Over the last couple of weeks I've read two of the most poignant books I've read in a while. Shusaku Endo's Silence and Makoto Fujimura's Silence and Beauty. Silence is the classic 1966 novel by a Japanese author that will soon be on the big screen as a Martin Scorsese's passion project starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield that asks: is there a God? Silence and Beauty is the forthcoming reflection and engagement of a brilliant Japanese-American artist on Endo's book.
Silence tells the story of the persecution of Christian missionaries in Japan, the whithering of the gospel after initial growth in the 17th Century. Sebastian Rodrigues and his co-workers are called to deny their faith. The moment of denial will be in trampling on an image of Christ. A perverse attempt to get a Christian to deny a faith that is all about Christ being trampled upon...
Throughout the novel Rodrigues fights to stand firm in his faith, wrestling with painful questions, while watching the faith of those around him fail, in an act of cruciform denial. His story is told in the form of letters and narrative over 260 pages.
Makoto Fujuimura is a Japanese American artist who I've appreciated on various subjects since I first encountered him last year in Evan Koon's For the Life of the World video series. He engages with the tension of silence and beauty in Endo's story, considering weakness, brokenness and trampling in the gospel story in both his own life and proximity to 9/11, and Japanese culture.
Silence and Silence and Beauty were an imagination stretching and heart-wrenching pair of books to read and meditate on the suffering and humiliating weakness at the centre of the the Christian gospel, a message that turns upside down the self-confident assertions of humanity. Nothing exposes the human heart more than the stone of stumbling, the rock of offense that is Christ and him Crucified, the beautiful one who didn't catch our eye and was trampled under foot.
Wheat is trampled to make bread.— Dave Bish (@davebish) March 12, 2016
Grapes are trampled to make wine.
Christ was born to be trampled on...
(Shusaku Endo/Makoto Fujimura)
I bought Silence from Amazon and receieved a free digital review copy of Silence and Beauty from IVP via NetGalley.