(By Ann Corkery, Real Clear Religion). We live in such a harsh and noisy age that silence can sometimes seem unbearable.
But there’s a particular type of silence that is most disconcerting of all. It’s a silence we all can experience—non-believers certainly, but believers, as well.
It’s God’s silence in response to the violence and persecutions that ravage our world. It’s God silence in response to our seemingly unanswered prayers.
Or it’s what we take to be God’s silence.
That’s the “Silence” in Shusaku Endo’s historical novel and Martin Scorsese’s recently released movie adaptation of the book.
Non-believers point to this silence, sometimes with contempt, in making their case against God’s existence, but even the most devout believers have experienced that silence. Saint Teresa of Calcutta certainly did—for the last 50 years of her life—as her letters and diaries make painfully clear. The martyrs depicted in “Silence” most certainly did while experiencing the brutal persecutions of Christians in 16th and 17th century Japan.
Endo’s main character, a Jesuit missionary, writes back home to Portugal: “Already two years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of the churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent.”
“Silence” is the story of two Portuguese priests (Father Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield, and Father Garrpe, played by Adam Driver) who sneak into Japan in search of their former teacher (Father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson). There, they learn that, like so many Japanese Christians, Father Ferreira has “apostatized.” He has been forced to “trample the fumie”—to walk on the image of Christ and, thus, publicly recant his Christian faith. Ferreira is now married to a Japanese woman and living at a temple while working on a book refuting Christianity.
Captured and imprisoned, Rodrigues faces a similar choice: Apostasy or death—not own his death, but the unspeakably cruel deaths of several devoted Japanese Christians.