Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

A Life of Jesus portrays the unconditional, relentless, almost doglike love of Jesus. End sees Christ as an unforgettable figure and a permanent companion for all who encounter him. Sin functions for End as a sign of humanity, a weight pulling the individual deeper toward the center of other people, and somehow creating a capacity to understand others. After the encounter with Christ, the depth of humanity determines the depth of love the individual is capable of.

End avoids any talk of Christ as hero or Christ as king; he sees Christ as doomed to earthly failure, a helpless figure whose message no one understood. This portrait is meant to appeal to a Japanese consciousness that has, historically, seen a great deal of nobility in failure, but End’s theology has points in common with Western writers like Søren Kierkegaard. The Danish writer struggled to valorize the actual as opposed to the ideal world that philosophers (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in particular) had created. Kierkegaard complains that Hegel built ideal castles with no intention of living in them; End complains that the Christ of the West lacks actual dimensions, as well as an actual face. Without this actuality, Jesus cannot be embraced by the imagination.

Encountering the actual Jesus begins a kind of psychological reaction in the individual, according to End’s view. Jesus becomes movement (hataraki) or process in the individual mind. This sea change in the individual is the essential aspect of Christianity for End. It does not matter whether water became wine, or whether the loaves and fishes were mysteriously multiplied; what matters is the profound change that the world recognized in some cowardly fishermen who changed the dimensions of the world.