Shūsaku Endō's Silence and Faithfulness

From First Thoughts

Readers of First Thoughts will know by now that Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Silence by Shūsaku Endō was released in select theaters on December 23. The novel warrants the attention it is getting. Set in the 1640s at the end of Japan's “Christian Century” (1549-1639), Silence is a haunting journey through one priest’s struggles to remain faithful in the most challenging of circumstances. Continue Reading »

Lasch, Populism, and Conservatism

From First Thoughts

The recent issue of Modern Age contains a commemorative essay by Susan McWilliams marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Christopher Lasch’s The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics. McWilliams reminds readers that Lasch offers a positive analysis of populism that speaks to the current political malaise. As part of his critique of the cult of progress, Lasch attempted to ground politics in the intuitions of the petty bourgeoisie and the populist tradition that gave life to those intuitions. He saw in petty-bourgeois culture a moral realism that recognized the cost and limits of human existence, reinforcing a healthy skepticism of progress. The “small proprietors, artisans, tradesmen, and farmers” of the petty-bourgeois world were the least likely “to mistake the promised land of progress for the true and only heaven.” Continue Reading »

The Pope, Protestantism, and Reformation

From First Thoughts

The recent visit of Pope Francis to the Cathedral of Lund was an historic occasion. The Holy Father joined the Lutheran World Federation’s president, Bishop Munib Younan, and the General Secretary, Rev. Martin Junge, as part of a joint commemoration that celebrated the Reformation. Both in Junge’s homily and the statement signed by Pope Francis and Bishop Younan, there were calls to push forward in the dialogue with the goal of a common Eucharistic table, even if both sides recognized the ongoing obstacles to attaining it. While the choice of Lund was related to its being the place where the Lutheran World Federation began in 1947, the celebration set in relief just how deep the ecumenical challenges are. Continue Reading »

To Uproot or To Plant

From First Thoughts

Christianity lives in the tension between its apocalyptic vision of life and its creational mandate to occupy. The former pushes Christians to uproot and pull down the orders of society while the latter draws them back toward the earth and roots them in the orders of creation. Continue Reading »