Books Theology

Reflection and Discussion of: Silence – the Book & Movie

January 31, 2017

I will say without reservation that Silence has already become one of my favorite movies, and is likely to remain in that position for a long time (right behind Calvary – which is amazing). Part of this is because it magnificently adapts Shusaku Endo’s book, Silence – which has become one of my favorite novels of all times. Honestly, though, this is one of the first times I’ve loved a book and its movie adaptation for different reasons – they each have nuances that I feel only their respective mediums can convey. I found the movie incredibly powerful and moving, to the point where when I finished seeing it with my brother last Thursday night, we both felt like we couldn’t do justice to the film by talking about our thoughts until we’d mulled it over for some time. The acting was phenomenal across the board (even when I was worried I’d only be able to see Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Andrew Garfield as Spiderman). The cinematography was exquisite. I think Scorsese did a wonderful job, and I love that even my brother could enjoy the movie and experience it like I did even though he hadn’t read the book.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly encourage you to go and do so now – it may not be in theaters much longer (I know it is in Midland/Odessa theaters until this Thursday, at least). I honestly believe this is a movie that every Christian should and needs to watch (I’m not exaggerating here), although I’m saddened by the fact that this is very unlikely (I think the same thing about Endo’s book, but people are probably more likely to watch a movie than slog through a book like Silence). Unfortunately, not many people have heard about Silence, and wonder why there was not more marketing for the movie, but I recognize that this is a difficult film to market. I also wish it would get more critical awards, but then I’m not surprised or worried that it hasn’t since many lasting works of art are never initially received favorably. I truly think this film will become a classic and stand the test of time.

I hesitate to say anything more than this since I feel I need to re-read the book, then re-watch the movie before I can comment too much, but I also very much want to discuss and hear other people’s impression of the work while it’s fresh on my mind. I’ve talked to several people locally about it, but I’d be curious to hear the thoughts and impressions of those who don’t live near me. So I want to share my own thoughts about the book/film and hopefully start a discussion in the comments about the content and message of Silence. If you have read the book or seen the film – please share your thoughts below – I’d love to hear what other people thought (whether you loved it, hated it, or were indifferent).

Disclaimer: The rest of this post is primarily written for those who have either read the book or watched the movie. You don’t necessarily have to have read/watched both to understand what I’m talking about – the film is faithful to the book, so either one will do, but I will be speaking about the differences between the two and mentioning specific scenes and specific quotes. If you know nothing about Silence, you are welcome to read on, but I am not going to take the time to give an overview of the story and will talk about pivotal scenes/quotes, so you may be lost and I may ruin the movie/book for you.

 

**** Spoilers Ahead – From the Book & Movie ****

 

I found it fascinating that my experience of the book and my experience of the movie were very different, and I got something different out of each. When I read the book, I identified with Rodrigues and his deep wrestling with the “silence of God.” This is largely because of my own experience of God’s silence in what I consider my Dark Night of the Soul. I’ve written more about that in my blog post The Dark Night of the Soul, but essentially I was on the road to being a pastor when all of a sudden in my final year of seminary God became silent and my spiritual life went dark. I took a year off seminary and wrestled with God’s silence for some time. How could I honestly be a pastor when I felt sharply the absence and silence of God in my life? Eventually, several books started to give me language for what I was experiencing – one of those was Endo’s Silence. I read it about a year and a half ago. I relished the fact that Rodrigues dealt so honestly and bluntly with the silence of God in his ministry, because I was feeling the exact same thing. I devoured the book, and the climax for me was when the fumi-e, or Christ, speaks to Rodrigues: “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.” At that point I just put the book down and wept, for the first time in a while. I re-read that section dozens of times, because it spoke so powerfully to me.

