Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is the movie Silence significant?

Many Christians will hesitate to see the movie "Silence" because they distrust Scorsese after his movie, "The last temptation of Christ." I chose to ignore those types of concerns.  In fact, earlier today, my wife & I watched Martin Scorsese's "Silence."

Silence was heavy.  It's not a warm-fuzzy, feel-good movie by any stretch.  It covers you like one of those protective lead-aprons radiologists have you wear during an X-ray, and it can be just as uncomfortable too.  Still, I highly recommend watching the film.

There are several reasons why people of faith should see this film, if not simply to be relevant in talking about our faith with people who remain distant.  Silence holds great value, there are deep truths enshrouded within this movie, real lessons for people of faith, if they will watch it.

This movie exemplifies the power of community, comradeship, and the necessity of partnering with other people whenever we want to accomplish anything good or worthwhile. Early in the plot, the two 17th century priests who will eventually travel to Japan in search of their favored teacher, leave as "an army of two."   It's a powerful metaphor, and a lesson we've seemingly forgotten in our modern-day quest for independence.

This movie is based in the challenges of taking risks, along with the power of relationships.  For example, the initial underlying desire for the two young priests to travel to a dangerous land where Christians are being tortured and martyred, is driven by their ferocious loyalty to their mentor who has been missing and hasn't been heard from in years.  Then there are the Japanese villagers who place their lives in jeopardy sheltering these two priests, which fuels the tension in the plot even further.

The combination of real risks, overwhelming fear, and the concern for the well-being of others is the trifold-thread that holds the tapestry of Silence together.  Without these factors, there is no story here, and this tension seems like a true reflection of real life.

And this is where the questions enter in, as you watch the movie.

The biggest question the story raises isn't necessarily, "why is God silent in our sufferings," even though that's the meaning behind the title, and the story-arc depends on that question.  God does seem silent during horrific situations and that can rattle the faith of the strongest, there is no doubt about that.  The question that's larger in this story, and in real life, seems to be, is redemption possible.  Can even the apostate (one who turns away from the faith) find hope.  Can we be forgiven?  Can we be pleasing to God and others when we fail?

This story will also cause you to question what true devotion consists of.  It will cause you to be more cautious in the burdens and expectations you place on others.  You'll see the limitations of religion in changing people's hearts.  You will ask yourself, what have I done in my life for the Gospel, what am I doing for the Gospel now, what will I do for the Gospel?

You'll also question what happens when we spread the Gospel cross-culturally and you'll grapple with relativism along the way.  Does missionary work help or hurt people?  What happens when we place to much hope in religious leaders?  What is the church?

You'll walk away from the experience of this film, realizing the difference between what true persecution looks like, compared to culturally biased view that North Americans have when they feel their rights are being threatened and they think that's what persecution is.    

You'll also face the question of why is Christianity deemed so threatening and apparently dangerous to certain people -- until we can answer that question and alleviate those concerns in others, we will remain less effective than the Silence we are all so worried about.



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