I am going to briefly describe episode fourteen of Galaxy Express 999 and wonder whether any of our dear readers can guess which biblical tale it parallels after the second paragraph. *Spoilers ahead for episode 14.* Tetsuro and Maetel stop at a planetary system known as the Dual Planets, because the gravitational pull of one constantly absorbs matter from its neighbor. Maetel is not eager to explore these planets because of the mechanical human residents’ prejudice towards people of flesh and blood, but Tetsuro prevails upon her and, well-armed, they soon dine as guests to one of the planet’s restaurants. Maetel’s hesitation proves well-founded: first, they are subjected to rudeness from the waitress; then, once their flesh and blood nature is discovered, the other patrons want to flay Maetel and use her skin as home decor! Tetsuro will have none of this and guns down all of the patrons without any assistance from the workers at the restaurant.
After the rescue, Maetel and Tetsuro are lured into the clutches of a nefarious mechanical wench named Lala. Using technology, she swaps bodies with Tetsuro in order to fulfill her desire for a body of flesh. Later, Tetsuro and Maetel escape and capture the fleeing Lala, find a doctor who can undo the body swap, evade the trap set by Lala and the doctor to actually take over Maetel’s body also, and, with Tetsuro’s mind ensouled in the right body, they leave as the Dual Planets are blown to smithereens behind them—a parting gift from Maetel in exchange for the fine hospitality the inhabitants showed them.
Astute readers will perceive that the above story parallels the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis. Let’s list the parallels:
- two planets like the two cities
- infraction of hospitality to strangers
- attempted mob violence
- unnatural transfer of souls mirrors the unnaturalness of homosexuality
- lack of innocent inhabitants
- complete destruction of the offenders
- the usually merciful Maetel’s extreme wrath reminds one of God, who is Mercy Himself, showing the full force of his wrath towards the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah
I will also mention that the threat to skin Maetel reminds one of how the tribes of Israel were incited against a concubine’s murderers in the parallel story in the Book of Judges (chapters 19-21), but one can be sure that Leiji Matsumoto was thinking of the earlier and more famous story.
Curiously, what is essentially the same story provoked two different reactions on my part. I read the end of the Genesis story with the reaction of “good riddance”; however, this episode of Galaxy Express 999 made my jaw drop: “They couldn’t all have been guilty! Such wanton and excessive destruction! How does Maetel think that she has the right to do that?” Then, the thought came to me that certain readers of the Genesis story react to it in the same way that I reacted to Maetel’s destruction of the Dual planets. Perhaps, some even left reading that story thinking: “I don’t want to worship a God who would destroy two cities altogether!” These readers neglect the conversation between God and Abraham preceding this event (‘Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten [righteous] are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.”‘ – Genesis 18: 32) and also the barbaric wickedness of these cities. Can anyone think of a single city in modern times where all the inhabitants would rape someone to death? No? That’s what I thought!
God is infinitely merciful; but for the sake of the just or the repentant, his patience with the wicked has limits: “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong” (Psalm 125:3). For the sake of the people who were falling and might fall into the hands of the Sodomites (‘Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave…”‘ (Genesis 18:20), God destroyed those cities; likewise, Maetel destroyed the Dual Planets lest other travelers fall victim to them—though, her lack of omniscience does call into doubt her judgment.
Many people make the mistake of approaching Scripture in order to affirm their own ways, but “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). To the extent that we follow the Will of God, we shall be affirmed; to the extent that we follow our own lights, we shall find ourselves castigated or perhaps confounded and disturbed. The purpose of reading Scripture is not self-justification but repentance. How many times do we read about people who come away from reading the Bible saying: “The book is so full of inconsistencies! How could God do/allow X, Y, and Z if He is so good? The Bible made me an atheist. Etc.” The Bible only profits the humble and the docile. Even then, the very text of Scripture can stump the best readers or require special illumination from the Holy Spirit. We must often seek the advice of people more knowledgeable or simply more holy. (Obedience to God begets knowledge of God.) As a Catholic, I turn to the Magisterium, the Church Fathers, the writings of the saints, and other reputable Catholic writers. Protestants also have access to the Church Fathers and mountains of excellent Biblical commentary—one of which, Barclay’s, was even mentioned yesterday at Mass.
And so, I wish our dear readers all the lights they need from the Holy Spirit and the erudition of pious men in advancing their understanding of Scripture and acquiring humility—the fertile field of all the virtues. When St. Augustine was asked what were the three most important virtues in Christianity, he responded: “Humility, humility, humility.” Humility is also the most important virtue we need in reading Scripture lest our pride cause us to fall into unorthodox opinions.