The Samurai by Shūsaku Endō
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Aside from talking about cultural differences regarding how individuals relate to their community, there are many similar feelings expressed in this novel as in Deep River, but I like how following an (apparently) real historical story provided some boundaries for the theology.
I do think the crux of the book springs a theological consideration. Something like it is a big, big world and you cannot count on nations, tribes, churches or even the man next to you to not betray you. BUT for Endo there is always the emaciated, suffering Christ who hears your prayers, even if he cannot, or will not change your fate.
I found a snippet on the Internet where in an Interview Endo sympathizes with the Apostle Paul over the other Apostles.
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
And I that is a key point for the Samurai, he cannot grasp why people revere this loser. So after hearing the highlights of Jesus' life we read...
The samurai could not understand how a man like Velasco could believe a story so palpaly absurd. Pg 173
But by the end of the book he and his and his fellow envoy totally lost “Faith” in the local Lord their patron, the council of elders for which they previously would have given their life.
'The world was very wide. But I can no longer believe in people' that is what Nishi Kyusuke had said...pg 238
When questioning the renegade Japanese monk about his belief in Jesus...
“I can believe in Him now...because He was ugly and emaciated....He could not close His eyes to the grief and agony of mankind. That is what made him emaciated and ugly. Had he lived an exalted powerful life beyond our grasp, I would not feel like this about Him.” pg 220
Even if the Samurai never really accepted Christianity, by the end of his life, once everything had been stripped away from him and those in authority he once trusted betrayed him...he at least understood.
And there is also a less clearly stated notions of what living is really all about anyway. Except at the very end.
“Finally from within the white smoke which enveloped Velasco's stake, a single cry rang out.
'I...have lived...!'” pg 267
Of course Endo's view of Christianity is at odds which many churches of
today, and actually even the Catholic Church of his own time.
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