About six years ago, my wife and I left our church, hoping to find a body of believers that were in a similar life stage as us. We visited several churches, apprehensively going through the doors on Sundays and trying them out. It was a strange sensation – and uncomfortable one, as we nitpicked and wondered if these churches were right for us.
The new characters in Genshiken must feel the same awkwardness. Hato, Yajima, and Yoshitake are trying out the club, and the anxiety they feel (at the least for the latter two) is obvious. It mirrors Sasahara’s feelings of “Should I join or not?” in the very first episode of the original series.
The decision for the group is a big one, after all. This is the circle they’ll be spending time with throughout college. And in Genshiken and the other circles, you can’t be a background member. You’ll be spending time with these folks day after day and forging deep bonds with them. You’ll be preparing for and participating in events and be giving much of your youth to these people and this club. It’s a heavy commitment.
I wonder if many of us think of church in those terms. We attend, but are we committed? I remember making friends with this couple that attended our church a few years back, but eventually they left because of this specific reason: our pastor emphasized that we should all be involved, not merely attendees. They didn’t want to leap from the latter to the former.
Just as I mentioned that the Ogiue-led Genshiken should resemble a church, so should church resemble Genshiken. Simple attendance is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough.
There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus, after the resurrection, talks to Peter, questioning the disciple about his love toward the Savior. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, and each time, Peter responds that he does, to which Jesus tells him to “feed my sheep.” There are a lot of things we can take away from this passage, particularly in context of the scene as Peter’s reinstatement after denying Christ three times, but one takeaway is this: if you say you love Christ, you’ll be all in.
In Genshiken, the members cosplay, analyze anime and manga, and go to Comiket with one another. In church, we partner with Christ in ministry. If we stay on the sidelines, attending church only for the blessing, we’re not feeding His sheep and thus, according to Christ, we are not loving him.
Instead, we’re using him.
In Genshiken, there’s no such thing as a nominal member. You can’t be halfway in. It’s the same with the church, because halfway in really means that you’re not in at all. There is no in between. If you love Him, you’ll feed his sheep.
So the question is this: are you all in…or are you all out?
6 thoughts on “Halfway In or All In the Genshiken”
You might find this interesting to note about the “feed my sheep” passage of John 21. There are two different verbs involved in the original Greek passage: agapao and phileo. The first is the highest word for love in Greek: you will find agape defined in the OED as “the love of God for man and the love each Christian should have for each other.” The second means “I love you as a friend or a person dear to me.” Christ asks Peter twice “agapas?” To which Peter twice responds “philo.” The third time, Christ asks Peter “phileis?” To which Peter again responds “philo.” (Credit be longs to Fulton Sheen for pointing this out, by the way.)
This seems to show that Christ is willing to come down to whatever level we are at and then bring us up. For who could deny that Peter found that agape love for Christ which led to him being crucified upside down?
But, as a Catholic, I never saw Church involvement as being strictly necessary to feeding Christ’s sheep: “I have other sheep too, which are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also.” (John 10:16) I see the Church as a place of healing, worship, instruction, and nourishment. We take these blessings and gifts out to the outer world and become bridges for the love of God to people who either do not practice the faith or do not understand it. Whether or not we are all in is determined by whether we find ourselves standing for the values of Christ or the values of the world. Whether we practice repentance or give up in despair–thinking that Christ has asked too much of us.
Anyway, I would like to let you know that I have set deadline of tomorrow evening for the little article on Suisei no Gargantia, which I wished to write. So, you’ll get it soon. 🙂
I’m glad you brought up the different types of “love” being asked – I actually wrote this article after hearing a sermon discussing the language, and thought about writing on that as well. Thanks for detailing this!!
It’s my pleasure. As a Classicist through and through, I can’t let opportunities like that pass me by!
[…] Beneath The Tangles, Charles has been paralleling Genshiken’s motleysense of community with that of a parish. I’m not religious, but Charles’ Christian […]
This is a great article! Your comparison between the Genshiken and finding a church home resonates with me. Back in school, I was a part of the Wesley Foundation on our campus, so I felt I had an ideal place to bring my faith. But once I left school, I found myself searching for the same level of connection that I had with my college peers.
Some time later, my wife and I moved to a new area, where we struggled to find a church home. After a year of searching and many churches later, we have found our new church, and a loving community to boot!
Thank you for this post. We here at GIMMGP have nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award!
Thanks so much for the kind words and for the nomination! 🙂
I had a similar experience with my wife – after a (mostly) wonderful church experience during college, we had some difficulty finding a church home. But we’ve also settled into a wonderful place (which was actually the place where we started – but that’s another story).