Fate/Zero, the Sin of Joy, and Christian Hedonism

A while back, I asked this question on Formspring:

Fate/stay night: epic or boring? I’m thinking about watching this series. The artwork looks great and the story sounds interesting, but the first few minutes of episode one didn’t hook me and I don’t want to waste precious viewing time. Worth watching?

The series looked cool, but like I wrote, it didn’t hook me.  But it seems I was asking this question of the wrong series.  A recent commenter suggested I watch Fate/Zero, even if I hadn’t seen the original series.   Earlier, my friend, Adam, said something similar.  And so, I dove in.  Six episodes later, I see what both of these individuals meant – I’m really enjoying the series (and as such, I would ask that you please don’t spoil this series for me – I’ve seen up through episode six seven – or Fate/Stay Night either).

Kirei "Fate/Zero"
Art by hali

I wasn’t meaning to blog on this series, but an interesting nugget caught my attention during my mini-marathon of the show.  Near the end of episode five, this interesting exchange took place, as Archer asks Kirei why he doesn’t ask for joy:

Kirei: You ask me to long for something that blasphemous and sinful?

Archer: Blasphemous? Sinful? That’s going a little far.  Why draw a connection between joy and sin?

Kirei: I…

Archer: True, joy gained by evil means could be a sin.  But joy may be attained by good deeds as well.  What kind of philosophy calls joy itself a sin?

Kirei:  Joy is another quality I lack.  I seek, but do not find.

This conversation could have easily taken place in the context of Christianity, and in some manner, it may be tangentially related.  A view of Christianity I think that many people have (at least which I had some years ago) was either of overbearingly smiley (though not necessarily happy) people, or else strict, no-fun curmudgeons, like Kirei.  Though both of these types certainly exist in Christendom, one doesn’t have to have artificial joy or to view joy as a sin.  Finding happiness in evil, as Archer says, is one thing, but certainly joy itself is not bad.  Quite the contrary.

One of the most significant books in the development of my faith is Desiring God by John Piper.  Written both with a graceful voice and with a professor’s tone, the theme of the book is simple and profound.  Piper tells us that the purpose of life is to desire God and that when we do so, we’ll find joy.  We should seek joy.  In fact, Piper calls himself a Christian hedonist, which seems to be an oxymoron.  But no, Piper tells us that we should want to find pleasure.  Long-lasting happiness (definition of “joy”) can be found by desiring God.

So perhaps a Christian life isn’t about a set of rules; it’s simply about loving God and in Him, finding peace and joy.

But somehow, I get the feeling that Kirei desires something (or someone) else other than God and that Gilgamesh’s version of hedonism isn’t exactly the same as Piper’s.  Nope…not at all.

16 thoughts on “Fate/Zero, the Sin of Joy, and Christian Hedonism

  1. I consider it rather strange when people don’t see joy as something God made for us. After all, didn’t God call all that he made “good”?

    And there is no “perhaps”. To desire God and to find peace and joy in Him IS the very definition of a Christ-centered life well-lived.

    (Do note: I do not defend the strict definition of a seven-day creation as spelt out in Genesis 1 and 2. However, I do believe in Genesis 1:1, and that should suffice for anyone wanting to beat my head in with a Bible. Which is another can of worms altogether.)

    Kirei himself is another can of worms altogether. He has absolutely no emotions at all. Well, that’s what he claims.

    1. There’s definitely a dichotomy between finding joy in the goodness around us and the feeling that we shouldn’t find joy in all this. I think that the NT words about not consuming things which may turn us to sin is taken to the extremes by many people.

  2. Kotomine Kirei is an absolutely fascinating character. I’d say more but it’d be a spoiler. I reocmmend that you read Fate/Zero online as well, it gives a lot more detail on the conversation between the two. Kirei is by far the most intriguing character in the series.

  3. Kirei is an incredible character. If he could, he would be a ‘true’ Christian. He sure as hell wants to.

    It’s annoying, but it’s impossible to discuss the topic seriously without spoiling stuff. Some crucial insight appears in the F/SN visual novel, too, and few people have read that.

  4. I think you did a very good job of explaining this. I completely agree that there is a christian misconception about God hating joy and desire, after all God created those things.

  5. Kirei, as well as Saber in Episode 11, represents herd morality in which it denies life or is other centered, other worldly, that rejects the pleasures of this world for the sake of promised salvation in the afterlife.

    Hence the connotation of joy as sin and so forth.

    Gilgamesh hearkens from an older, ancient time that is life affirming, self centered, and this worldly. Hence the finest pleasures are worthy goals in themselves.

    Fate/Zero illustrates the clashes between these morality, but IMO not that successfully or balanced but the show is not complete yet.

  6. Glad to hear you’re liking it so far. 🙂 I’ve also been desperately trying to avoid spoilers, even if it means I can’t discuss the series in as much detail as I’d like with some people, in case they get a bit too enthusiastic and say something they shouldn’t have. 😛

    Archer and Kirei’s discussion was certainly an interesting one, but that’s no surprise since they’re from such different times and backgrounds. It’s exchanges like this (as well as the far greater production values) that make /Zero so much better than the /Stay Night anime for me… we get to learn so much more about the whole cast and their motivations, instead of it being largely centered around a main character (Saber in /Stay Night).

    1. It’s certainly a story with a load of interesting characters. If there ever was a series that could easily fill 24-26 episodes, it’s this one. I’m looking forward to learning more about each of the characters and to seeing how the battles all end up going down.

  7. Is fate zero ok for Christians to watch? I started watching…. But I am not sure. I wasn’t sure about black butler, but I didn’t feel good reading it so I stopped because it glorifies the devil. Angel beats, I love. I can find biblical references all throught that anime though it is not a Christian anime. But I am not sue about Fate/Zero…. In your opinion do you think that it is ok? (By the way, joy is one of the fruits of the spirit. Of course God wants us to have joy and be joyful. )

    1. I think it really depends on your point of view and how it the particular series effects you. For instance, some series I steer clear from entirely because I don’t like how they effect me and how they make me think. Fate/zero is a very dark series that is full of depressing, painful, and ungodly themes. If it affects you negatively, you might want to avoid it. But there are some positive themes in the series, though they are lighter and less common than the darker ones (I will say they become stronger as the series progresses, though).

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