Summary: A 17th missionary from Portugal to Japan recounts the persecution of Christians and his own crisis of faith.
This is the year of Silence. First, I read Makoto Fujimura’s excellent book about his own journey with the book Silence and his coming to faith in Japan. It is still top on my list for the best non-fiction book I have read this year. I still plan to read it again before the end of the year.
And while it has been pushed back a little, the new movie directed by Martin Scorsese will have a limited release in December with a wider release in January 2017. My college alma mater (Wheaton College) has chosen Silence as part of a new general ed curriculum for all Freshman to read and hosted a conference on the book with Makoto Fujimura last week. I am hoping the conference sessions will be online at some point.
I purchased the paperback to re-read (there is not a kindle edition available) and after losing the paperback twice, I went back to the audiobook for my second reading.
I am not sure what to add about the book from my first reading. My only thoughts that are not in the original review are related to the growing discussion about the persecution of the church in the US (if persecution is the right word) and the idea of the Benedict Option as popularized by Rod Dreher. I am not sure that I fully understand Dreher’s concept of becoming disciplining communities. But I think a discussion about how Christians act in the face of the retreat of Western Christendom should interact with real stories of persecution from the global church. (This is the review of Dreher’s book on the Benedict Option that I added later.)
There are certainly historic examples of persecution leading to the expansion of the church. And there are many modern examples of widespread and violence persecution of Christians today. But stories like this one are also important. Silence is a fictionalized account of a real persecution where the church did not thrive. There was some latent Christianity that survived the persecution of the church in Japan. But it was so warped that it is hardly recognizable as Christianity when it started to be discovered again in post World War II Japan. For all practical purposes, the persecution lead to the end of the church in Japan for several hundred years. (This book by Philip Jenkins is largely about areas where persecution did not expand the church.)
Evangelicals especially seem to almost relish the idea of standing up to persecution. So I am really encouraged by Wheaton choosing such a difficult book as part of its curriculum. I still need to sit with this book for a while. And I need to re-read Fujimura’s book again. But I am hopeful that Scorsese’s movie will prompt some good discussions about how we can think about the reality of God in the face of persecution within a post-Christendom understanding of Christianity.
Silence by Shusaku Endo Purchase Links: Paperback, Audible.com Audiobook