More Like a Tin Roof Sundae

Are Christianity and anime two forms that are so different, they can’t be successfully combined?  Should one even try?  In a post that largely focuses on the anime and religion survey conducted here a while back, The Angry Otaku writes that it’s like putting soy sauce on ice cream – the two just don’t taste right together. 

By かもしかやしゃもじ (Pixiv) - Ice cream AND a Christian anime character - see what I did here?

The Angry Otaku’s post is really thoughtful and intelligent.  But even with his excellent post, I think there’s more to be said on the subject.  Well, of course I do – my whole blog is about the convergence of anime and Christian spirituality!

First, The Angry Otaku seems to lack a strong grasp on Christianity and the Bible.  He admits as much:

That being said, I feel it necessarry to state that I come from a far removed perspective in terms of having religion playing almost no role in any of my activities, and this makes it very hard to understand what it may be like for an anime fan in a place like Georgia-Bama-Ssippi.

No surprise here – Christianity is more complicated than the simple summaries of the faith that both Christians and non-Christians make it out to be.  Students attend seminaries for years to study the Christian faith and its holy book, with many leaving with more questions than answers.  Unfortunately, a lack of understanding can lead to inaccuracy.  This quote stood out to me:

Ignoring the fact that eating shrimp tempura and tako-yaki is just as bad as anything else that biblically verboten (like teh ghey secks).

It may seem nitpicky to say that shellfish eatin’ is a levetical law that no longer needs to be followed in light of Jesus’ coming (see Peter’s vision of himself eating forbidden foods).  But this inaccuracy (unless I mistook sarcasm or satire for an honest point) brings up something more important – the quote demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christianity is, since this issue has to do with the New Convenant, which is a base of Christian faith.

More troubling, though, is the blogger’s image of who Christians are, because it reflects a total misunderstanding of the emerging church in America, which is quite different from and more representative of young Christians than any article or video The Angry Otaku links to.  His view of the “comtemporary church,” which is a subject of the post, is unfortunately marred and informed by his first-hand experience with groups of Christians that don’t necessarily accurately represent either Jesus’ teachings or the transforming, modern church. 

The emerging church is not associated with a political party (I have a close friend who is part of the movement and is an ardent Obama supporter).  It crosses denominations, with Catholics, too, identifying themselves as part of the movement.  It has a “high view of culture, humanity, and justice” (Wikipedia).  These Christians do not picket; they are not defensive; they care more about AIDS orphans than gay marriage.  They are open; they are cultural; and they are, well, fun to hang out with.  They aren’t an outdated segment of the culture – they are one with it.

So statements like this need to be dissected a bit further:

…it’s clear that anime fandom and most theocratic and currently practiced religion is just incompatible.

The Angry Otaku, like many in our culture, is criticizing a group of Christians who are more representative of a past generation than of the modern church movement.  The image of the church is of picketers and protestors.  These individuals are louder and draw more attention than emerging Christians, many of whom are like my former neighbor, living in the projects and partaking in life with those who are suffering, rather than acting like boisterious little children.  They don’t get the attention, but they are the new face of Christianity in America.* 

And it’s in light of this group of “new Christians” that we need to ask, can Christianity and anime coexist?  He indicates that no, not really – I and others are grasping at minor details of anime and missing the forest for the trees – the forest can’t exist in the drowning vat of Christian belief (or else we’re forcing the trees to grow in it).  This is probably a true statement if you’re part of the religious right that is still the booming voice of western Christianity today.  But, if you’re an emerging Christian, anime is just another part of the culture and another form we’ll view with open eyes.  Depending on how we view media, a Christian may watch any series any other person would, but perhaps with an additional layer of analysis that many non-religious people wouldn’t look for.

Anime, for me, works on at least two different levels.  It’s entertainment, but the same time, I’m also looking for Christian themes and ideas that can be seen in various series.  For instance, just because Haibane Renmei isn’t about a particular religion, that doesn’t mean that I can’t better understand the concepts of sin and grace through it.  Anime is no different from any other art or entertainment form in this respect – when we analyze, we may point out things that were unintentional, but in a way our analyses are still true.  That form spoke to us in a certain way, and there’s no denying it, even if this speaking wasn’t the creator’s intent.

A favorite song of mine contains the line, “God makes everything glorious.”  Anything, even anti-Christian work (which anime is not), can reveal God in the eyes of a believer.

In the end, all of this means we still have a long ways to go if we want to understand each other (Christians and non-Christians, that is).  It means that just as is the case with other religions in the U.S., Christianity is misunderstood.  And it means that yes, Virginia, you can be an otaku and a Christian, too, and doing so isn’t equivalent to pouring Kikoman on ice cream.  To me, an anime-loving Christian whose belief largely coincides with emerging church doctrine is more like a tin roof sundae.  The chocolate sauce and peanuts are separate entities, but swirl and fold nicely into the vanilla ice cream.  On their own, the ingredients are yummy, but when put together, the final result is something wonderful.