So when I went to watch Scorsese’s Silence, I was so worried that he wouldn’t do justice to that scene that I loved so much and was so personal to me during my dark night. I had actually seen the earlier 1971 movie adaption of Silence, and was so disappointed in the way it handled everything. I was fully ready and expecting to be either very angry with the new film, or to burst into tears at that scene – the whole time waiting with baited breath for how Scorsese would depict that pivotal moment. I was surprised to find that most of the lines about God’s silence didn’t move me as much as I expected. I didn’t really identify with Rodrigues as much as I watched. The times that I began to cry were most of the scenes with Kichijiro – and I found myself drawn to his character, and very much saw myself in him in every scene. To the point where when the climactic scene where the fume-e (Christ) speaks, I almost felt nothing. For me, this time, the climax of the movie was actually later on in the epilogue, in that beautiful scene when Rodrigues and Kichijiro touch heads and the last lines from the book are read: “Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him.”

What I took away from the film this time was the contrast between Rodrigues and Kichijiro. Rodrigues appears to be Christ (and thinks of himself in that way), while Kichijiro appears to be Judas (as Rodrigues thinks of him) – notice how even in the photo above Rodrigues is sitting above Kichijiro, looking down on him. The film makes me see myself more as Kichijiro than Rodrigues. But it actually shows me that I think I am Rodrigues – the savior to unworthy people. While Rodrigues is in prison in the latter part of the movie, he says “I’m afraid I’m not worthy of you Lord” – which is absolutely true – none of us are worthy of Christ in and of ourselves – but he doesn’t realize it at the time. Most of the film he thinks he’s better than Kichijiro – that he’s worthy because he’s never apostatized. He sees himself as Jesus, or at least worthy of Jesus. As the Inquisitor says quickly, the story is about a prideful man who can’t see that he cares more about himself and his glory than he does about Japan and unworthy people like Kichijiro. I’m pretty sure Rodrigues quotes the line from the book: “Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.” The irony is that he thinks he’s “the good and beautiful” while most of the Japanese are “the miserable and corrupt” – especially Kichijiro.

The movie never quotes another favorite line of mine from the book that a friend pointed out to me, but I think it actually communicates the gist of it without having to specifically quote it. The line is: “Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.” It seems to me that the movie is subtly communicating that Rodrigues, in his own quest to be Christ – to be a martyr and saint, is actually trampling on the Japanese people and he doesn’t even know it. He’s so focused on being “faithful” that he is blind to the pain he causes – as the Inquisitor says to him, “The price of your glory is their suffering.” Because Rodrigues won’t trample on Christ (the fume-e) in his sort of hidden religious pride as a priest, he tramples on the people he thinks he’s come to save. That’s why the line the only line from Christ is so powerful when he says, ““Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.” That’s why Ferreira says before Rodrigues tramples that “you are now going to perform the most painful act of love that has ever been performed.” He’s trampling on the face he loves so much, but that is what Jesus came for. And in trampling, in apostatizing, I think Rodrigues is actually saved – saved from his own self-righteousness and “religion,” if you will. He had to lose his life (being known as a priest that was faithful to the end) to gain true life in Christ.

I think this message is so needed in our Christian culture today – especially in America. We think we are saviors in our morality and self-righteousness. We even trap it in the garbs of Christianity and Christian love for the “miserable and corrupt” – but we are really trampling on the people we think we are saving. We are ironically trampling on Christ (“the least of these”) when we arrogantly try to avoid apostatizing and trampling on the fumi-e (which we think is Christ). To quote what I’ve heard Andy Crouch say, we think we are so good in saving the needy, but we are really just replacing malevolent gods with benevolent gods – ourselves. We arrogantly think we are worthy of Christ – that we’re “good men” like Flannery O’Connor’s grandma. I forget who says it in the movie, but there is a line where someone says to Rodrigues, “they are not suffering for Christ, they are suffering for you.” Like Flannery’s Misfit in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Endo and Scorsese put many of the best lines of truth in the mouths of “the bad man” like the Inquisitor or the Japanese interpreter. What Rodrigues says for most of the movie seems the most spiritual and Christian, but he’s got it all wrong (until the end, I think). It really is done so beautifully that I need to go back and rewatch the film and reread the book to catch all the nuances.

