Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity. It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.” Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality. And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.
Today’s claim comes from that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito. When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:
Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.
The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.
Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them. I think perhaps few would dispute this portion. Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions. From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide. But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.
In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words. He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five. And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.
The second half of the claim, though, is more troublesome. Marito says, “Sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.” In other words, one’s sins must be paid for to be forgiven. In some anime, characters are determined to pay for their sins not through justice, but through atonement (Kenshin Himura comes to mind). Marito doesn’t mention this very Japanese (and very generally human) concept of atonement, though, either because he believes deeply in the concept of punishment or because he realizes that the person he has become can’t live an atoning life.
But it’s here that we see two items in the claim that aren’t accurate. First, Marito’s quote claims that death leads to clearing of the slate, as it were. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches something quite different, that our sins are rather payable upon death. Physical death is down payment, of sorts, for sin – eternal death is the full payment. If our sins aren’t forgiven in our earthly lives, we’ve lost the opportunity for forgiveness entirely.
Secondly, and connected to that idea, is that there is another way out, and it’s not through atonement – at least not by the sinner. Christ has already suffered the punishment, and God offers forgiveness through that sacrifice. People do not have to – and in fact, cannot be forgiven by punishment for their own punishments. Only a perfect judge, whose laid the punishment upon a perfect sacrifice, can do that. What we could not do, Christ has done once for all.
Let’s see how Lt. Marito’s claim grades out on the judgement scale:
Nada | Not even close | Off-Base | 50/50 | Needs Work | Mostly There | On the Money
Marito’s claim gets our medium score, 50/50. While he correctly describes the effect of sin and the need for punishment, Marito doesn’t understand that forgiveness is given freely, not earned.
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