Snarky Faith 2/7/17
A rundown of Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. This was a tough movie to get through, but a rewarding and powerful one, none the less. Join us as we talk about the importance of doubt in the journey of faith. We also have an interview with Scorsese presented by FULLER studio. It’s an outstanding talk about his faith and how it impacts his films. We’ve also got What’s Good? What’s Bad? chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week. Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
For more resources for a deeply formed spiritual life can be found on Fuller.edu/Studio.
Episode: # 139
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony
Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. My. We’ve got a show that’s going to be—I think it’s going to be a little different, but I still think it’s going to be something special. How about you just buckle up your seats? Make sure your tray tables are up and ready, so we can just launch into the snarkaverse. First up, let’s go ahead and just hop right into “What’s good // What’s bad” from this last week. Just a reminder that you can catch everything from “What’s good // What’s bad” on our website www.snarkyfaith.com. Just go over there. We’ve got the videos. We’ve got the links. They are sitting there and they’re just waiting for you. They’re like, “We’re lonely. Why haven’t you come and found us? We’re here. We’re waiting.”
One thing I have learned over my many years of being here on the earth is simply this. If you’re going to insult somebody, especially in a snarky manner—because again, you’re listening to Snarky Faith Radio, and I take snark very seriously. If you’re going to insult somebody, do it right. With the Super Bowl, I’ll just give you a snippet of snarky comebacks. I had a friend of mine that had been saying, midway through the Super Bowl, there’s nothing that can stop our Falcons’ rise-up. All this other blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. He had commented, “Who’s the joke now,” at halftime because he’s a Falcons fan. If anybody who’s anybody that was either watching the show or has any amount of news that you get, that you consume regularly on your feed, know that the Falcons really didn’t return from halftime. The Patriots came back. Huge win. When you start trying to insult things and insult people, just make sure you have your facts straight. I had a buddy, so I snarkily threw something back at him, who was casually saying, “Oh. Look who’s the joke now?” It was him that was the joke. He threw back an insult at me that, “Well, you like in North Carolina. When you guys actually get a football team, then you can talk.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Well, the closest thing that you have is the South Carolina Panthers.” [made a wa wa sound] If any of you guys know the NFL, there are no South Carolina Panthers. There’s the Carolina Panthers who have a stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Again, if you’re going to take something on, if you’re going to insult somebody, at least do it right.
I’m using that as a pivot over here to “What’s good // What’s bad” with the Fox News crew in the morning. They were slamming Al Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharpton, because he tweeted this out last week. He said, “Before you head to church today, remember to thank God for his Son. Jesus was a refugee who fled to Egypt.” What began to happen with that statement was they started to tear it apart. They were saying it was inaccurate, and foolish, and the Reverend needs to go back to Sunday school to be able to get his facts straight, which is funny because one of the things they went on to say was, “It was simply known that Jesus’ parents were just simply going to go and pay their taxes. That’s why they were going to Bethlehem.” You see, the only problem with that is, yes, there was a census. Yes, Mary and Joseph were required to go to Bethlehem for the census, which as we know census, oftentimes, is like secret code. We want to count you, so we can tax you. The problem with that is Sharpton wasn’t even talking about that at all. He was referring to the fact when King Herod decided to start killing the babies to get rid of this child Messiah. Then, Joseph gets a dream. An angel tells them, “Hey. You need to flee. You need to get out of here. You need to go to Egypt.” He wasn’t going to Egypt to pay his taxes. He was going to Egypt to flee from being killed. In essence, Jesus was a refugee. There’s actually several scriptural notes where Jesus actually refers to himself as a refugee. If you’re going to insult somebody, Fox News goons, just make sure you have your facts straight unless you want to look like an idiot. If that’s what you were going for, well done. You get a gold star for being a bunch of morons.
Speaking about religion in the news, if you haven’t checked this out, again, the links are on our website. There is a fascinating interchange that goes on between Stephen Colbert and Ricky Gervais where they begin to have this dialogue/debate. I would say more dialogue than debate because I thought it was very classily done. It was done in a way that I thought was very evenhanded where, again, Ricky Gervais is well known to be an Atheist. Stephen Colbert is a good Catholic boy. They have this dialogue, this back and forth that goes between each other. What I love about it is that it is a spirited conversation, and it is a respectful conversation. For those of us that don’t know how to do this, this is a great example of watching two people that respect one another, have a dialogue about positions where they are very, very diametrically opposed to one another, but they can still do it. They can still smile, and they can still be friends for another day. I thought it was a beautiful interchange. You don’t have to agree with either side of them to at least note that they did dialogue quite well.
