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Lions Roar : September 2018
at school and Japanese at home, often serving as translators for their parents. By now, the BCA’s architecture and forms had evolved to reflected the desire to assimilate. Temples resembled Christian churches with pews and lecterns, and Western musical instru- ments such as the organ and piano were in services. It was in this period that the name was officially changed to the Buddhist Churches of America. Rogers’ great-grandparents had considered going back to Japan, but her grandfather put his foot down and said, “You and Mom might be fine going back to Japan, but the rest of us have grown up here and are too Americanized to go.” Still, when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, Rogers’ grand- parents were among the many who feared that racism toward Japanese and Japanese Americans would escalate. Mitchell writes that “concerned about their future and knowing their loyalty would be in question, community and Buddhist leaders burned letters from Japan or destroyed religious objects that might be misun- derstood by the authorities as support- ing the Empire of Japan.” Their fears were justified. In February 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, requiring all persons of Japanese descent to be removed from coastal areas along the West Coast as a matter of national security. The internment began. “All persons of Japanese ancestry were told to vacate their homes and report to service centers,” writes Mitchell. “Each per- son could carry only one bag. As a result, families were forced to give away possessions or store them at local Buddhist churches.” 120,000 men, women, and children were forced from their homes and housed in internment camps for the duration of the war. Rogers’ grandfather’s family was sent to Manzanar, one of ten internment camps where Japanese Americans were held for three years. Japanese Americans were forced to answer a questionnaire about their loyalty to the U.S. “It was a real conflict: Yes, I’m an American, but at the same time, this injustice is being done to my people,” says Rogers. “How do you reconcile that? I want to be American, but you refuse to let me be American.” Buddhists managed to find a way to practice their faith Starting with changing its name to the Buddhist Churches of America, the BCA increasingly adopted Christian forms to be accepted into American society. It held Sunday services, buildings reflected Christian church architecture, and Boy Scout troops were formed. Left: While Japanese-American children were speaking English and becoming Americanized in school, the BCA offered Sunday school classes so they didn’t lose their language, culture, and religion. Middle: After the trauma of internment, the BCA grew stronger as families turned to it as a safe haven to work out their identity in American society. Right: In the 1950s, Gary Snyder and other Beat figures attended the BCA temple in Berkeley. Other convert Buddhists, searching for an “exotic” religion, invisibilized the BCA because it seemed too much like the Christian churches they had rejected. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 46