2 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #179: Silence

  1. Great episode lads, really enjoyed your well-thought treatment of this book.
    Just a couple of comments. First, I must quibble with Pedlar’s reading of Rodrigues as ‘patronizing,’ as I see his character rather as deeply formed by sincerity and compassion. He is, of course, a child of his time and circumstances, and some of his comments reflect the veritable social and spiritual gap that separates him from the Japanese peasantry–but I sense no disdain in his posture. They are, to him, as sheep without a shepherd; in this sense, if there is any hierarchicalism or condescension, it is entirely beneficent.
    Secondly, as to Farmer’s musing that the ocean is oddly silent to Rodrigues, but only because he’s too far away to hear it, I would note that there are numerous scenes where Rodrigues is close enough to hear the ocean. The point, I think, is that when it speaks, it is meaningless: ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ The ocean, the grey sky, the humid jungles, the entire cosmos rolls on in utter indifference to their martyrdom and suffering. This, as you rightly note, foments the agonizing existential-spiritual pain of the book. It is also a reminder of that aphorism that atheists and theists are reading the same ‘book’ (the book of reality, the book of experience), and ultimately coming to different conclusions.
    Thirdly, I think that you emphasized the unresolved tension at the book marvellously well. Ferreira’s arguments seem (?frighteningly) compelling, and yet his comportment exudes apostasy; Rodrigues takes the same path but seems (at least for now) to be still alive in faith; we have no idea whether/what the fumie actually spoke…and again, silence looms over it all–which, in context, continues the temptation towards atheism. Rodrigues may have committed apostasy, and yet nothing happens. So what? (This reminds me of Salman Rushdie’s description of the day he became an atheist….he bit into a ham sandwich, heard no thunder from heaven, and realized that nothing had changed.) Your elucidation of the brutal contrast of these scenes with the romanticized descriptions of martyrdom in Rodrigues’ mind was pertinent.
    Fourthly, thanks for mentioning the possibility of grace. It had not occurred to me before, and it also hangs in the uncertain balance with everything else–but worth considering as a redemptive ending.
    Finally, Farmer! I had just started reading ‘The Power and the Glory’ when you blurted out a spoiler before I could cover my ears! I that know intertextual and comparative literary exercises are very helpful in such discussions, but consider spoiler alerts where possible 🙂
    thanks again fellows,
    take care,

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