Friday, May 26, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 2

We will begin by dealing in general with the theme of apostasy in that, when Rodrigues steps on the fumie, he notes to himself that “this was no mere formality.” We discover in Chapter 9 (his apostasy having occurred at the end of Ch 8) that Rod is engaged in intense solitary and personal reflection on his apostasy. A few things not in question that leave the conclusion without doubt are the “tremendous onrush of joy” that Rodrigues experiences when he tramples the fumie, his later co-operation w/ the evil officials to keep missionaries out of Japan, and the mention in the Epilogue of his writing a formal renunciation of his faith. No mere formality, in truth! And though he finally grants “absolution” through the rite of confession to Kichijiro and thinks to himself that even if God had remained silent, “my life would have spoken of him,” Rodrigues has now cut the heart and soul out of the Gospel of Christ by refusing to spread and even working against the spread of said Gospel. What reason does the reader have to believe that Rodrigues, after his apostasy, deserves anything but our condemnation and disgust as one who “went out from us” (1 John 2:19), to say nothing of the fact that his original message was that of a Tridentine Jesuit? As for Ferreira, he appears as almost a villain, though he, in the final equation, agrees with the fumie Jesus that Rodrigues should indeed trample the fumie. I will deal more fully with Ferreira later in the review.
Of great interest to me is the portrayal of Jesus in the book, as should be obvious. We first note that Christ’s face (seen often in Rodrigues’ mind’s eye) begins with an imaginative beauty, the beauty of the European medieval Roman Catholic church with its towering cathedrals and majestic rites of worship. The book moves steadily towards a more Scriptural presentation of Jesus’ physical face towards the end, where He is depicted as ugly and beaten. We note that this is the Jesus of the Scriptures, as Isaiah 53:2 tells us: “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” The face of Christ during the course of the book eventually comes down from the beauty of Rodrigues’ imagination to the truth of the Suffering Servant, to a wasted, emaciated face, beaten and bloodied, hung on a cross. Yet which one is true of Jesus? Are not both? Yet we find Endo asking us to forsake the glorified Jesus in favor of the suffering Jesus, exclusively. Is that why Rodrigues’ strong desire is to yell, “Heaven is not the sort of place you think it is!” to fearful, simple believers before the persecution begins for them in earnest? Also, the Jesus depicted apparently has inconsistent desires. On the one hand, He desires to act mercifully towards the people of Japan and take their sufferings upon Himself, as made clear in His communication to Rodrigues through the fumie just before Rodrigues’ apostasy. Yet if Rodrigues and Ferreira are correct, this Jesus does not care to be made known to the people at all, or at least would prefer to wait for the “all clear” from the government. Yet where in the New Testament can we find a similar message? Is the Gospel not a call to repent and believe to ALL people, and indeed in spite of governmental prohibitions – “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19, 5:29)? How then will He carry the sufferings of the people if they know nothing of Him?

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