I’m always ecstatic when writers around the web write guest pieces for Beneath the Tangles. Today, the amazing Hailey (who I’ve long hoped would work something up for us) guests for our blog, explaining what a popular atheist character has to do with Christians and forgiveness.
I spent one glorious Saturday last semester sitting in my apartment marathoning Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I mean, this was a true marathon, in the most beautiful/unhealthy sense. I don’t think I moved from the couch for a solid seven hours. About two hours in, as my roommate and I were stuffing our faces with strawberry pancakes (my roommate is a lovely chef, bless her heart), we started playing a little game called “Spot the Religious Metaphor!” Needless to say it was pretty much the game that never ended. I’ve watched Brotherhood all through about six or seven times, but that marathon was the first time I truly caught notice of just how often the author weaved Judeo-Christian allusions and ideology into the story. Seriously, you pile up all those religious undertones and you’d have something big enough to sink the Titanic.
I’ve joked about how I could churn out dissertations on Brotherhood, so I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to write about what, in my opinion, is the simplest and most beautiful aspect of the show: forgiveness. As someone who struggles with forgiving those who’ve wronged me, I think the series portrays how difficult, but ultimately necessary, forgiveness is. Forgiveness is also a foundational practice of Christianity, preached several times throughout the Bible.
I want to focus on Edward Elric, the main character of Brotherhood, and his relationship with his father, Van Hohenheim. Hohenheim left his wife and children for reasons unknown when Edward was just a toddler. Edward grew up nursing a terrible grudge, believing his father selfishly abandoned the family and never looked back. He didn’t see Hohenheim as his father and refused to call him “Dad.” Near the end of the series, Hohenheim returned and tried to reconcile with his sons. While Alphonse, Edward’s little brother, immediately accepted his father back into his life, Edward remained stubborn. He refused to forgive Hohenheim and clung to his anger.
During the final battle of the series, Hohenheim offered his life to his sons in a touching Christ allusion. During this, he apologized to Edward for not being a good father and for disappearing all those years ago. Edward began to cry, and though he yelled back something typically rude, a single word of his response screamed volumes. He referred to Hohenheim as his father, something he had always staunchly refused. Though subtle, his forgiveness is a beautiful, cathartic thing to experience as you’re watching the show. Anyone who says they don’t tear up during that scene is either a liar or a robot.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times he was to forgive his brother, Jesus replied not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matt 18:21-22 NIV). Forgiveness is such an important part of being both a Christian and a human being. What I think Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood showcases so gracefully is that forgiveness is not instantaneous or easy. Forgiveness is not saying everything is okay. Forgiveness is unclenching a fist of hurt inside of you, letting go of it, and moving on. And maybe it’s not so hard to forgive after all when we consider how often Christ has forgiven us. By receiving this forgiveness time over time over time, surely we can be empowered to practice it ourselves.
I know, I know. It’s a little heavy to take in, especially in conjunction with a show that primarily features a kid scientist/wizard and his little brother, the talking suit of armor. My advice? Cook up some strawberry pancakes and marathon Brotherhood.
I think you’ll understand.
Hailey is a senior in college who enjoys drinking copious amounts of tea, reading brick-long fantasy novels, and putting off homework to marathon anime. You can find her posting about things such as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, book series, and the occasional Chris Hemsworth man bun on her Tumblr.