I think very much the film and book are about wretches, not saints. This is so needed in a Christian culture that often praises saints and martyrs and makes them almost better than they really were. I’m not even sure if the film/movie is about “martyrs but not saints”  – it is about Kichijiro, not the Jesuits. I think its about apostatizers, not martyrs or saints. It is about people like Flannery O’Connor’s character in “A Temple of the Holy Ghost,” – “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.” That’s Kichijiro – but he’s never killed quick, so he has to live with his shame as a wretch. But he keeps coming back to Christ. As Makoto Fujimura says in his book, Beauty and Silence, “Endo stands with those sitting in the pews who feel inadequate and uncertain, who doubt whether they can be strong, heroic and faith-filled.” Silence is about the failures, not the successes. We so need that in a culture prone to celebrate success and denounce failure.

I could write more, but this is enough to start a discussion. I will just say that there are two things in the movie I wish Scorsese had done differently. In the scene where Christ speaks and Rodrigues steps on the fumi-e, Scorsese has Christ say “Step!” instead of “Trample!” I don’t understand why he did that. Earlier in the film Rodrigues says “Trample! Trample!” to the Japanese Christians, so the word wasn’t lost to him. I think “trample” carries with it more the shame of doing so than “step,” so I prefer that word in light of my interpretation. But perhaps that is just me personally – so I’m willing to trust that Scorsese had a reason for phrasing it like he did (although I do wish he’d added the line: “it was to be trampled by men that I came into the world.” at least – although, again, I think he got the gist of it.) My other slight squabble is that I actually didn’t like the very ending scene, where the crucifix is seen in Rodrigues’ hand. I’m surprised that Scorsese resolved the tension in that way, and with the voice over at the end. I don’t recall exactly everything in the book’s epilogue since I focused on the climactic scene, but I’m pretty sure that Endo doesn’t resolve the tension like that. I would have preferred that it stayed ambiguous as to whether or not he “kept the faith” like we tend to think of it. I think the scene with Kichijiro and Rodrigues touching heads would have been a beautiful place to end the film. But again, I don’t think it ruins the film by any means, and am willing to trust Scorsese’s choice there.

What did other people think of those two scenes? Were they helpful?

Who did you identify with as you read the book or watched the movie?

Am I crazy in my interpretation?

What did you feel was the message of the book/movie?

What other things did you love/hate about Silence?


Image Sources: The first two cover images are from Picador.com and the movie stills are from SilenceMovie.com

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8 Comments

  • Reply Bridgette Marriott February 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Hey. I wanted to let you know I watched it last night and it rocked my world. I have no words at the moment and like you, feel I need to mull it over and maybe rewatch it again. I haven’t read the book but added it to be 2017 want to read list. I mean honestly, just, wow! I’ll get back to you soon. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve got a feeling this will be carried with me for some time. I just can’t shake it. More to share later. B

    • Reply Jason Custer February 11, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Awesome! I highly recommend the book, and plan to re-read it myself soon. Definitely let me know your thoughts after you’ve had some time to mull over it a while.

  • Reply Jennifer March 20, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Hi,

    I watched the movie a month ago-never read the novel, and I was confused and disappointed with the ending. I just didn’t get it or rather, I just didn’t try to understand it, maybe because I am more used to a heroic Martyr/Saint ending. But one thing I felt was irritation and anger towards Kichijiro’s character. I thought he was pathetic.
    Recently, I had been breaking a lot of my promises to God and was reflecting on my actions when suddenly it struck me that I am Kichijiro. The quote “What You Hate Most in Others, is the Shadow Within Yourself” never rang more true than at that moment. That “wretched” character is me and I thought to myself how does God do it? Is He not tired of me already? Always asking forgiveness without feeling real remorse.
    I feel I need to rewatch the movie and reflect on it to really form an opinion. But I do agree with you that most of us Christians like to think of ourselves as saviours. I am also reminded of Joey’s quote (from FRIENDS) that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed. So then as Christians, what constitutes a selfless good deed.
    Anyway, I don’t know if I am making sense at all.
    I’d also like to point out that it is the Inquisitor who says “The price of your glory is their suffering.” and not Ferreira.
    I really learned and understood a lot from your reflections. Thank you.