*To be fair, I need to add two caveats: though the movement is growing, most American Christians would probably not identify themselves as part of the emerging church (even if a large percentage of young Christians are) and it is a diverse group  – I consider myself a part of it, but I have one foot in and one foot out.


15 thoughts on “More Like a Tin Roof Sundae

  1. Fascinating article on emerging Christians. I never thought of it as being emerging before, and certainly this gives me more food for thought.

    1. I think a lot of us are emerging Christians, without realizing there was a label for the movement (and also without, perhaps, fitting 100% into the category). I didn’t know about the term myself until several years ago, when I started looking for a non-traditional church.

      1. I am amazed of how closely emerging Christian describes my view and, perhaps, that of the Christian left. This is amazing. Thank you.

  2. I think you’re right to a large extent. To continue the metaphor; what you do is take your Christian spirituality and work it into something you also like, anime. You swirl everything together, and for you it amplifies the good aspects of both. The person sitting next to you in the ice cream isn’t bothered, and though they may not like nuts or some other ingredient you chose, it can be an inspiration, or at least a good start of a conversation.

    I was originally going to try to reconcile my “Ethical Humanist” comment, because I think there’s a whole universe in there. I have in fact had a lot of exposure and education regarding Christianity (Yes, Lev. was “bait”), but because of that… It makes me question how others can call you un-Christian and you can refute them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to say you’re claiming to be Christian and then not living up to it, but the SBC folks I’ve known, and the low level Vatican officials I’ve met would have differing opinions of that. I have never been illuminated as to how one can be valid, while another must not be valid in order to prove the validity of that first one.

    It may have been unfair by one standard to equate the Christianity here to that of the FRC, or, but by another it may not have been… I wasn’t sure and remain unsure. But I seem to have brought out the ultimatums . Maybe I should have been better at keeping everyone informed that I am indeed coming from an outsider’s perspective.. though that doesn’t mean I am not going to have any ideas about what Christianity is (I’m not a vegetarian either, but I know how that works too).

    Either way, you have an interesting blog here. I probably won’t keep reading it. Sorry.

    1. You bring up a really good point and one I want to clarify, since this was also discussed by you and Ed in your post. Which branch, movement, or denomination is the most right? Is the emerging church more accurate to what Christianity is than, say, Catholicism?

      There are certain “truths” that are necessary in Christianity. Other differences are just that – differences – and don’t make one a better or worse Christian. I think what makes one a “better Christian” (<— I hate this terminology, but I'm too lazy/tired to think of a better way of wording it) has to do with how we try/struggle/aim to live like Christ. For instance, you could say all the right things in an emerging church congregation, but if you're heart isn't transformed, you may still be an "infant" in Christ, as the Bible phrases it. Likewise, you could identify yourself with the Christian right, but your works and heart could reflect Christ, and you would be more mature in your faith.

      Also, I'm thankful for your insights and openness in considering my post. Certainly, your view of Christians is a valid one – there are many, MANY like those you posted about. I simply wanted to both point out a "type of Christian" perhaps more indicative of the younger Christians in America and to stress my belief that anime and Christian spirituality can be compatible.

    1. “Soy Sauce on Ice Cream” was deliberately chosen to reference the scene in the first Ranma 1/2 OVA where Ranma inadvertently pours soy sauce on kakigori due to being distracted, and proceeds to chomp down on it, leading to… well it’s not so good. I guess if you already know what you’re in for, then hey… it’s your dessert.

    2. I didn’t realize this until after posting, but by their very nature, soy sauce and ice cream can not exist, since soy sauce contains enough salt to lower the freezing point of just about anything it’s added to. Similar to the impasse I think I ended up creating in discussing this. The metaphor then becomes either one of mutual destruction, or one of a singularity, meaning that for a moment things are perfect, but after time progresses, other elements can change things so that the enjoyability can not be had for someone who arrives too late to the ice cream social.

      1. The ice cream analogy just keeps on working! Like our points and positions, analysis of the ice cream analogies could just go on forever.

  3. Since I wasn’t blogging when you posted this, I didn’t get to see it. Thanks to your “A Year later” post, I was able to do so. I agree with your sentiments. Many who are non-believers seem to have this antagonistic view of Christianity without having the full information of what we truly believe. It’s not about condemning people and we don’t just blindly believe. We do question and in the search of truth will continue to question. There is nothing that I watch in anime that conflicts with my views.

    1. I definitely think that oftentimes, the general view of a faith colors it, becoming a voice for that religion, even if it shouldn’t be. With Christianity, a legalistic, politically-charged kind of Christian is representative of the faith, whether or not the majority are part of this movement (and whether or not it represents Jesus).

      The same is true of Islam. Extremists and terrorists have become representative of that faith in this country, whether they should be or not.

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