Soldier of God
MacArthur's Attempt to Christianize Japan
Ray A. Moore
2011, 175 pages
ISBN 978-0-9836599-4-5 Paper $35.00
ISBN 978-0-9836599-5-2 Cloth $65.00
Soldier of God is a study of General Douglas MacArthur’s effort to influence the religious life of Japan by suppressing native religions and enabling the propagation of Christianity in that country during the American occupation (1945-1952). As Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), MacArthur said it was his duty “as a Soldier of God and of the Republic” to fill the moral vacuum in Japan by restoring and reviving religion. After an introduction to Japan’s prewar encounter with Christianity, this study focuses on four major issues.
Part One describes the efforts of the Foreign Missions Conference (FMC) of the American Council of Churches to resume proselytizing in postwar Japan. The FMC arranged with the American government to send a church delegation to Japan, and President Truman gave a letter to the church leaders addressed to Emperor Hirohito.
Part Two explores the delegates’ meetings with MacArthur, Emperor Hirohito, Japan’s prime minister, and Japanese Christian leaders. Convinced that Japan was a fertile field for propagating Christianity, the FMC in the U.S. laid plans for sending missionaries to support MacArthur’s scheme for Christianizing Japan.
Part Three explores the Imperial family’s apparent interest in Christianity. The empress took Bible lessons and the crown prince (now emperor) studied English and the Bible with an American Quaker woman. The book presents evidence that the major concern of Imperial advisers and staff was to save Emperor Hirohito from trial as a war criminal.
Part Four examines MacArthur’s policy of using the Christian community to counter the growing influence of Communism in Japanese schools. He supported the creation of a new International Christian University to oppose leftist influence among Japan’s youth..
This books makes an important contribution to the ongoing study of MacArthur, the Occupation, and Christianity in Japan.
Ray C. Moore is Professor Emeritus of History at Amherst College, where he founded of the Asian Studies program. He is the author of several books and articles on the occupation of Japan, and co-author of Partners for Democracy: Crafting the New Japanese State under MacArthur(2002).
“The most important contribution of the book is bringing to the fore the postwar elaborate schemes played by American missionaries, General MacArthur, and Imperial Palace representatives to convert the Japanese to Christianity. . . Moore reveals that at the height of American clamour to hold Hirohito accountable for war crimes, Japanese imperial officials gave every impression that the imperial family, including the emperor himself, was receptive to the Holy Bible. . . offers a rare analysis of how the Japanese actually used Christianity to work in their favour and effectively defeat what the Americans wanted in the first place . . .”
". . . The General's notion that Japan must become Christian in order to become democratic produced unease among the Japanese and was not unchallenged by his American colleagues. Moore is alert to all the nuances of this encounter . . . Much of the second part of the book is concerned with moves to save the emperor from trial as a war criminal . . . This is a clear and intelligent account of an uncertain period in Japanese history, concisely and persuasively told."