    • Reply Jason Custer April 4, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. I actually just re-watched the movie on Sunday and, like you, I was really struck again by how much I’m more like Kichijiro than I’d like to be. I also noticed lots more language about Rodrigues’ pride, as well as the pride of the rest of the priests too – which was convicting. I caught another line this time where one of the Japanese characters (either the Inquisitor or interpreter, I can’t remember whom – which seems to be a problem I keep having) says to Rodrigues that Ferreira has become quite esteemed in Japan, and then adds something along the lines of “which I believe is why he came here in the first place.” I see that in myself too often, unfortunately – and I like to veil my desire for esteem in spiritual terms as seeking God’s glory, but it’s really mine I want, and I’m willing to trample on others for that. That’s why what Jesus says was so moving again to me – he’s ok being trampled on, and I think that’s when Rodrigues finally gets it. I also noticed that the dutch traders sort of sneer at Rodrigues and Ferreira as they investigate Christian artifacts, almost like they think they’ve sold out. But in that scene, they’re ok with being thought of as apostatizers, like they’ve finally let their pride be trampled on and care more about the Japanese people than their own glory. I think at that point they were finally selfless – not because they weren’t thinking about themselves, but because they cared more about the Japanese (you get the hint that Rodrigues’ wife is a Christian, and Kichijiro, and I wonder if there weren’t more. )

      I definitely am going to watch it again, and need to re-read the book too. Also, thanks for correcting my misquote of the Inquisitor, I fixed it in the post. I guess I need to pay closer attention to who is speaking in the future.

  • Reply Jonathan Lindstrom May 9, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Jason, I just (finally!) watched the movie but have not read the book. I remain conflicted. I was most moved early on by the dedicated faith of the first Japanese Christians they encountered. Then I expected my own perspective to be affirmed in Rodrigues’s climactic decision – and was instead bewildered to hear what Rodrigues heard when Jesus finally spoke. To see him clutch the cross after decades of denying the faith and even aiding the Japanese authorities in keeping Christianity out – again, unsettling. I admit I’m not the critical thinker I should be, so after briefly pondering what Endo and Scorsese were communicating – or giving us room to interpret – I rushed to the reviewers. Some were utterly moved by the realistic, multi-layered view of Christianity and its application to multi-cultural missions work, as well as the apparent divide between love and faith. I discovered that Wheaton College has added it to their core curriculum. But I also found a blistering critique in Christianity Today of all the Christians warmly embracing Silence, arguing that it flatly contradicts Christ’s warning not to disown him (though Silence obviously deals with the ability to receive repeated forgiveness for apostasy). And then, though I have not read the book, I learned that Endo did not originally title the book Silence, but was hesitantly urged by his publisher to do so even though he was concerned readers would interpret the book through the lens of God’s general “silence” in the midst of suffering, and not merely the apparent silence Rodrigues endured through most of his journey.

    I, too, empathize and identify with Kichijiro, but though I marvel at Rodrigues’s struggle to maintain the forgiveness God shows us time and time again, I am not content with the possibility that my Christian sanctification would mimic a Judas-like cycle to the end. I was surprised at how many reviewers thought Rodrigues was arrogant for his commitment to the Great Commission, to loving the people, and to finding his lost mentor. Clearly this critique was voiced by Japanese authorities, but I struggle to accept it as fair.

    I do appreciate the depth of ideas this material leads me to ponder on, to soak in. But I remain quite unsure of how to apply it in my life. Maybe that is not the point – it is a piece of thoughtful historical fiction, only loosely based on certain facts – but clearly it has had an impact on your perspective. As a former Catholic who has increasingly cherished the priesthood of all believers over time, the valuing of a priest’s life over a villager seems contradictory to me where it might make perfect sense to others, or indicate their foreign arrogance. And while I have experienced times of God’s “silence” as David did, that is not my regular experience as He has always resumed speaking to my heart and powerfully through His Word. So I have never questioned that God’s apparent silences are mainly invitations to press in and seek Him, and in His time He will be found.

