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TBT: Our citizenship in the kingdom of God

The Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano (Jan. 30, 1889–Oct. 24, 1988, 加納久憲) contributed the following article to The Living Church just after the end of World War II. A pioneer of Japanese settlement on the American Plains, Kano arrived in Nebraska in 1916. He was ordained deacon in 1928 and priest in 1936 and served a flourishing community of Japanese Americans before his arrest and internment after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Kano and his family were eventually held in five internment camps before their release in 1944 for him to undertake studies at Nashotah House Theological Seminary; he graduated from there in 1946.

This text, a sermon delivered in an internment camp, is remarkable for its firsthand account of Christian life there, and the spirit of missionary flexibility Kano brought to his community’s suffering: “Through God’s providence, I was transferred to several different internment camps and there I could make nearly 2,000 new acquaintances and friends.” He also explores the complex concept of citizenship for a Christian in wartime whose adopted home and birth country were enemies.[1]

Successful General Convention resolutions in 2012 and 2015 advocated for an annual commemoration of Kano’s life and ministry on October 24 on the Episcopal Church’s calendar. For more on Kano in his own words, the recent Nikkei Farmer on the Nebraska Plains (Texas Tech University Press, 2010) is thorough and enjoyable.

“Our Citizenship in the Kingdom of God”

By the Rev. Hiram H. Kano

From The Living Church (Oct. 7, 1945), pp. 19-20.

St. Matt. 6:33, “Jesus said, but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

IN THE evening of the very day when the Pearl Harbor incident took place, I was apprehended and was taken into protective custody of United States government. Through God’s providence, I was transferred to several different internment camps and there I could make nearly 2,000 new acquaintances and friends. Some of these people are quite critical toward Christianity, which I represent, sometimes, they are even antagonistic. Some of the common and intelligent questions were: “Why does evil exist? If Christian God is just and love, why He does not stop this sad war at once?” Certainly it was my privilege to answer these questions to my large, new congregation in the camps, who were under mental depression and perplexity. I explained to them with common sense such as economic Reason or political reason, and to some friends with philosophical reasons such as human pride, fear, greed, etc. But my most simple yet strongest answer was: “Evil exists because people left the Kingdom of God (Church) and deserted their precious citizenship.” This is, I consider, the most vital topic of today in the whole world.

Any person of high culture or any one who has Christian refinement does not believe in force; he may not be necessarily a so-called pacifist, but he hates war, cruelty, unjust or any kind of sinful acts; and he sympathizes with the people who have not sufficient will power to resist evil, and are apt to do wrong because of a lack in their moral, ethical, and religious training.

If you review the political history of the world, you see that certain races or nations rose to heights, conquered the others, but their so-called “glory” never lasted very long; certain countries reached the golden age and dominated other countries, then in the meantime, they started to decline and finally fell. Whenever the equilibrium or balance of power breaks, fighting starts; and so naturally ten thousand years’ human history are the records of bloodshed and calamity and shame. The great number of people of today still belong to the category of barbarians; their consciences are still in primitive stage. Many people are worshiping idols such as money, vain glory, or vanity; some Japanese still believe in fox-cult. Nobody denies that superstition and ignorance are basic causes of the disaster in human life.

I know that you who have lived in the United States for more than 30 or 40 years as good citizens — in spite of the ineligibility to naturalization, you are 100% American in heart, and you have maintained a high reputation as honest, industrious, and law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately because of the present war, you have to be in this camp now separated from your dear ones. I know every one of you is praying seriously to God that this terrible war will come to an end immediately and that you can join your family again. I know how much you are depressed mentally in this barbed wire enclosure and confinement. I know you have been proud fathers of American-citizens and many of your precious sons are in the armed forces of the United States Army and fighting bravely on the battlefields to defend the democracy and peace of the world. Your children trusted and respected you as good citizens, but now you are branded “dangerous enemy aliens.” Therefore, I can heartily sympathize with you people for your embarrassing situation. I can see how much chagrin and vexation you have in your mind. I know, it is unbearable without faith in the living God of love and Christ who sacrificed Himself for us on the Cross of Calvary. I realize a number of fellow internees, who have no Church affiliation, are forgetting even to shave their whiskers; their discouragement and despair are apparent under these difficult circumstances. According to the census taken by our camp authority, 10% of the members here are Christians; you are one of these minority groups. I firmly believe that God has chosen you to be here to help your fellowmen to His glory. It is a privilege, not a tragedy to you Christians. I can assure you with tears of reverence and thanksgiving that our Lord entered the camp with us and is suffering with us now. We shouldn’t mind even “dying” here without seeing our dear families once more, if our Lord himself is here with us and suffering.

