Soul Survivor : How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church
By Philip Yancey
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.