    As to moral dilemmas created by the Japanese to break the spirit of the native Christians, I find myself on the other end of where Endo and Scorsese seem to be leading – namely that disowning or blaspheming the name of Christ by any act meant to communicate that (which they did explore in the different challenges of trampling, spitting, and blaspheming) is discouraged by Scripture, no matter the moral dilemma. We are called to glorify Christ above all else in our daily actions and in moments like those, and doing the opposite (even symbolically) out of coercion makes no difference, even though it clearly makes for a difficult choice. So I think “Trampling” Christ’s face in order to save believers from suffering is a situational contradiction created by the Japanese, not a greater enlightenment of Christ’s love for us, or to the reconciliation of faith and love, in that we can apostasize in order to image Christ. His name will be trampled the whole world wide, there is no doubt – but his followers are to do the opposite, to image in word and deed the unsurpassing glory of Christ. It could be my glory at stake in my heart when my faith is tested, but it is not meant to be – it is meant to be God’s glory at stake, and in that moment, when our lives are on the line, our true intentions are laid bare. Endo seems to argue against Tertullian’s “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” at least in cross-cultural missions, that instead it is merely our own pride on the line. But a Christian’s suffering is for the sake of others, for our brothers and sisters as well as the unbelievers who witness the extent of our Spirit-fueled faith in Christ, and history argues that it has resulted in the conversion and discipleship of countless millions.

    So those are my initial thoughts, and hopefully they interact and continue their discussion. I love any material that causes me to ponder what it truly means to be a Christ-follower, and look forward to further discussion.

    • Reply Jason Custer May 12, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Thanks for the thoughts, Jonathan. I read them a few days ago and have been thinking about what you’ve said, and this morning I went back and read the last 20-30 pages of Silence, from where Rodrigues steps on the fumi-e to the end of the book. I can understand your concern and the CT article’s concern about not wanting to condone apostasy or disowning Christ, even if your own glory is mixed in with the glory of Christ, but I think I still stand by my conviction that Endo is suggesting that Rodrigues was “right” in stepping on the fumi-e. I hesitate to say “right” because I think that desire to be “right” in what he did may have been what Rodrigues was trampling on. After he apostatizes, Rodrigues continually wrestles with what people back in Portugal will think of him, but he says, “It is not they who judge my heart but only our Lord… I fell. But, Lord, you alone know that I did not renounce my faith.” (186) From what I can tell in the appendix of the book, it seems like there are many people around Rodrigues that cling to faith in Christ, even if they don’t publicly declare it. They become “hidden Christians” – which Scorsese communicates at the end of the movie by having Rodrigues’ wife place the cross in his hand (that scene is not in the book, but I don’t think it’s going against the ending of the book after re-reading it). So I think Endo is communicating that Rodrigues is more of a Peter figure than a Judas figure in the end. I mean, Peter denies Christ three times, and we don’t give him any grief about it. In fact, he is the foundation of the church. After Rodrigues apostatizes, the cock crows – both in the book and in the movie – so I think we are to see him as Peter. Judas never returns to Christ (that we know of), but would we say that Judas could still be saved, still be a Christian like Peter if things had been different? I would hope so. I think Silence is about wretches like Peter and Judas, but it’s hard to tell before the end whether a wretch is Peter or Judas. That gives me a lot of hope, because there are times I feel more like Judas than Peter. It’s only in my own arrogance that I feel like Paul or even sometimes Peter.

