True converts liven up their new religion

Published: Sunday, March 18 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Some 320 years ago, a Scottish pastor named Donald Cargill lamented: "I wish there were more true conversions. Then there would not be so much backsliding."

Religious leaders have been singing that same song for three centuries now.

Yet, that said, it is also true that sincere converts freshen a religion more than almost anything else.

They're like pepper in a pot of stew.

They liven things up.

They bring perspective, energy, spunk, spark and a unique history to their new church — whether their new faith be Methodist, Mormon or Mennonite.

One of my favorite examples of such zeal is Inazo Nitobe, a regal Japanese Samurai who converted to Christianity in the 1880s.

He not only became a Christian, he became a Quaker.

A Samurai Quaker.

A warrior/pacifist.

That required some serious stretching.

For me — a person who thinks sitting through three hours of church is a leap of faith — Nitobe's leap looks like jumping to the moon.

And he didn't stop there. He became the undersecretary of the League of Nations, pushed farming reforms in his native Japan and served as a college president — all the while sharing the virtues of The Society of Friends, virtues that spell SPICE:

Simplicity.

Peace.

Integrity.

Community.

Equality.

Along with his service, Nitobe also scribbled. He jotted many of his impressions in a little book called "Thoughts & Essays" (1909).

Here's one of his entries.

I don't know about you, but I can hear the tones of a true convert bubbling in the lines:

I ask for daily bread, but not for wealth —

Lest I forget the poor.

I ask for strength, but not for power —

Lest I despise the meek.

I ask for wisdom, but not for learning —

Lest I scorn the simple.

I ask for a clean name, but not for fame —

Lest I condemn the lowly.

I ask for peace of mind, but not for idle hours —

Lest I fail to hearken to the call of duty.

Nitobe passed away in 1933. His picture was chosen to grace Japanese postage stamps and Japanese currency.

He remains a hero in Japan.

But more than that, Old Pastor Cargill would have been proud of him.

He was a true convert.

He didn't backslide.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com

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