Anime Today: Confessions of an Exclusivist, Christian Otaku
For as long as I can remember, back even to my elementary school days, I recall always desiring to be different or unique. I can even remember my public school teachers all hammering that message into my and my classmates’ collective heads. “Be yourself” seemed to be the key phrase (and considering my years of work in IT for public education, and consequent time spent in public schools, seems to still be the key phrase) tossed around like an inflatable volleyball on the beach, for it floats easily and just seems to fit the setting.
Now before I continue on any further, I must qualify the rest of this article by saying that I do not disagree with this statement in the slightest. While it should perhaps not be taken at face value (some happy medium must exist behind the conservative convention that being oneself gives way to a lack of moral objectivity and consequent slippery slope of moral degradation and the liberal convention that moral subjectivity declares being oneself the path to defining morals themselves), there is redeemable value in those simple words, “be yourself.”
And with that explained, I would like to delve deeper into my personal experience with this concept of individuality.
As I mentioned in sentence one of this article, my personality has always been one governed by popular opinion. Governed not in that I blend in with society’s trends, but rather the opposite, that I purposefully have gravitated toward that which is not popular. This is a part of myself that I have determined through reflecting on past decisions, from decisions as minor as deciding a video game class based on looking up polls on which ones were used, and selecting the least popular, to decisions as major as choosing not to share some of my interests in fear of accidentally making them more popular and thus removing myself from the category of “unique.” This latter example is where I would like to spend the majority of my time today.
Recent conversations with friends have begun to convict me of some of my quirks and motives, particularly in why I decide to pursue the hobbies or interests that I do. The most current and relevant example of this to Beneath the Tangles as a site is likely in some of my anime choices. If you checked out Kaze and my season review of Spring 2014, you probably noticed that I rated nearly everything I watched quite harshly. This begs the question, if I was so unimpressed with what I was watching, why did I choose to continue watching it at all? Completionist and obsessive tendencies aside, I believe I have discovered the reason I unconsciously follow through with seemingly silly decisions: I want to be different.
Watching an anime that I know is poor in quality often means that it is less popular, meaning if I watch it I can label myself as a member of the smaller, perhaps more elite group of otaku for consuming something not seen by most (think anime hipster). In fact, part of my motivation for watching anime years ago in the first place was to place my field of interests in an uncommon grouping!
Following this type of decision-making in and of itself is not actually harmful nor wrong (otherwise we would have a huge population of obsessive-type personalities in the wrong!), but as with many types of thought processes, is definitely harmful in excess. The key to this statement is in re-reading my previous paragraph and extracting the biased words, “more elite.” Ironically, though I have often struggled with issues of low self-esteem, I have simultaneously also struggled (and continue to struggle with) a sort of superiority complex when it comes to hobbies. By purposefully placing myself in the perceived minority, I also considered myself a member of the “one percent,” if you will. The smaller the percentage of the population, the more elite that group is, or so I felt (and sometimes continue to feel).
This is something I still must come to grips with in terms of my personal hobbies, but how does this connect with Christianity? This connects in two ways: 1) Christians are called to treat others as they would wish to be treated, the ever-quoted golden rule stated by Jesus, and 2) Christianity is something that can sometimes be treated in this way, much like a personal hobby.
In regard to point one, I often remind myself of the many times I have come across a new hobby that I might now love, all thanks to a friend of acquaintance introducing me to said hobby. Somebody felt the desire to share their passion with me, and without losing anything, they were able to improve my happiness with this new interest. To withhold a passion of my own from someone who I know would appreciate it, simply to retain my residence in my personal “aristocracy,” is nothing more than petty and selfish. Besides, as I’ve previously written about, as much as I might sometimes reject it, sharing what you love with others is almost always better than keeping it to yourself!
Now, in regard to the second point, few people, Christians or not, would make the argument that Christianity is not a belief to be shared according to its own Scriptures, regardless of whether you believe it or not. The very message of the Gospels is that the love of God is something to be shared with all people, particularly in the command of the Great Commission, to go to all nations and share the good news (Matthew 28:16-20).
I have sometimes caught myself, however, falling into the same trap as with my personal interests, in sometimes actually regarding myself superior to all of my non-Christian acquaintances for believing in something that puts me in the minority among several of my social circles (also hypocritical of myself since Jesus constantly preached humility). Although I also believe an amount of discretion is required for sharing Jesus Christ with others, lest we resort to “shotgun evangelism” that attempts to force the Gospel message with all of the subtlety of a professional wrestler, and that the sharing of beliefs comes as a natural by-product of genuine friendship and Christian living, keeping it all to yourself is completely at odds with the idea of giving everyone a chance to experience it!
As I try to improve by no longer consciously withholding my hobbies as well as my beliefs, I hope that you will also take a moment to re-evaluate what you share with others. Most of you are probably not like me, with all of my strange habits, but perhaps there is something that you love that you would love if someone else could share with you! Even the loner (i.e. me) can benefit from sharing with others!
On that note, I would love to “share” with you that you should definitely be watching Zankyou no Terror and Blue Spring Ride! Heh…
Posted on 08.20.2014, in Anime, Anime Today, Christianity and tagged anime, Ao Haru Ride, Blue Spring Ride, Evangelism, individuality, manga, sharing, Terror in Resonance, Zankyou no Terror. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.