      I also still go back to the way Rodrigues describes Jesus’ face in the book (and movie). Earlier on it was a beautiful face with dignity and glory. He says towards the end, after having apostatized, “Yet the face was different from that on which the priest had gazed so often in Portugal, in Rome, in Goa and in Macao. It was not a Christ whose face was filled with majesty and glory; neither was it a face made beautiful by endurance of pain; nor was it a face filled with the strength of a will that has repelled temptation. The face of the man who lay at his feet was sunken and utterly exhausted. Many Japanese had already trodden on it… the face itself was concave, worn down with constant treading. It was this concave face that had looked at the priest in sorrow.” (187) So I think what Rodrigues trampled upon was his view of Christ, and in doing so he saw Christ more accurately. I think he trampled on his pride, on his position as “priest” and “father,” thinking he was better than the Japanese. I think he trampled on his religion – which I know from my own experience is so hard to divorce from true faith. My pride and arrogance get mixed up in ministry and my desire to be a pastor. I think I’m something because I’ve been faithful through difficult times, and more often than not I think of myself as Peter, or Paul, or often to my own shame, Jesus. I never think of myself as Judas, because I don’t like to think of myself as a wretch. But Silence makes me see myself as Kichijiro, and then by extension realize that I’m not better than him, and that I’m not better than Judas – and I think that’s what happens to Rodrigues in the story.

      All that to say, I think there is a way that we can “apostatize” and actually deny Christ and dishonor him. But I also think there is a way that we can “apostatize” before men and not really apostatize before God, and I think that’s what Endo is getting at. In the same vein, I think there is a way that we can become martyrs for God’s glory and that blood can become the seed of the church. But I also think there are many Christians who want to become martyrs for their own glory and not the glory of God. I know I’ve seen that desire in my own heart too much. I constantly want to make Christ into my own image instead of the reverse. It’s a subtle danger, and it’s often one that only I know, and sadly one I can often deceive myself with too. That’s why I find the story so powerful. Earlier in my life I probably honestly saw myself as a mini-Jesus (and that’s being gracious towards my pride), then I saw myself as a Paul, then perhaps as a Peter, but now I see how close I am to Judas. I hope that’s a humbling thing. I don’t want to remain Judas, but I have to admit that I’m more like him than Jesus – and I think in Christianity today there’s a great danger of people (especially those in leadership) seeing themselves more like Jesus and it actually being a self-righteous pride rather than a conforming to his image.

      Anyways, does that make sense? Am I just repeating the same thing, or actually interacting with your concerns.

      I think your being hesitant is valid. I also think you’re right in saying that Rodrigues shouldn’t have trampled on Christ just to save others from suffering – but I don’t think that’s what he did. I think he realized that he was trampling on others by his own pride and arrogance and self-righteousness, and it took Jesus giving him permission to trample on himself to realize he had made himself into a god and that others had suffered because of it. In the end of the story, Christians still suffered persecution, but it wasn’t because of Rodrigues’ pride and arrogance. Like the official said, the price of their suffering was no longer Rodrigues’ glory – hopefully it was Christ’s.

  • Reply Jonathan Lindstrom May 10, 2017 at 1:02 am

    So I caught your discussion on TGC, which you also talked about above, about Rodrigues’s salvation from being a religious man to a Christian. I follow this, and really am moved by it. Is that true in a metaphorical sense or truly in the narrative as well? And if it is, how does it explain the rest of his life as, at best, a hidden Christian who claimed to be a Buddhist and worked to stop Christians from making inroads in China?

    I was also intrigued by another comment that subverts the entire message very subtly, and would love to know what you think. Because he either totally nails it or totally misses it (sorry, it’s long but well thought out):

    “I would agree that there is a lot of questions worth wrestling with and asking after watching Silence. I had a slightly different take on the movie. I don’t think that it was glorifying apostasy. It seems to me that Scorsese was showing the opposite, the grieving of apostasy. Father Rodrigues forwent one suffering just to embrace another kind of suffering. I think the two paths lay in the path of Garrupe and Kichijiro/Ferreira. Garrupe was faithful to the end and laid down his life to truly walk with those entrusted to his care. Kichijiro was the opposite, often a character that lacked conviction and integrity. But from the moment Kichijiro comes on the screen we see a character who suffering throughout the movie. He escapes the torment of the inquisitor only to be confronted by his own internal torment of guilt and shame. Rodrigues in the end sides with Kichijiro and finds the same fate. The suffering they so long to avoid took another form. The new form was deeper and longer. The epilogue says a lot, it says that Rodrigues witnessed and was the cause of many Christians who suffered. His decision to spare the 5 led him on a path that would cause many more to suffer. In the end it seems as if Kichijiro is killed for having a Christian image and Rodriques is burned (albeit post mortem). Rodriques goes from passionate followers willing to die for/with him to having a wife who did not mourn his passing. The fates they were trying to avoid with apostasy they end up with.

