My mother is visiting me this August, and while we are going to be enjoying ourselves traveling Japan and visiting with my friends here...


This morning, she asked me if it'd be okay if we attend services at Tokyo Baptist Church. While I agree to go to services when I visit her, out of respect that I am her daughter and a guest in her house...


Ugh. I really, really, would rather do just about anything than attend a church service. While I was pagan, I never asked her to be involved at all. (And of course that wouldn't have flown, anyway.) My brother and his family converted to Judaism, so we have an eclectic group, but still. 


One of the reasons why I love living here in Japan is that people here are sensible about religion, for the most part. Is my mother being sensible by asking that we attend services? I can see from one point of view that this is her faith and of course, she'd want to go (both for religious reasons as well as to see how the Japanese do it). As well, it's not like she could get there and back, herself. She knows "Arigatou" and "Itadakimasu" and that's about it. There's no one else who COULD go with her, as it's just us on that day.


My mom is not herself preachy, compared with a lot of folks (including her husband), but she's also not one to just let go of her religion, either. I just worry that she's going to attempt to convert me, because of how scared she was for me when the earthquake happened.


x.x (Why does there have to be a baptist church in Tokyo, and why did Mom have to find it?)

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Hi Nerdlass-

If it were me, I would take my mom.  I would have plenty of reasons why.  1) She wants to attend a church in her faith in a foreign country, and I could help make that happen. 2) I find it fascinating how different countries interpret the same faith, so I would be curious, 3) I know I could not be converted by attending one service, or any number for that matter, and 4) it would probably make her very happy.


I am as shocked as you that there is a baptist church in Tokyo, but I would take it more as a cultural lesson than anything else.  Of course you could refuse to take her, but what would that really do?  She's your mom.  She's coming all the way to Tokyo to see you, so I assume she loves you dearly.  She wants to experience how her life would be if she lived there, which I always love to do. 


Afterward, you can always discuss the architecture of the building, the flower arrangements, etc., and I'm sure you can find other ways to acknowledge the experience with her and not make it a religious thing.  I love checking out all sorts of things in a foreign land, including churches and cathedrals.  If an atheist enjoys that, I can see why your mom might too.  You should do whatever you are comfortable with, but I think this would be a fun thing to allow your mother the pleasure of doing.  As atheists, we often soften the hearts of those around us most often by accepting them for who they are.  It seems to work so much better than bullying.  Just my 2 cents.  I hope you have fun with your mom!



Japan is CRAWLING with Christian missionaries attempting to convert them, but they mostly aren't buying it. I lived in Japan from 1968-70, and again in 1972, and married a Japanese, and his mother was a convert, and she once took me to a luncheon where none of the missionaries could believe I wasn't Christian. I used to teach English too, and a common phrase was "We'll teach you about Buddhism if you teach us about Christianity" whereupon I had to tell them I'd love to learn about Buddhism, but couldn't possibly teach them about Christianity because I never was Christian. They automatically assume every Westerner is Christian.

Anyway, to get to your question -- I think it would be a loving gesture to take your mother to church. You can go as an anthropologist studying the natives -- your mom won't understand the language, but may recognize the rituals, and you can just sit and watch people. When I need to be in a church, like when my beloved Mormon former student got married, I was respectful, and stood when they stood, but didn't recite any prayers, or say amen or anything. Just observed. I don't mind learning things about religion -- if I'm in a church, I enjoy the music, and if it's a Catholic or Episcopalian church, or a Buddhist temple, I enjoy the smell of the incense. I don't have to believe in what they're doing in order to enjoy observing it. I even sang (paid) in an Episcopalian church choir for almost 3 years, just to see what the Christian church year was all about. I made it clear that I wouldn't wear a cross, or genuflect in front of the altar, and they were cool with it -- if they hadn't been, I wouldn't have taken the job. The sermons were interesting, even though I couldn't agree with everything they said -- but remember, I was the anthropologist!

The only thing you need to plan for and stand firm about is that you will not take any part in the service, even if your mother begs you. You need to draw your boundaries -- "No, mom, that subject is not open for discussion." And keep repeating it in just those words until she takes the message.

Good luck!

