Soul Survivor: Shusaku Endo – Grace, or Dis-grace?

Currently Reading
Soul Survivor : How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church
By Philip Yancey
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It has been hard to write about this book lately because 1) ahh, time, and 2) I have been reading it way more than reflecting and writing about it. But this one is quick, though I will probably return to it. But this one section of this chapter literally flew out at me. Yes, literally. I may have to pay a damage deposit because this page is now blank in the book. I could always get a calligapher to rewrite the words…

I would need much more room to explain Endo, since I am 99% confident none of you have ever heard of him. (I have been politely informed already that one of you has – wow) He became a famous Japanese writer later, but his life beginnings were centred in his mother's faith. She was a Kakure Christian, or one of the "crypto -christians, who had been meeting in secret for two hundred and forty years." They had no Bible or liturgy, so "their faith survived as a curious amalgam of Catholicism, Buddhism, animism, and Shintoism." They had gone into hiding because the shoguns in the late 16th century had tried to exterminate Chrisitans in Japan, having grown to 300,000 strong due to the missionary efforts of Francis Xavier, one of the original seven Jesuits.

Growing up as a Christian in Japan isn't very easy, even today. And everywhere Endo went, he found rejection. He came from a family that was rejected in Japanese culture, that was descended from rejection. He looked to the West (the Christian centre) as his spiritual homeland, but they bombed Nagasaki, ironically the centre of the biggest Christian community in Japan. After the war he travelled to France, where he was rejected, even by French Christians, because of his slanted eyes – he may be "brother" (right), but he was still a "gook". He then fell in into depression, and developed tuberculosis, "had to hace a lung removed, and spent meny months laid up in the hospital. He concluded that Christianity had, in effect, made him ill." One could argue here that he felt rejected by his own Lord as well.

And here is where the page is now as blank as the day it was made. Endo discovered, and Yancey enlightened to me, that our Lord's life was the utter definition of rejection. Jesus' "neighbours ran him out of town, his family questioned his sanity, his closest friends betrayed him, and his fellow citizens traded his life for that of a common criminal." And I am reminded of Isaiah 53:

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

Yancey notes, "Throughout His ministry Jesus moved purposely among the poor and the rejected: he touched those with leprosy, dined with the unclean, forgave thieves, adulterers, and prostitutes." – p.279
And this truth smacked Endo in the forehead, and in the heart. He had always viewed Christianty as "triumphant", as dominant, as powerful, as wealthy and secure, the builder of grand cathedrals and conqueror of nations (ala the crusades and how many nations were "christian").

And Yancey points out what he calls a "mathematical formula" (I like that) in the gospels. "The more ungodly, unwholesome, and undesirable the person, the more that person felt attracted to Jesus. And the more righteous, self-assured, and desirable the person, the more that person felt threatened by Jesus".

Do we really know the Christ we serve and love? We spend so much time wrapped up in our Christian sub-cultured bubble, I wonder if we are truly keeping our eyes focussed on the right things.

And maybe we're fine, on the right track. But the question need to be asked, or we run the risk of following the same path every Christian denomination in history has followed, that of utter lack of relavance and impact in our cultures, too absorbed in our christian sub-culture to notice the world walk by outside, as we spend more time on ourselves than we do with the rejected, me included.


4 comments on “Soul Survivor: Shusaku Endo – Grace, or Dis-grace?

  1. Because I have read Soul Survivor twice, I had heard of Endo. I’m trying to convince my book club to read one of his novels. No luck so far… and they didn’t like my last choice (Green Grass Running Water by T. King).

    Why are so many Christians withdrawing from the church and from their faith right now? Why is it that I can name several “mature” believers who are now living secular lives, pursuing self-destruction? They say they still believe; they say they know the truth, but that they can no longer stand the Church.

    And why do so many bred & raised church folk insist that they are not in a bubble? They hang out with Christians, their faith is rarely or never shaken – their culture is that of North American Evangelicalism. It’s a bubble. Yes they are fine. I pray that when storms come, that they are able to live as the rejected ones, that their faith in Christ survives the disillusionment of the church culture.

  2. It could be our bubble is unavoidable. We live here in North America, and that’s that. Welcome to the Bubble.

    Perhaps we don’t (I don’t ) place ourselves in situations where our faith can get shaken enough. Perhaps for me, working in a Christian school for 10 years has been too bubblized – I need to get out and am pushing the bubbleskin beyond what it should be.

    Personally I haven’t withdrawn completely. I have been hanging out with the Kelowna vineyard (www.kelownavineyard.com). That conversation is a much longer one, and one I am willing and desirous of discussing, because the dialogue is so fruitful. I find their expression of faith pushing that bubble outward, pushing it towards the things taht have been on my heart for a long time.

    Yes, the storms are coming. I think we all seem to know that inside. I, as I listen to my heart and the One living there, am taking steps to gain some “survival skills”. In the last year, as I have done that, I have found I’ve been more proactive in my faith than I have in a long time.

  3. I think you are correct that if you live righteously, the bubble is unavoidable. Many experiences in life I don’t share because I have no interest in sharing them! Drug abuse, addiction, divorce, coarse joking, racism – so prominent in much of modern culture. I don’t need to see Shortbus and I don’t care to. So my Christian bubble is not always artificial.
    The North American bubble wealth on the other hand, is not required by godliness. That bubble should be stretched and popped regularly 🙂

    Maybe the question is not so much whether there is a Christian bubble, but can we communicate to those not inside one? Do we forget that we are still saved by grace and not in our own works or strength?

  4. I HAVE TO get this book. I will talk about the bubble tommorrow. You are a major work distraction to me, because we are on some of the same paths right now, and I find this very interesting. Oh the bubble…… :o)

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