The movie Silence is based on the book with the same title written by Shusaku Endo. A true work of art that leads to fantastic discussions, but is fundamentally flawed in its understanding of soteriology. Although the ending of both the movie and the book are flawed theologically, the movie has tremendous value describing the events that actually occurred in Japan to those who professed the Christian faith. It represents through historical fiction the hardships and persecution that Japanese Christians faced under rule of the Shogun. The main character of the book, Fr. Rodrigues’, story takes place after the apostasy of a real priest who renounced his faith by the name of Cristóvão Ferreira.
Traditional Catholics will warn of the dangers of the theology of Endo’s work, which is valid. Fr. Rodrigues does apostatize the faith by receiving a vague message from a voice that he interprets as the voice of Jesus to renounce Jesus for the sake of his flock being persecuted, which contradicts Sacred Scripture. Earlier in the story, Fr. Rodrigues states to a Japanese apostate, who would later betray him. “I ordered him always to keep in mind the words of Our Lord: “He who confessed my name before men, him also will I confess before my Father who is in heave; but he who denies my name before my men him also I deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
Frankly, I enjoy the story, I think it’s a thoughtful story, all while being very critical of the author Endo and his character Fr. Rodrigues. Fr. Rodrigues’ inner dialogue has a certain tension, I would certainly articulate this to be the two voices of Endo. Fr. Rodrigues wishes to give his life for Christ and the good news, but ends up not following the words of Jesus Christ in Sacred Scripture when he steps upon The Fumie and renounces his faith(An Icon of either Christ or Mary that the Shogunate forced peasants to step on to reveal Christians) Fr. Rodrigues says the Icon spoke to him, “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”
And here is the dangerous theology of the story. Endo’s Icon of Christ says true things; for example, it says that Christ came into the world to share men’s pain. However, Christ’s purpose for assuming flesh is to save humanity from damnation. Christ brings true mercy, not a false mercy that exists too prevalent in the culture.
In the end, Fr. Rodrigues should have looked to the Gospels to understand that Christ was the sign, Christ had already broken the silence by His resurrection. Instead of praying for a sign, instead, he should have prayed for the grace of perseverance.