This semester, I am in a class called Intro to World Religions. It is a required class for my major, and it’s pretty far outside the area of my previous experience and study. I did not know very much about a lot of religions before taking this class, but I have learned a lot of lessons from studying the people, cultures, and lifestyles of India, China, Japan, and the Middle East.
Yesterday, I worked on a project (my “reaction paper”) to wrap up the class. This “paper” has pretty broad parameters, and I actually ended up making a slideshow instead of writing a paper. The photos I took for the slideshow are of a torii, which is a part of Shintoism, a religion based in Japan. Basically, wherever kami, broadly stated as the “spark of reality” in everything living, dead, and inanimate, is sensed, a torii is to be built. A torii also marks the entrance to a Shinto shrine. So essentially, a torii marks locations where the presence of kami has been recognized. I took photos of some places where I imagine a Shinto person might build a torii (I built this makeshift torii myself, too! Don’t mind the ridiculous amount of nails I used…). Here are some of the photos I took for my slideshow.
This project really got me thinking not only about Shintoism or about other religions of the world, but about my own Christian faith as well. I wrote a little explanation paper for my professor so he would know why I chose to do this project instead of writing the full paper. Here is an excerpt:
As I was doing this, all I could think about was this question: “What if this was a cross?” What if, every time I felt the presence of God or recognized him in the beauty of creation or saw him moving in one way or another in my life, I physically built a cross? What if I started taking the time to commemorate God’s presence in a tangible way every time I experienced it? This seems radical and impractical, but I really do not believe that I am called to be either typical or practical as a Christian. I am called to take up my cross and follow Jesus, and this project with a Shinto torii has gotten me thinking about what it really means to take up my cross in a concrete way.
This project (and the class as a whole) really made me think about my own faith and how I am living it out. I am thankful for the types of classes that I have had the opportunity to take at Hope. Many of them, such as this one, have changed my life and my perspective on so many things.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.'”
– Matthew 16:24