Tuesday, May 25, 2010

book: silence

I just finished reading Silence by Shusaku Endo. It was recommended to me by Bryan, an English teacher at my school who described it as one of the only Christian books he really likes for its literary value. It is a novel about Portuguese missionaries in Japan during the 1600's. Japan had outlawed Christianity and the missionaries who were caught were tortured and killed if they did not apostatize.

The novel explores the concept of inter-cultural missions and a claim that Japan's culture would simply not support Christianity as it was presented by the Europeans. Any Christianity that allegedly did take hold was corrupted and confused in translation. The priest Rodrigues steals into Japan to follow up on the reports that his mentor, an older priest, has defected and denied the faith.

My reaction to this book and my interpretation of the author's message has been so muddled, it was such a distressing story at times, and its value lies in a few bright details, a few words in the book that really seemed to make the story right. For much of the book, I could sense that the ending would determine if I joyed in the story or resented it, and that is how it was. But not just the ending, the few days after the ending, it is the pondering which has made me like this book.

The story painted a murky picture of the confused motives, futile hopes, and deniable victories of the Portuguese missionaries. And all the while, through all the pain, after all the sacrifice, God's silence.

The human events of Silence include as an element the claim that Christianity does not translate and should not be translated into certain cultures. This message of course is especially common in the academic world, but by people who also lean on absolute truth. They appeal to some sort of absolute truth to explain that Christianity absolutely cannot be absolutely true. They claim some sort of universally undeniable logic to say that Christianity cannot be undeniably universal. In the end the most common argument presented against Christianity is the failures of those who promote it, and the story shows the rejection of a Christianity that Christians have failed to make relevant.

In Silence, Endo invites the reader to ask: Can a truth exceed in power our ability to express it? Can God take imperfect human efforts and complete the statement? Can we afford to interpret God's silence as his inaction? Can we presume that our designs are the limit and the fullness of God's actions through us?

Monday, May 17, 2010

moving on

We are down to our last month in India. After a quick month in the USA, we will be heading off to Seoul, where I will teach at Yongsan International School. Joie and I are very excited about this new direction in our life. We will miss Woodstock and the people here and life in Redwood Cottage, where we have spent most of our last four years, most of our marriage, and most of our time with Will and Annie.

Monday, May 10, 2010

joie's songs

Joie just finished her CD! You can listen to her 10 songs or download them from her music page. She did a great job with it and I'm so blessed to have such a talented wife.

Friday, May 7, 2010

the doon valley

the rain

I had forgotten about Elijah. This morning I woke up to a drumming rain and a grumbling thunder that didn't stop. I was so deeply grateful for the rain, it means much more to me than it used to. In India on this mountain we have seen every year a dry season building up to the monsoon. Every year the rains come, every year the Lord provides. But before the rain, the dryness builds, the people grow strained, the land starts to die. Many years there are wildfires before the rain finally comes. Sometimes there are clouds that disappoint, or rain that stops after a minute or two. When the rain comes, it is a gift, it is life, it cleans and renews a dry land. When I hear these early rains on our tin roof in redwood cottage, I feel excited for every drop and trickle that soaks through between the dusty pebbles and into this thirsty land, I find myself praising God for his provision for this land. I never took the rain so personally.

It reminded me of Elijah, announcing the end of a severe drought, sending the thirsty servant seven times to look toward the sea, to six times stare wearily at a cloudless horizon before spotting a cloud the size of a man's hand. The hope and hopelessness of that poor servant, and the tension of thirst that so much of the world knows year after year as they wait for the rains. I suffer from a terrible memory, and I think that most of the time I spend waiting for refreshment I have indeed a very dry and distant notion of what refreshment must be, and it is generally better than what I thought I was waiting for.