Monday, January 25, 2010

“Silence:” Is Anybody There?

You pray. You pray a lot. You pray for a long time. The need is great. You pray some more. People are being tortured and dying horrible deaths. You pray more, and harder. And then you get…

Nothing. Silence.

That "nothing" is the heart of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence, the story of two Portuguese priests in Japan in the 1600s during a time of great Christian persecution. Published in 1969, the novel is based on a true story. One of the priests, Father Sebastian Rodrigues, is imprisoned and gets to listen to the moans and cries of native Japanese Christians being tortured. The other priest, Father Christovao Ferreira, has already apostatized and abandoned his faith, convinced that Christianity does not apply to Japan.

Endo, himself a Catholic, explores this silence of God. How can God be silent, as in “do nothing,” as his people are persecuted, tortured and killed? How can God allow such awful suffering and remain silent, even as His people earnestly and sincerely seek His face and His answers?

Agnostics and atheists often ask the same question. If there is a God, then how could He allow such injustice, destruction, depravity and suffering? How could he allow an impoverished country like Haiti be destroyed, with 150,000 dead and untold misery? How?

I’d like to let agnostics and atheists in on a secret. Christians struggle with the same question. It is as hard for us to comprehend this as it is for others who reject any notion of God. The difference is, we struggle and pray through the question, and we keep struggling and praying even when the answer appears to be silence.

Pat Robertson’s statement notwithstanding, I don’t believe that earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters are by definition God’s judgment being meted out. But I do know that when these events happen, God expects his people to respond.

And when they do, there is no silence.

Previous posts on Shusaku Endo’s Silence:

Shusaku Endo’s “Silence”
“Silence:” How Do You Betray Your Faith?
“Silence:” Is Christianity True or “Cultural?”

Silence is the first book to be discussed this year by the Reader’s Guild of the International Arts Movement. For the month of February, the book is The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon.


Red Letter Believers said...

In USA today they are talking about the children of Haiti. many of them think that "God is mad at them."

The silence for these children is deafening I'm sure.

Who will fill the void? Will God speak through us?

Maureen said...

The voices of the dead in Haiti are not silenced, I believe. Every time we murmur Remember Haiti and take an action to benefit the island nation, we allow those voices to be heard again. We act in faith, in faith we act. To act is to show belief.

Kathleen said...

"There is no silence when we respond."

The stories of the other part, the responding part, is sending out a roar around the world. Yes, it is also mingled with the groanings, lamentation, weeping and singing.

Solveig said...

Getting beyond Haiti--although I acknowledge its significance--the problem of God's silence is huge. It applies when He's silent as individuals seek answers to crucial problems and when a problem cuts across a population as a whole. There is no satisfying answer other than the promise that it will work out for good. Not that the event can be accepted as good or as God's Will, but that He can create blessings out of terror if we look to Him. And that isn't an easy position to hold. But responding apart from that position isn't always helpful.

S. Etole said...

be still and know ... do you think we will ever completely understand that?

Russell Holloway said...

Some honest thoughts in this post ... Thanks Glynn