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Swastika-type devices in American Churches

6th August 2015
Posted by S Taylor
Blend of East and West
Blend of Eastern and Western design

This month we are looking at some rather unusual examples of Swastika-type symbolism in North American Churches. Our first example comes from the First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawaii dedicated in 1929.

It features wooden pews with Swastika carvings.  They appear in the tilted recto format.  The official website states that these are ancient symbols that represent ‘Eternal Blessedness’.  The church’s design was the result of an architectural competition resulting in a blend of Western and Eastern features.

So where did this concept come from?  Scholars generally agree that the Swastika symbol was current in China from a very early period, even many centuries before the advent of Buddhism.

The Chinese had great faith in the power of magic symbols, and there have always been rich religious elements in Chinese symbolism.  The Swastika was linked to a range of concepts not least the aspirations for good fortune and a long life.  Indeed most popular symbols in China express auspicious blessings and a peaceful and prosperous future.

It is not surprising therefore that this concept of ‘blessings’ is carried over into the treasury of Christian faith and belief, and that the Swastika symbol is incorporated in the furnishings of this Christian Church in Hawaii.  The dedication took place before there was any popular outcry against it on the grounds of the Nazi misappropriation of what had been a positive and life-giving symbol worldwide for millennia.

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