Maybe you could offer to attend her church with you, and then attend an atheist group meeting together.
I agree with Hitchens when he says that he covers his head when going to a synagoge, takes off his shoes in a mosque etc. Let's be polite and friendly and leave the prejudice and killing to the fanatics and bigots. I would also be curious as to what it was like.
Everyone raised some pretty insightful points. I really appreciate that. Thank you. One of my local friends said, "At least it's not a mormon service. That lasts 6 hours!" So, maybe I should count my blessings. j/k

I'll go along with Mom, then. It's just one morning and it might be interesting to see from the outside. Since it is the day after she gets here, though, I'm crossing my fingers that she'll be wanting to sleep in, thanks to the jetlag. ;)

But yeah, I'll go along. Again, I just really hope she leaves out The Talk.

Ah!  Telling her you'd be happy to go with, and then having her sleep in due to jet lag sounds like the ideal situation. ;-)  But if you end up going, I hope you will post your experience here, as I would love to hear about it!


Well, looking at the website, it looks to be something between a megachurch and broadway. o.O

So I'm wondering if it'd be along the lines of Passion plays. The service is in English, from what I understand, as well. I'll be sure to do a follow-up, since you're curious.

Have fun. Hope you avoid the Talk.


How awful for you.  I don't think I could stomach it. 


My mother taught English to Japanese women in Dallas in the 80s, and many of them have moved back to Japan since then.  After the earthquake, she got an email from one of the women, who noted that she was away from the dangerous coast because her mother had become ill and she had traveled to see her.  My mother concluded that god had intervened to save her. 


So we managed not to go to church while Mom was here, but she was a wee bit disappointed. Towards the end of her stay, she got into The Talk, and I did my best to answer her questions without offending her. She cried, and I'm sorry that it hurts her, but that's more her belief system's fault for having hell as the alternative to sky-daddy worship. I explained that I'm very private with my beliefs, partly because I don't wish to offend my loved ones. She more or less said that it was upsetting because it just seemed to her that I was stubborn.


She went on about signs of the rapture, and that made me really sad for her to believe in such things. Some of it was upsetting, but I had to push through and remind myself the mindset of fundamentalist christianity and that it has a hold on my mother (and many other family members). The most upsetting thing was that she said that it (apocalypse) would make the tsunami look like child's play. --I'm thankful that I have patience and a hold on my temper and the reason to know it was her religion talking. Sans religion, she wouldn't have dared downplay the horrors Japan faced in March.


I also explained to her that I can no more make myself believe in her god than someone forcing themselves to believe in Santa, after they find out he's not real. It really hurt her, but I don't know any other way to get through to her that I cannot hold faith in something that is little more than a LARP run amok. (Don't worry, I didn't call christianity a LARP in front of her...)


I'm not a 7 on Dawkin's scale... I call myself a pantheist because I am in awe of the majesty around us. I just don't see any reason why there should be a consciousness behind it all. It's not needed and it demeans what is there. If there was such thing as a deity, it certainly isn't the christian one. Or any other one humanity has dreamed up over the aeons.


...I may have to hunt down that FSM church, though. That sounds like fun. :D

I'm glad you were able to recognize that it is your mother's religious beliefs that made her cry, and not you. And I commend you for having patience with her -- I'm sure that she loves you very much, which is why your lack of belief is so upsetting to her. You drew your boundaries gently but firmly, and that's the best you could have done. Seems like it is hard for her to accept you as the adult you are -- she still thinks you are a child to be led into the "light".

And now I have to know what a LARP is! :-)

A LARP is a live action role play. Usually vampires or medieval/fantasy settings. If you've heard of the Society of Creative Anachronism, it's pretty similar to that. Public history is pretty close, too.


I'm not a LARPer, but I've played a game or two. It's fun, but everyone knows it's adult-style pretend. That's the difference between LARP and religion. ^^;


I left christianity for paganism. There was a time where I had to move back in with my parents and all my pagan things were banned from the house. During that time, my religious beliefs became more a philosophy, until I eventually realized that I was without religion altogether. So in a way, I can thank my family for weeding out the last vestiges of religious self-delusion. How's that for irony?






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