Confessions of a Confucianist: Implications for Missions -- By: Sheryl Takagi Silzer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 23:1 (Winter 2009)
Article: Confessions of a Confucianist: Implications for Missions
Author: Sheryl Takagi Silzer

Confessions of a Confucianist: Implications for Missions

Sheryl Takagi Silzer

SHERYL TAKAGI SILZER is an International Intercultural Consultant with Wycliffe Bible Translators in San Jose, Costa Rica. She teaches as an adjunct at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California, and Handong Global University Pohang, South Korea, and leads workshops in cultural self-discovery and multicultural team building.


I have been a Christian for more than fifty years and a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators for forty years, but it has only been in the last ten years that I have realized how much my Christianity has been influenced by my Confucian heritage as a Japanese American. Reflecting back on my missionary experience, I have discovered a number of ways in which Confucianism contributed to the ongoing cultural stress that I experienced.

One of the main ways was reluctance to speak to authority figures when I disagreed with them. Even though I felt they were wrong or did not understand the whole story, I did not feel it was appropriate for me, as a woman, to speak to them about the issue or to suggest that they might not have understood the situation correctly. Instead, I would get knots in my stomach and suppress my negative feelings. Rather than addressing my concerns with authority figures, I would take my complaints to others. Over a period of time, these negative feelings built up, and I would release them in some harmful way. I would become angry at my husband, my children, and just about everyone else. I would complain about the situation to others, but not to the appropriate people. Although I knew that the Bible allowed me to be angry but not to sin, I did not know how to stop being angry. Since I thought I was following the biblical commands to submit to authority figures, I did not understand why my emotions and behavior were so unbiblical.

This article reviews how I, as a Japanese American woman missionary, recognized and addressed my Confucianist practices and the implications for missions. First, I discovered Confucianism and then realized how much my own life was impacted by Confucian values. Then, I looked more deeply into Scripture and began to understand how I had replaced biblical values with cultural values. Finally, I discuss the missions implications of understanding Confucianism and the impact it had on my perception of myself as a woman.

Discovering Confucianism

In my research, I discovered that Confucius was an actual person named K’ung-fu-tzu, who lived from 551-479 b.c. He was a scholar and a teacher concerned about the social ills that characterized China at that time. His teachings sought to educate people to become the bes...

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