Next. I’m not sure if you want to classify this one as good or bad. It all really just depends on where you’re sitting and really, your taste in movies. Guess what, folks? This is big news. The Syfy channel has announced that Sharknado 5 has finally begun filming. Yes, Sharknado 5, known as the unemployment check for Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. The fact that they have no careers, but have found this weird little niche in the pop-culture universe to keep acting in bad movies. It’s really fascinating. The movies are so bad. They are so bad. My kids love watching them. It’s almost phenomenal how bad they are. I hope Ziering and Reid can understand this that they suck so bad that they actually make something better by being together in this. How can you take anything seriously called Sharknado. Well, you could also say that, probably, about the president of our United States right now. It’s as absurd. It’s as horrifying, and it is just as awful as Sharknado except for in Sharknado you can sit back and enjoy the escapism as it rolls over you as you have a tornado full of sharks, whereas, with our new president and the way our government is heading, it’s one of those things you actually can’t sit back. I mean, I wish it was on the Syfy channel because then we could go, “Oh my gosh. The credits will roll at some point. It will be over,” and we can say, “Wow, that was just awful.” Sadly, every day I wake up and I’m still living in Trump’s America. It’s incredibly sad, and we’ll get more to that [Laughter] as we move through this show.
Next. If you’re in the mood to read and not simply watch stupid videos on our website, the Atlantic put out an article last week that is fascinating to be able to go through. I’ll just summarize it up in small little bits right here so I don’t steal anything from this. I would say it is well worth sitting down and reading through this. The title of it is called “It’s Putin’s World. How the Russian President Became the Ideological Hero of Nationalist Everywhere.” It takes you on this journey through the past couple of years and the rise of Putin, and the rise of nationalism, and how all of these things, much like Sharknado, were a perfect storm. You should check out the website. You should check out the link. It is very good, and it is well worth your time.
Next. If you don’t like reading about reality and Vladimir Putin, I’ve got another article for you that, again, I will repeat myself by saying it is well worth your time. This one is escapism. It’s snarky, and it’s satire. Yes, Karl Giberson whom I’m going to work on trying to get on the show. He’s the Professor of Science and Religion at Stonehill College. He wrote for the Huffington Post. He wrote an article called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” I would say it’s a satire. It’s a parable of Jesus having a meeting with Donald Trump. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s mainly just sad because there’s so much truth in the midst of this. I think it’s one of those things for us that would say that we walk this path of faith that we walk after this Jewish Rabbi, that we follow his teachings, that he matters somehow to us in this insane world that we find ourselves in. It is beautiful to be able to watch one of these modern-day parables unfold in the face of the horrors that we’re living. I just lay out like it’s not funny at all. It’s actually really satirical. It’s funny. It’s worth your time. Go out and read it because reading is fundamental.
Next. You know what’s also not satirical even though it sounds like it? Yeah, the fact that Trump has vowed to destroy the law that bans churches from endorsing political candidates. It’s finally come down to that. Yep. Good ol’ MacDonald pledged to repeal a 50-year-old tax law that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in political campaigns. This is why we have the separation of church and state. To go and to smash that divide, smash that line, leads us into some scary, scary, dangerous places. Now, I know a bunch of pastors out there who would love that because, simply, they’re using the pulpit as a political platform week after week. The scary part about that is churches, in many ways, should have very little to do with politics. Now, I think politics should inform what our faith calls us to do, especially when we see atrocities, especially when we see bans, especially when we have refugees that are in crisis and folks that are hurting. Yeah. I think our faith can move us to want to do positive change, positive impact in our community, but I do not believe that our churches need to become more and more political. It is a dangerous move that he is playing with amongst all of the other dangerous moves that he is playing with. This is one of those that slides under the cracks that I think we need to know about, that we need to know that that whole separation of church and state is a good thing. We want our government to be about the government. We want our churches to be about our churches, and never the two shall meet. We do not want that to happen.
