly half – of the party’s lawmakers in the National Diet reported links with the Unification Church. Their relationships range from ongoing support for the church and its affiliated organizations to one-off interactions.

Even members of Komeito – an ally of the LDP at Diet level since the 1990s and a party founded by the Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist group fiercely opposed to the Unification Church – were present. events held by their alleged rival. The stigma surrounding the Unification Church is now so extreme that the cursory appearance of a politician at a religious event inspires a dedicated news article that can be retweeted thousands of times.

The Japanese government now faces a religious dilemma. It’s an issue that made Kishida’s state funeral plan a debacle and dragged down pressure from his cabinet. approval rating less than 30% from a pre-burial level of 64%.

In Japan, religious anxiety in the public sphere is particularly acute. When faced with questions like “do you have any religious faith?” » as little as 20 percent of those questioned will answer positively, which has earned the country a reputation for being strongly non-religious. It is therefore striking to note the seemingly disproportionate influence of religions and religion-affiliated organizations on Japanese electoral politics, largely through the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

For years, scholars and critics have focused on the close relationship between LDP lawmakers and the Association of Shinto Shrines, Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), an unincorporated lobby group comprising clergy and lay activists from a multitude of Buddhist, Christian, Shinto and other religious groups, and opinion makers who prioritize commitments religious. The ruling coalition has essentially retained more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower and upper houses of the Japanese Diet, largely thanks to the electoral support provided by Komeito — the “Clean Government Party”.

Komeito is fueled by its founding religion, the Soka Gakkai, whose adherents regularly draw criticism for treating election campaigning on behalf of Komeito and the PLD as a component of their regular practice. They provided an average of around 20,000 votes in each national constituency where they mobilize their members. Without the intense involvement of religious organizations, Japanese politics would be totally different.

It’s no surprise that the Unification Church forms part of Japan’s religious and political ecosystem. The Unification Church, although mobilizing only about 10-20% of the 600,000 subscribers that it claims to have in Japan, stands out for the scale and intensity of its exploitative practices.

Since 1987, Japan National Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales Networka lobby group dedicated to representing former members of the Unification Church and the families of those still within the church, recovered approximately 123.7 billion yen (about $900 million) in nearly 35,000 lawsuits. Testimonials former members aired by the network include tales of outrageous monetary demands and the hardships of Japanese women associated with violent men at mass church weddings.

Observers, especially those on the left, have been angered by the Unification Church’s influence on policy-making in the area of ​​gender politics. Anthropologist Tomomi Yamaguchi uncovered successful attempts by the church to initiate action against prefecture-level efforts to ensure gender equality and his opposition to municipal governments that recognize same-sex unions.

Outrage over links between politicians and the Unification Church’s promise to bring down Kishida even after the state funeral of abe. Even if the LDP is able to excise its ties to the Church, religious commitment will remain a staple of Japanese political life, no matter what animosity it triggers.

*About the Author: Levi McLaughlin is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. He is author of The Human Revolution of the Soka Gakkai: The Rise of a Mimic Nation in Modern Japan.

Source: This article is published by East Asia Forum

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