“There’s a joy to the Christian life that just can’t be manufactured—and those outside the faith just don’t understand. It’s a joy that is not tied to our circumstances. In fact, our circumstances can get pretty nasty, but when we’re walking with Christ, the joy is still there.”
I wrote that statement in an earlier blog, but I was reminded of those words when I went to the movies.
I was eager to see the movie “Silence.” Martin Scorsese’s movie is based on the 50-year-old novel by Shusaku Endo, that looks at both the struggles Jesuit priests faced in 17th-century Japan and the intense persecution Japanese Christians face during that time.
The first two-thirds of the movie dealt honestly with the persecution the Japanese Christians faced and their struggles with how to live appropriately during those difficulties. What struck me was the joy in the faces of these poor Japanese.
The focus of the movie, though, is more on the effect these persecutions had on the Catholic priests, who eventually turned from their allegiance to Christ. The novel focuses on both faith and faithlessness, but that last third of the movie is far more focused on the faithlessness of the priests.
For example, the Inquisitor, the one leading the persecution of the Christians, is presented as quite reasonable and sane in his arguments against Christianity. He told one priest that Christianity might work in Portugal, but it doesn’t fit Japan.
The rationale of the Inquisitor plays right into our current post-modern culture that believes, “What works for you doesn’t necessary work for me. You have your truth, and I have mine.” Consequently, some people will likely view the priests as the bad guys, bringing something to the Japanese they didn’t need and only caused them pain and suffering.
You may have a different reaction to the film, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Go see it. It’s a well-done film, and it will give you much to talk about.
What is missing in the movie is the truth of how many thousands of Japanese Christians never lost their faith; in fact they died with a faith and joy grounded in Christ.
I think the point the author intended was missed by Scorsese. Yes, Christianity does not fit Japan—but it doesn’t fit anywhere. Christianity is not part of the Japanese culture, the American culture, or any culture. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
We are not to live for this world. We are looking forward to a greater, eternal home. And that is why we can live with joy regardless of what happens to us.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13-15).
I’ll admit it: I don’t want to face persecution. But when that day comes, I want to stand with a resolve and a joy because I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And Christ gives me an eternal home into which death will only bring me.