After I got past the Japanese use of the passive voice (“the scent of the grass was wafted over the white rock”), this simple, haunting story pulled me into a valuable conversation about the character of the gospel: what is the essence of Christian faith? How must the gospel incarnate itself in radical new ways within new, distinct cultures? How much of the gospel has been trapped in Western garb? How much can Christian faith accommodate itself to new cultural forms without surrendering its essence?
A line from the translator’s introduction, quoted from another of Endo’s essays will be on my mind for a while: “Unless there is in [Christianity] a part that corresponds to Japan’s mud swamp, it cannot be a true religion.”