I’ve been in those situations too often. I’ve actually literally been in churches that passed out voter pamphlet guides. They would preach, and they would bring in candidates that they believed were whatever “God’s chosen people” were. The problem with this that I have is that you’re not educating your congregations, churches out there. You’re not educating them to have a lens of faith in how they look at the world around us. All you’re doing is telling them to think. You’re telling them how to walk through the steps, how to pantomime this, how to lip sync a faith. I know you do it mainly because it’s an easy control structure for people. Don’t teach them to think, but tell them what to do. [Sarcasm] It’s like one of those big parenting mistakes that I’ve seen people make with their kids over and over. They don’t teach their kids to think. They just tell their kids what to do. Guess what? At some point, the authority structure breaks down, and the kids have no idea how to make decisions rationally for themselves.
Churches, you are doing the same thing to your congregants. Teach them to walk out the ways of Jesus. Teach them to walk out the loving, and merciful, and gentle ways of Jesus. Then, let them apply it to their world. Do not steal the act of learning from people because, otherwise, we’re just having congregations of parrots and not prophets. We’re having congregations of people that do not know how to think for themselves when it comes to matters of faith. Then, we have situations where you have people saying, “Oh. He’s God’s chosen one. Whatever he does, he farts mercy and grace because he has God’s favor.” [Sarcasm] Then, we get in this crazy, cranked-up situation that we find ourselves in where the religious right puts an insane fanatic in the presidency, and they say that they are doing this for God. When you begin to look at the actions of what is happening from this administration, they are far from anything that Jesus would ascribe, or endorse, or actually call His followers to do. Frankly, Jesus calls his followers to do quite the opposite of everything that we are seeing done by this Trump administration. The long story short, the fact that there is a divide between church and state is a good one. It’s a check and a balance. It’s something that keeps those two parties, even so thinly, apart and to break that, will cause a ton of religious ugliness even more so than we’re seeing right now in this country. Mark my words. To get rid of that is a huge flaw, a huge mistake. By no means, does it have anything to do with the name of Jesus.
Lastly for “What’s good // What’s bad”, we all sat through the Super Bowl, saw the commercials. For the most part, for probably the last three years running, I could say, for the most part, I was quite disappointed with the content that they were pushing out. I get tired of that forced sentimentality that tends to happen during the Super Bowl, and I’m more of a fan of the outrageous stupidness that we used to have like the over-the-top if you keep going over the top. At least, I felt like I’m being amused or having the opportunity of being amused. When it comes to these commercials, I don’t want to be preached at during the Super Bowl with one exception, and I’ll get to that in a second. My main beef is with Netflix. You threw out a Stranger Things season two commercial in the middle of the Super Bowl. Everyone in our family was excited. We were all jazzed up until the end of the commercial, which is what ruined it when it said we have to wait all the way to Halloween. I’ll get back to the commercials in a second.
Anyone check out Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL. It was everything. It was absolutely everything that I needed to be able to laugh my way through this week. I feel like this is three episodes in a row when “What’s good // What’s bad” is filled with escapism because it’s my only outlet for sanity. It’s my only outlet to make it through the insane news cycle that we find ourselves caught within.
Lastly, circling back to the Super Bowl. Again, we’ll make sure links for this are on the website. They had had a commercial during the Super Bowl. Surprise. Surprise. No. There was a commercial by a building supplies company called 84 Lumber. First of all, it’s to be noted that there was a bunch of controversy surrounding their ad because the Super Bowl would not let them show the entire ad. They said it was too controversial. What they did was they put in part of it, and then, called you to go to their website to go and watch it, which all of us did at the same time because we were confused and curious about what it was all about. It’s an ad featuring a Mexican mother and daughter embarking on this difficult journey north, which we’re assuming, how they left us, that they’re trying to get to the wall, to get into the country to have a better life. It’s five minutes long. It’s powerful. I would just say it’s definitely worth a watch.
