Shusaku Endo and the Quest for an Asian, Contemplative Christianity


  • William Johnson


When Michael Griffith asked me to speak about Endo, my first reaction was to refuse, because Endo has written prolifically, and I haven't read all his books, so I don't consider myself an authority on him. However, I knew the man quite well, and I translated his book Silence, so I thought I would limit myself to talking about two of his books, namely Silence, which was one of the first, and Deep River, which was the last. These two books reveal the search that Endo was on. Silence argues that Christianity doesn't fit Japan. However, it's necessary in Endo to distinguish between faith and culture. Culturally, Christianity doesn't fit in Japan, but Endo had a deep faith; he was always talking about Jesus Christ. He wrote two lives of Christ. He wrote Deep River thirty years later. This was a different Endo and a different Japan. This time Endo speaks less about Japan and more about Asia. He's thinking about an Asian Christianity, and it's much more positive, as though Endo had finally found something. He depicts Otsu, the priest, as really a Christ figure. In fact many of Endo' s characters are Christ figures, but the Christ that he focuses on is the suffering servant of Isaiah.