Religion im Dienste einer ethnisch-nationalen Identitätskonstruktion: Erörtert am Beispiel der „Deutschen Christen“ und des japanischen Shinto

The title of this contribution may be translated as: "Thinking about identity construction with special reference to the 'German Christians' and Japanese Shintō as examples." After a brief introduction the main facts concerning the two examples are presented with appropriate quot...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Kleine, Christoph
Format: Journal Articles
Language:English
Published: 2002
Online Access:Online Access
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Summary:The title of this contribution may be translated as: "Thinking about identity construction with special reference to the 'German Christians' and Japanese Shintō as examples." After a brief introduction the main facts concerning the two examples are presented with appropriate quotations. In both cases religion was mobilized in the service of a nationalist and even a militarist identity. However in the conclusion the author points out that in one sense apples and pears are being compared here. Would the comparison not be stronger if two universal religions such as Christianity and Buddhism were compared in connection with their use in the support of national hybris? And Shinto, as a questionable reconstruction of an allegedly autochthonous religion, would conceivably find a better correspondance in Germanic Neo-Paganism. However the point of the lecture was to show that religions which are structurally quite different from each other can have very similar effects under certain historical circumstances. The "German Christians" (an expression which of course does not include all and any German Christians, but only those who specifically sought to combine Germanness with Christianity during the Nazi period) succeeded in turning a universal, monotheistic religion into a racist, national-socialist ideology including an antisemitism based in part on late statements of Martin Luther. State Shinto was a quite different phenomenon. Based on a localised, ethnically defined polytheism, and syncretistically interwoven with Buddhism, it was reconstructed from the 18th century onwards as a pure Japanese religion. The Emperor thus became the centre of a national cult, and resistance against the political power of the Emperor Meiji (Meiji Tennō) and the associated instrumentalization of Shinto in the nineteenth century became well-nigh impossible. Thus, in spite of the fundamental typological difference between these two religions, both served the construction of a national and ethnic identity, which made a decisive contribution to national fanaticism in times of war. Thus it may be concluded that the type of a religion, and its specific teaching, only have a limited connection with the way in which it may be used in the political arena. The main danger lies simply in the supernatural legitimation of political actions, whatever the religion. This leads to irrationality and the inability to confer with those who hold different beliefs or convictions.
DOI:https://doi.org/10.17192/mjr.2002.7.3732