Culture At Large

Have we become "Hidden Christians"?

Andy Rau

Regular readers will probably have noted that at least once per year, I find an excuse to post about the "Hidden Christians" of Japan, which I find to be one of the more interesting subjects in church history. This time, however, it's not me who's brought it up--Skye at the Out of Ur blog wonders if American Christians, somewhat like the "Hidden Christians" of Japan, have let our faith become so intertwined with our culture that it no longer bears much resemblance to true Christianity:

The strategy of adopting Japanese cultural forms to mask their Christian faith continued for 240 years, but this survival plan backfired.

Over time the Crypto-Christians confused their Christian beliefs and their Japanese disguises. The result was the emergence of a hybrid religion no longer resembling the orthodox faith of the missionaries. [....]

These meandering history lessons have led me to this question: Have we, like our processors, become Crypto-Christians? Seeking survival and fearing irrelevance, have we clothed our faith with the forms of our American culture to the point that our Christianity has morphed into something entirely different—a folk religion altogether consumerist in spirit and content? Like the Kakure of Japan, are we holding so tightly to our faith we cannot sense that it is already slipping between our fingers?

It feels a little uncomfortable to compare American Christians, who do not face persecution and death for their beliefs, with the Hidden Christians, who did. But the question is a good one.

I also like what Skye is suggesting about the motives that lie behind efforts to "blend in" with culture. When evangelicals talk about being more relevant to the culture we live in, our usual stated motive is to more effectively present the Gospel to the members of that culture. But I wonder if the true motive is often fear and self-preservation--fear of being rejected by society or of losing cultural influence. To what extent might motive decide whether or not we end up influencing culture, or being assimilated by it? Thoughts to ponder.

update: I got the author of the Out of Ur blog post wrong--it's fixed now. My apologies.

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, History