The West Looks East: The Influence of Toyohiko Kagawa on American Mainline Protestantism

King, David P.
June 2011
Church History;Jun2011, Vol. 80 Issue 2, p302
Academic Journal
Toyohiko Kagawa served as the leading Christian voice in Japan from the 1920s through the 1940s. While nationally respected throughout Japan, he also became a hero among American Protestants. Kagawa's popularity in the West rose during a time of transition for mainline Protestantism. The American mainline's optimism and dominance as the religious “establishment” began to falter. It faced both religious and economic depression, internal theological divisions, and a reassessment of their mandate for missions. In the 1930s, mainline Protestants in America were searching for a voice, and Kagawa provided one. Long before the recent scholarship on the rise of global Christianity, the mainline had turned to World Christianity as a model. It was not simply Kagawa's message as a world statesman, however, that drew American Protestants. They also employed him as a symbol for their own aims and ambitions. At a time of reevaluating the foreign mission enterprise, Kagawa and an indigenous Eastern church reminded the mainline of past success while promising hope for the future. As an interpreter of social issues, Kagawa likewise spoke a contemporary idiom. For a short time, the Japanese Christian Toyohiko Kagawa became a Western hero, but a hero shaped through a particular Western lens.


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