Friday night I watched the 2016 movie Silence.
The movie is based on the novel by Shusaku Endo and follows the travels of two Jesuit friars to Japan, who have heard that their mentor, Father Ferrerira, has renounced Christianity due to the persecution taking place in the mid-17th century. They set out for Japan, knowing that if they are captured it could cost them their lives.
The movie follows these two friars as they make contact with the kakure kurishitan, the "hidden Christians" who exist in the midst of a very active persecution of Christianity. They move from village to village and separate until the main character, Rodrigues, is captured by the local magistrate's men. From then, it becomes a struggle of wills between the magistrate Inoue Masashige and Rodrigues to make him renounce his faith (the Japanese learned that forcing a priest to apostatize was far more effective to their ultimate cause than killing individual Christians).
The movie is based on actual historical events (which I previously knew little about) and was directed by Martin Scorsese (he of The Last Temptation of Christ fame). I would recommend the movie, except that one should be prepared to be disturbed.
The depictions of the persecution of the Japanese Christians, although not gory, is certainly difficult to watch - more so knowing that it is based on historical events. The atmosphere of fear, of constantly living under the threat of discovery, is palpable. Christians are tied to crosses at low tide and then battered and drowned at high tide. Christians have water from hot springs slowly poured over their bodies, burning them. They are hung upside down and slowly allowed to bleed out. They are (in one case) beheaded.
The main character, Rodrigues, struggles constantly with the silence of God. Why are these Christians being made to suffer? Why has God not acted? If he apostatizes Christians may be saved - but what does that mean about his relationship with Christ?
I cannot discuss the movie itself more than that without revealing the plot - but I would argue that it is an important movie for every believer to see because it asks real questions about the role of faith and outward Christian living in the midst of a persecution none of us has ever had anything like in our lives.
It is one thing to be asked to renounce our faith to avoid being ostracized on social media. It would be another thing entirely to do it knowing that such a decision may be the choice between life and death - for ourselves or others.