God is cruel.
That one phrase is repeated several times in the first episode of the most unexpected show of the new season, Mawaru Penguindrum. They’re also words that are repeated daily, in various incarnations, by many people.
As spoken in the show, the idea is that how can God give a good person a fate that is tragic? Indeed, it’s tough to reconcile the idea that a “good” person could end up with a terminal illness that takes her life at a young age with the picture of a merciful God. And part of that answer has to do with the idea of an eternal focus.
When Kanba narrates his feelings about the cruelty of God and of fate, he does so focusing on the here and now. No surprise – this is what most of us focus on most of the time. It is reality. But for Christians, the here and now is only a very small measure of “real time,” discounting our freedom from the bonds of sin and evil on earth in the eternity of Heaven after death.
This promise of a future where poverty and tragedy no longer exist was and still is a major attracting point of the gospel message. African-American slaves sung about their freedom from the harshness of their lives one day. And from my own experience, I’ve seen Sudanese, forced to flee their homelands and escape to Egypt, sing to God with an earnestness that is inspiring.
What did these men and women know that many of us don’t? They believe that the pain of this earth is temporary, and that their future is bright. The social injustice of this world will pass. Like Himari, whose life was full of sorrow, they are inhabited by a new spirit – one that offers a second life.
In the end, the guarantee of the cross is that those who believe aren’t running into the arms of a cruel God. They are leaving a cruel world and like the story of the Prodigal Son suggests, being embraced by a God that loves them with an untamed heart.