    Then there is the voice of Jesus at the moment of apostasy. It is the only time in which we hear Jesus audibly speak in the movie. Jesus seems to be giving the condoning of the apostasy for the greater good. However, Rodriques says later that when he heard God was in the silence (not the audible voice). I think that Scorsese deals with apostasy in a way that confronts the “end justifies the means” argument with a stark contrast of the main character before and after apostatizing. However, he does it in a way that makes one process and doesn’t make it obvious. Which is why I think it is so beautiful.” – Joshua D. Lane

    • Reply Jason Custer May 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Hmm…. I may have to think about it a little more, but having wrestled with his thoughts for a few days, I still disagree and think he’s wrong. After re-watching the movie, I don’t get the sense that Rodrigues’ wife doesn’t mourn for him – it seems that Scorsese is suggesting that the whole household became Christian because his wife is the one who puts the cross in his hand. Why else would she do that? Maybe I’m wrong, but is it Japanese custom to mourn visibly at a funeral? Yes, Christians still suffer, but like I mentioned before, I don’t think it’s because of Rodrigues’ pride anymore, it’s actually for Christ’s sake. I think in terms of suffering, that Rodrigues suffers now, not anymore for his own glory but because he is actually sharing in the suffering of Christ. His reputation is now being trampled upon just like Christ was trampled upon. He suffers in his own way, but it is a suffering that makes him more like Christ instead of more arrogant and self-righteous. I think if in the story Rodrigues had been able to become a martyr like Garrupe, then he may have in some senses lost his soul – he would have been a martyr for his own glory. So it was the grace of God to let him suffer and lose his identity as a “priest” and “father” so that he can find his identity in Christ alone, even if everyone else sees him as an apostate Paul or apostate Peter.

      As for the quote about silence at the end, I disagree as well. I think Rodrigues there was talking about the silence of God amidst the suffering of his people that he’d been wrestling with during the entire book. The profound thing that he realized at the end was not that the audible voice was not God, but rather that God was still present in the silence and suffering of his people. In the book it’s written like this, “Lord, I resented your silence.” / “I was not silent. I suffered beside you.” (203) Right after that he hears the confession of Kichijiro, and then this is the last thing that the narrator writes in the book (before the appendix):

      “Kichijiro wept softly; then he left the house. The priest had administered that sacrament that only the priest can administer. No doubt his fellow priest would condemn his act as sacrilege; but even if he was betraying them, he was not betraying his Lord. He loved him now in a different way from before. Everything that had taken place until now had been necessary to bring him to this love. ‘Even now I am the last priest in this land. But Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him.’ ” (203-204)

      The point is not that the ends justifies the means, but rather that what is seen is often not all that is there. The same action can be done for two completely opposite reasons, and the reason actually matters. Many people apostatize with their lives while they say “Lord, Lord” with their mouths. I think Endo is saying that many people can apostatize with their mouths and still be saying “Lord, Lord” with their lives. Ironically, I think that for some people, they have to trample on Christ to get to that point. And that’s OK – that’s why he came, to be trampled on. I find that so hopeful and beautiful. That lets me admit that I am the most wretched of sinners, that I’m more like Judas than Jesus, but that Jesus understands that and is alright with me trampling on him. It helps me see the image of God in people that I want to think are no better than Judas – who I think are weak and wretched in my own pride and arrogance. That gives me freedom and strength to be trampled on myself, or to let my reputation be trampled on at times, because that is suffering with Christ. Maybe other people don’t need to hear that, but I do.

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