My theology professor from McGill, Douglas Hall, informed us that artists, poets, storytellers were the best theologians of the twentieth century. He assigned two unforgettable novels that year: “Night” by Elie Wiesel and “Silence” by Shusaku Endo. Do not read either of them if you are not prepared to rethink your understanding of God.
“Silence” follows the life of a Jesuit missionary sent to Japan in the 17th century when the practice of Christianity was forbidden. He is captured and encouraged to stomp on an icon of Jesus as a sign of his obedience to the state. He refuses to do so because of his own deep sense of faithfulness. At the same time, however, the authorities have held captive in the cell beside him, peasants who are being tortured until he recants his faith. Much of the book reflects the inner conversation of the priest as he wrestles with his entire theological formation and worldview while those in the room next to him are waiting for him to save their lives.
Jesus had harsh words for those who could not see; for those whose perception led to acts of hatred, exclusion, injustice or piety without compassion. He sought to reform his own religious tradition which had become very legal and exclusive in nature.
I am not sure what it is about the Judaic Christian tradition that over the centuries tended to return again and again to that place where the faithful erred on the side of legalism and exclusivity. Jesus’ teaching opened up another Way.
At St. Andrew’s we are curious about this Way. To listen in on this conversation check out a series of short videos on our website.