Mekaku City Actors is pretty much all I ask for from an anime – it’s engaging, stylish, fun, has a plethora of terrific characters, and features some connections to religion, too. The story of the monster, which began as a bookended theatrical piece for early episodes and was later revealed to be a significant part of the plot, demonstrates these religious ideas most significantly. But it’s the not the symbolism, overdone in anime, that stuck out to me – it was the projection of how people have historically gone on witch hunts in the name of religion.
In college, one of my history courses focused on the witch hunt in Europe. They of course occurred in the U.S. as well. Recent episodes of Mekaku City Actors made me wonder if they happened in Japan, too. Certainly, they occurred there for individuals other than witches (persecution of Christians comes to minds), as they did in the U.S.
Although the Christian community in the U.S. thankfully doesn’t harangue and persecute individuals with the same religious historic religious fervor (barring a few notable exceptions), we do still attack others with words, dirty looks, and protests. Who are the witches of today – the workers at Planned Parenthood? Homosexual and transgender advocates? Some other groups?
Whatever the group is, they all have this commonality – the individuals within these camps are often dehumanized by Christians and others. As with those in Mekaku City Actors who physically hunted Azami, and later Shion and Marry, we have a tendency to categorize people and see them solely by characteristics that we use to define them. We forget that each of us is unique – that we have different circumstances and experiences, and that people are more than a caricature. They are not part of that group; they are real people with real stories.
Dehumanization leads to all sorts of evil. Most alarming is this – it’s a base level on the pyramid that grows toward genocide. And it’s also one of the worst things that a Christian can do, for when we take away someone’s humanity, we deny them that which the Creator imbued in them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famed theologian and conspirator against Adolf Hitler, pointed toward this idea in The Cost of Discipleship as he explained further Jesus’ assertion that hating someone is equal to murder. When you hate someone in your heart, you’re mentally destroying a person that God created as beautiful; you tear it down even further when you humiliate someone (calling a person “Raca!” is the example Jesus gives), as you embarrass and seek to destroy that person and their very human value.
There’s a subtlety there, right? We may not be protesting at funerals, but who among us can say we didn’t spout hateful words or thoughts toward some person or segment of people? We strip away a dignity given to man by God Himself.
I hope that Christians will be a voice of love in a world where it seems revenge and comeuppance takes priority over grace. And though the individuals who are the subjects of persecution, bullying, name-calling, or whatever forms of harassment they endure (too much done by those who in the same breath proclaim an allegiance to Christ) may continue to dislike Christianity, perhaps some others will better realize that our faith is about love and grace – that it has the power to set them free, and maybe more amazingly, the power to transform their persecutors as well, if they would understand the gospel message and let it infect their hearts as strongly as they adhere to their human-erected legalism.