War is hell and everybody is responsible, so everybody suffers and you have to suffer too. Since I came to this country, 27 years have elapsed, and I have never been back to Japan where I was born. The United States is my adopted country; God had sent me here to be a citizen; so I do not know much about the new policy of Japan, but from reading the papers and magazines, I learned that she is struggling to establish the pan-Asiatic co-prosperity bloc in order to secure its independence and integrity. Her motive may be pure and unselfish; it may be called high ambition, but success cannot be achieved easily, and she has to go through many, many difficulties. She has to pass God’s test and trial. Rome is not built in a day. If she is proud of certain victories won in battle-grounds, and not mindful of her moral and ethical life; if the majority of her people are narrow, selfish patriots, such success is extremely remote. If you look up the history of Israel, whose civilization was religion, you will see that the Israelites accomplished their mission as a chosen race with the birth of Jesus Christ, King of kings.

But really it took nearly 2,000 years. The United States is a great nation now; if you study her history of 500 years since the discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus, you will see the new nation went through a lot of difficult paths, mountains, and rough seas. If you study English history during 300 years between the 11th and 14th centuries, you will convince yourself why and how the British Empire came to its present prosperity and power. And I can tell you unhesitantly that in both these cases the men who had faith in the true God were main corner stones, foundations, and backbones of the nations. Therefore, I hope you feel your responsibility seriously at this time of world crisis.


Now, let me tell you another thing, you are born Japanese, not according to your wish, it’s God’s will and He moved you to this great country of liberty to make you good citizens and you have responded. So naturally you have responsibility as well as pride in being Japanese-American. However, your proudest citizenship is the citizenship of the Kingdom of God (Church). You know well that St. Paul was a thoroughbred Jew and a proud citizen of the Roman Empire, but he appreciated his citizenship of God’s country so much that he at last was martyred for the sake of the Kingdom; this citizenship was much more valuable to him than Jewish or Roman citizenship. Very fortunately you have this same great citizenship. Because Christ died for you, you hold this same privilege. You must be thankful for it from the bottom of your hearts.

Imperfect earthly kingdoms never last more than 1,000 years, as study of the decline and fall of empires in the human history, such as Babylonia, Egypt, Assyria, and Roman Empire will show. Money, wealth, and weapons do not assure everlasting glory. People struggle for their success; nations struggle for prominence and dominance, but God is only giver of rewards (Prov. 16:9, A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his step.) Your experience proves it, doesn’t it? Prov. 21:31 also cleverly states that “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but the victory is of the Lord.”

Our Lord’s first sermon was “Repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (St. Matt. 4: 17). He came to this world to establish His Kingdom, so He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (St. Matt. 6:9-10). Before His ascension He instructed His apostles, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations. … Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” No wonder the Kingdom of God (Church) has made steady progress. Jesus Christ is the King, He proclaimed the establishment of His Kingdom, and today one-third of whole world-population is already Christian, representing all kinds of races, nationalities, all walks of life, rich and poor, kings and beggars. All mankind are brothers in Christ; there is no reason to fight. People should study more seriously about the life of our Lord. He died for sinners, not for His teacher, not for His emperor, not for his country, Judea; no, not for them — just for us, all sinners of the whole world. Lord said, “Love your enemy (St. Matt. 5:47). He said also He will ignore the old law, “an eye for an eve, and a tooth for a tooth … resist ye not evil.” Certainly the pen (words) is mightier than the sword. I think it is quite interesting to mention here what King David said in his prayer, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the Kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chron. 29:11). Our Lord didn’t believe in “force,” so He said “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” And all human history is testifying to this truth. His crucifixion seemed to all His defeat, but His glorious resurrection and the birth of Church and its steady expansion proved His true victory and triumph. The Lord said: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Yes, you will suffer; righteous man always suffer in the sinful world. In Solomon’s exhortation (Prov. 3:11-12) it says, “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction; for whom the Lord loveth He correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” God whips us, but His heart is more painful than we are. God is love always, never changes. Any one who has faith in God, never has disappointment, pessimism, and desperation, but has always hope, optimism, and encouragement.


Today we are truly in the darkest age. But we can point out the significant fact that 700,000,000 Christians — the citizens of the God’s Kingdom scattered on the face of the earth, have never been so strongly united by heart as at present. It is certainly wonderful! God’s Kingdom is never shaken or moved (Hebrews 12:28). By the guidance of God, we shall soon have a great Christian movement. We must get ready to respond [to] His roll-call at any moment. If you cannot appreciate this citizenship more than any citizenship you may have, your Christianity is something wrong. The Lord told to His disciples, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (St. Matt. 6:33). This is our duty and allegiance to the King of kings and to His country which you and I belong to.

Richard Mammana is the Archivist of the Living Church Foundation.


[1] The text stands as it was originally delivered and printed, and I have only made minimal alterations.


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