From about 1853-1869 Japan was in a period of turmoil known as the Bakumatsu which translates more or less to “the end of the curtain.” Some refer to it instead as the Meiji restoration or revolution – Meiji being the name the emperor took after the conflict meaning “enlightenment.” What’s important to notice here, however, is not the question of whether we should consider it as the end of the Shogunate or the beginning of a new era of enlightenment (the momentum of which led Japan to be the military force it was during World War II). What’s important to know about the Bakumatsu is that the two primary players in the conflict (the Shogunate and the Ishin Shishi) were both working in what they considered to be in the best interest of the Emperor.
Let me clarify. The Shogun ran the country. The Emperor and his court ruled Japan, but the Shogun and his court ran the day to day, kept the local lords in line and did most of the work. It’s like the relationship the President has to Congress, only imagine Congress with a lot more influence and power and all of that consolidated in a single person.
The Ishin Shishi were not rebelling against the Emperor, but against the Shogun. They called themselves patriots who strove to restore the Emperor to his proper place. The Shogunate was convinced that the best way to serve the Emperor and the country was through the established order.
Neither was interested in destroying Japan, only in making it better.
I think we the Church have something to learn here. A lot of people are drawing lines saying “I love Jesus and hate church.” I’ve heard things like “Jesus came to abolish religion,” and what Pope Benedict 16 calls “do it yourself faith.” Now I’m not going to defend the need for the church, because every believer should surround him/herself with other believers to encourage and edify one another – the congregation of two or more believers is a manifestation of the Church. That’s very clear.
What bugs me are the people who say “I’m done with Church – Jesus and I are cool on our own.” They seem to me like “Revolutionaries” in Japan saying “I like this emperor but the country totally blows. I’m moving to China.” Now I’ll be the first to admit that the Church has problems and that there is a lot of growing and fixing to be done, but really?
You don’t like the church? How about you hang around and help the rest of us make it better? Help us put the King back on his throne and in people’s hearts and lives.
Now there are ways and ways to help here and we can argue about that until we’re blue in the face. So when you go to your pastor and say “I think we should do XYZ and it will make the church better.” Realize that your pastor may say “no” and that there is probably a good reason behind it. Don’t flip out because people disagree with you and people will disagree with you. But that doesn’t mean you give up, it means you take your idea to the Lord and ask “is this a good idea? Should I keep trying?” And if he says keep going, then keep going. If he says give up, then come up with another idea and try that one.
But one thing is very clear: you won’t be helping us by running away to China and telling Commodore Perry to take potshots at us.