Moving on in the show from that from one thing that was worthy of a watch to another thing that was worthy of a watch. What I wanted to bring today—which is why I said earlier, this episode is going to be a little bit different than usual. I went to Fuller Theological Seminary for my master’s degree. One of the reasons I chose them was that they were an interdenominational seminary, meaning that they are a seminary that doesn’t have one kind of groupthink fuelling what they educate. They’re from a broad spiritual spectrum of traditions that comes together. I will tell you this. One, I don’t know that my master’s degree has necessarily paid off for me. I had a conversation with a friend of mine, that I went to school with, the other day, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was one of those things where going through that program messed up my faith in a good way. It messed me up in a way that probably—well, I’ll just go ahead and say this—that means I can never work for a church again simply because of—I’ll circle back to what I mentioned earlier—it taught us to think critically with our faith, to think critically in how we view culture and the world around us with our faith. Part of Fuller is they have all of these other initiatives on the side. They have all these faith and film, faith and art and culture initiatives that are informative. They are brilliant, and I got an email out, since I’m an alumni, last week about a session that they had held with Martin Scorsese who directed the film Silence. As soon as I got this interview back, I was like, “This is great. This is really interesting. This is an interesting conversation about someone’s journey of faith, and how they wrestle it through, how they deal with doubt, and how doubt is good.” As I was watching this, I was like, “Oh man. This is really, really good.” I decided to write them. I said, “Hey, I’ve got a radio show. I’m an alumni. Can I use this on our show?” The odd thing that they told me was, “Absolutely. We would love to bring this to a broader audience.” I will let that be the last part of our show, the interview with Martin Scorsese. Before I get to that, I wanted to debrief you on the movie that he’ll be talking about. I wanted to debrief you on the movie Silence.
I went and saw this movie a few days ago. I will tell you that it’s still haunting me. Now, it is not an easy movie to watch. I will go as far to say that this is not a movie for everybody. When you think of Oscar contenders, which this movie, by and large, was shut out. It doesn’t have the feel goods. It doesn’t have those feels that La La Land would have. It doesn’t have that religious, war bombasity that you’d have in something like Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. You see, the problem with this movie is also its greatest strength. This is why I think a lot of folks were surprised that it did not get more Oscar nods than it did. It’s well done. It’s got Andrew Garfield. It’s got Kylo Ren in it, and Liam Neeson. I mean, hey, this is like Taken for the Catholic clergy, I guess, except for Liam Neeson. He’s the one that has been taken. That’s how that works. Okay. I digress. No, but what I’m saying is this is a movie that doesn’t give you clear answers about faith, which is one of the main issues that I have with Christian films is that the message is everything. The acting, and script, and cinematography, all of those things, nah, it doesn’t matter as long as we have a good message. [Sarcasm] Typically, those types of Christian films are the ones that give the audience what they already know. They do not require you to wrestle through anything. They do not bring up any poignant parts of faith. I mean, they’re just candy-coated religious tracts for people to consume, and nod their heads about, and feel good that they’re doing their godly duty by sitting down and watching whatever Christian crap movie that they’re watching. Silence is very different than that.
If anyone knows Martin Scorsese, one, he’s a master filmmaker, and two, if anybody knows the book Silence, this is a difficult one to adapt. Let me just read you the summary of the movie before I give you my knee-jerk, deep-gut reactions to this film. I’ll read you the summary here. Alright, I’m taking this from Matt Solarsice. This is part of his review, which I thought actually summarized the movie quite well. His words for this was, “Silence is monumental work and a punishing one. It puts you through the hell with no promise of enlightenment, only a set of questions, propositions, sensations, and experiences.” Yeah. [Laughter] Yeah. I would say that that is 100 percent true. The synopsis of the film goes like this. You have priests. They leave for Portugal for Japan to find a third priest who’s gone missing while working as a missionary. The third priest, which is the Liam Neeson character, is believed to have committed apostasy. Apostasy in this context is renouncing God or renouncing Jesus. He’s seen to have committed apostasy by stepping on an image of Jesus while being tormented by the Japanese. This is a work of historical fiction that is going on here from a famous novel. The movie is just simply that. It’s just a quest to be able to find the truth of what happened to this other priest. While I’m not a Catholic and I don’t really comprehend all the nuanced elements that were going on, I still comprehended the entire thrust of what Scorsese was trying to do with this.
