“…and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
The churches in Japan are getting old. In general, very few young people go to seminary to become pastors. And there’s a general expectation that pastors be older men.
But this is not true everywhere, and in my own experience, I’ve seen a lot of reasons for hope. During my trip last year (2017 Pro-Life Mission to Japan), I visited some awesome church communities that had a number of young Japanese Christians. Some were training for ministry locally, and some for ministry in very difficult areas in Central Asia.
And at the March for Life this year, I saw many young families. This is strikingly beautiful, because in big cities, a young, faith-filled family is a counter-cultural sign of hope.
But I am worried that statistically, Japanese Christians are following Japan’s cultural norms regarding marriage and child-bearing. (Neither one is common.)
How Japan Should Respond to Their Demographic Winter
On a sidenote: President Abe has said he wants to raise the fertility rate to 1.8 children per woman by 2025. I find this a little troubling, and here’s why.
It’s reasonable to encourage strong family connections. But I do not believe it is the prerogative of a government to tell people to have more children. “Pro-life” simply means that we recognise every person’s dignity, and their concurrent right to life. When a government makes a policy about childbirth rates, there’s a danger of treating people as economic tools, and ignoring their dignity. Such economic policies should not be confused with”pro-life” efforts.
In my opinion, the best thing that politicians could possibly do is to talk about how important their own families are to them. Instead of the current habit of turning complicated demographic projections into even more complicated legislative issues, they could create a simple pro-family ad campaign.
It’s hard to see this happening anytime soon. But let’s imagine, for a moment, that they promoted the simple message: “Your family is more important than your career”. This would be more effective than that all they’ve tried so far to respond to their demographic winter.
In addition to having a strong economy and the world’s highest life expectancy, Japanese people would also be happier. And it wouldn’t even require legislation!
Japan and other OECD countries listed in the 2019 World Happiness Report
It’s worth pointing out that some kinds of legislation really are necessary, because of the endemic sexism in corporate culture that makes it impossible for many women to have children. Prime Minister Abe’s anti-matahara policies are a step in the right direction.
Hope for Japan’s Future
Japan doesn’t need more government initiatives, but it does need more hope. And more than anyone else, the Christian community is the distributor of hope.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5:14-15)
Let us pray that Japanese people will know that life is good, and that they are made for love, and made for joy–and that they will know their Creator!
Children lead the way during Japan March for Life 2018.
See more photos in the Christian Today article: