11.0160 Online bits; cross-culture

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 10 Jul 1997 23:42:52 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 160.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (16)
Subject: Online bits

[2] From: Michael Guest <guest@ia.inf.shizuoka.ac.jp> (37)
Subject: Jesus in Japan? (Cross-post)

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 1997 11:20:34 +0100 (BST)
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: Online bits

>From the latest Guardian Online, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>,

(1) Photos from Mars. See the list of mirror sites at

(2) Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,

(3) Richard Colbey, British barrister, on copyright, "Chapter and verse".

(4) Fractals: Fractint deep-zooming at


Dr. Willard McCarty
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS
+44 (0)171 873 2784 voice; 873 5081 fax

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 1997 20:33:29 +0900 (JST)
From: Michael Guest <guest@ia.inf.shizuoka.ac.jp>
Subject: Jesus in Japan? (Cross-post)

[The following will be out of context for Humanist readers but is
interesting nonetheless. Some of the more valuable moments in
Humanist's long conversation have been when cultures have unexpectedly
mixed or mixed in unexpected ways, as when one moves to a "foreign"
country and sees the exotic or quaint suddenly become the stuff of
(extra)ordinary life. But I ramble... --WM]

I would have answered the baroque criticisms of myself, Foucault, the
number 42 and everything a couple of weeks ago [in that other! list],
except that the moderators and I agreed in spirit that my submitted
response may have also gotten off the track in places.

Thus withdrawn and lurking, I thoroughly enjoyed those submitted instances
of Japanese commercial appropriation of totally alien religious
iconography. I wanted to point out in the first place that an image of
someone "resembling Jesus" crucified, seen from a Tokyo train [advertizing
a pop cd], cannot reasonably have been a picture of a slender blue eyed
caucasian with long silky brown hair and pink cheeks such as we are used to
seeing in churches, for instance, since Jesus was more likely a stocky
dark-skinned fellow from the Middle East. We from the West sometimes forget
our own history of appropriation and perversion of religious imagery
perhaps. Indeed, many people (particularly the young) mistakenly believe
that Jesus looked in reality as he is depicted in such Christian icons.

So I cannot see Japanese commercial appropriation of Western appropriated
and perverted symbolism as an instance of racism, to say the least. I, like
another reader, found the Last Supper Drunken Salaryman motif ("Thank God
it's over!") as rather amusing. And I have two more to offer:

- Santa crucified in a department store.

Perhaps this says something about how Christian celebrations are received
here? And perhaps it's not so far from the truth of perceptions of
Christianity even in some western countries?

- "Beer loves you"

A brand new commercial slogan, drawn I believe from a well known Christian
(from my way of thinking, unfounded) assertion. What a wonderful notion!

I take such findings as worthy both of my humour and study. I see them as
indices to understanding, across barriers of reason, dogma and culture.
They are socio-cultural phenomena and data about Japan.

This is not a Christian country and it should not be judged according to
Christian standards, nor necessarily any other extraneous standards.

Dr Michael Guest
Assoc/prof. Faculty of Information
Shizuoka University