There was a few lines in the movie that just really, really hit me. I felt like this movie was a meditation. As I’m sitting there watching this and letting it just wash over me, it was gut wrenching at times. It was hard to watch at times. There were these two quotes that I wrote down while I was watching it. I’m the nerd that has a notepad when I watch movies, probably not when I’m watching the Fast and the Furious. I don’t need a notepad for that one, but for movies that I expect (a) to talk about here on the radio with you, and (b) just ones that I think are going to move me in a way that I want to remember. I do. I’ll take in a notepad and I’ll jot these things down. Really what this is, is you have these priests coming to this island of Japan in a time where it was very hostile towards missionaries to be there. As these young missionaries, these young priests, are beginning to see how people are hungry for the gospel, but at the same time, the government wants to squash all of it. It’s really, really hard to watch just the martyrs and all that goes on, torture-wise, within this movie. By no means, is this like a—I mean, there’s movies that have far more torture than this. I’m not even talking like Saw-level torture. I’m talking even like Braveheart-level torture. I guess what wrung my soul out was this idea of silence, and what do you do when God is silent to you.
It made me just think of so many different things in the Christian landscape. One of the quotes in the movie was, “The price for your glory is their suffering.” This was somebody who was taunting one of the priests. This idea that the priests were there to be able to share the gospel because that’s what they feel called to do based on the Great Commission in the Bible. By doing this, it was causing great pain amongst the people because the government was oppressing them because they did not want this to spread. Another line that stuck out to me was, “This is of no use and has no value to us in Japan.” I think that it’s something that should lay true to all of us that walk in faith regardless of what faith tradition you’re a part of is that, especially, when you think of just the historical context of colonization and how, especially, the Catholic church moved along the colonization of, well, England, of France, of Italy, all of these, that somehow, they saw these imperial conquests or conquistadors, but they also saw them as bringing their religion along with going in to change their culture and subjugate their people in a certain sense.
It brought up a lot of issues that I’ve had a lot in my life mainly that being this idea of apostasy, this idea of renouncing your faith. I’ve always just thought about this when you see posts on social media when folks are like, “Look at these Christians that are standing and being killed for their faith through ISIS.” In my own heart, which is funny because—well, (a) I’ve been through seminary, and (b) I’ve actually been ordained as a pastor. I think of context like this where I’m just like, “Well, if ISIS is wanting to kill me and all I need to do is renounce what I believe in, what do crazy people care.” For me to tell crazy people something to make them stop being crazy, I don’t necessarily know if people can touch where my faith lies in my heart. Now, I may be wrong with that, but I always just think in these incidents where—because they have several people, they show incidents of folks that are willing to try to not to go through the torture just to renounce their faith even though they go back to living their life in faith, and this idea of what your words mean, and this idea of renouncing something. It’s a very strong film that just really deals with these elements of faith, and doubt, and what does it look like when God is silent because we’ve all had those times when God doesn’t answer, where God seems distant, where God doesn’t seem to be a part of what’s going on.
I loved how Scorsese wove in elements that, in a certain sense, that it all at times, for those of us that are trying to follow after God, there are moments where we are like Jesus. There’s other moments, probably more moments [laughter], when we are like Judas. I just felt like, watching through this movie, it was something that really took great endurance of the soul. It just made me just think on just a couple deep levels. These are really just off the cuff in that when our faith—see, this can easily be misconstrued, but our faith needs to make sense to all people. When we’re sending people to go out and be missionaries or whatever around the world, are we bringing them American Christianity, or are we bringing them Jesus? I think that it’s easy to paint this picture in broad strokes when you begin to look at this from the realm of missions work. Even in our own communities, are we still bringing a white Jesus to a Hispanic community or a white Jesus to an African-American community? I don’t know.
This movie’s still ruminating in my soul. It’s something that I will return to again. I think that Scorsese does it in a very eloquent and evenhanded way. It’s not simply that Japanese bad. White Catholics good. It doesn’t really give you those solid answers that most Christian films do, and because of it, I loved it. I loved the torture that it did to my soul. I love how my faith was pulled and pushed within me. For that reason, I would absolutely recommend this. Enough of me in all of this, I think it’s better to be heard in the conversation that Martin Scorsese lays out. What I want to give you, is what I mentioned earlier, is this interview. It is presented by Fuller Studio. Just for you to know that there are more resources for a deeply formed spiritual life that can be found at fuller.edu/studio. This is the interview that Fuller published, produced, and gave us license to be able to use here on the radio. Enjoy.
Well, that’s all we’ve got for this show this week. Thanks again to Fuller. Just a reminder as we end this broadcast, you can always catch us on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks so much for being a part of the conversation. I’ll catch you again next week. I am out of here.
Transcribed by Miriam Delony