New York Times magazine has a long piece on the upcoming movie adaptation of the novel Silence. A few disclaimers: I am a big fan of Shusaku Endo, the author of Silence, and his novels themed around Christianity in Japanese context. I was also a big fan of Scorsese and I still think The Last Temptation of Christ is one of the best movies based on the Bible ever made, precisely because it did not turn Jesus Christ into an idol. And the story made me realize how much I’m really cribbing Endo for my attempt at writing the Judas Iscariot novel.
The line assigned to Kichijiro in the novel/movie, I suppose, could have been attributed, with only minor modifications, to Judas Iscariot.
“Where is the place for a weak person in the world we’re in? Why wasn’t I born when there wasn’t any persecution? I would have been a great Christian.’ ”
The betrayal of Christ by Judas was something that was unavoidable for the Salvation of mankind in the Christian theology, and as such, Judas was performing an indispensable service. Yet, it is a service with a heavy cost. I wonder, if Judas’ calling was the cross, rather than the betrayal, he would have been happy to accept it and would have been a great apostle. But that was not to be, and like Jonah en route to Nineveh, Judas did not take to the calling he was assigned. The same might be said for Rodrigues, complete with the command from Jesus Himself, that he should publicly betray him, in order to complete the Divine Design.
The parallel between Judas in my novel and Endo’s Rodrigues ends at this point (although, perhaps, Ferreira might be an apt analogue). Rodrigues renounces the outward appearance of faith for inner faith, so that others may live. He lives on, superficially as an apostate, a servant of the Shogun, but, what his true faith is internally? Who knows. Judas does he is told and completes his part of the Divine Mission, but in so doing, renounces the faith. He considers himself damned, abandoned by God, loses hope, and gives up and surrenders to the sin of killing himself. The paths they take are almost exactly the opposite.
God works in mysterious ways. We are called to do strange things that make no sense. I suppose one could take to our callings, when they take us in strange and unwanted directions, with faith and hope or with despair and dejection. This is, of course, the point raised by Camus about Sisyphus: the rock is still there and the labor is eternal. Will you take it as a torment or as a mission, i.e. a calling? This is not a sure thing, with obvious answers. But, as Kierkegaard reminds us, what is the point of faith if we knew the answers? Mysterium fidei indeed.