Examining Old School Anime: Humility in Approaching Scripture

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: Humility in Approaching Scripture

  1. Just a point (although I think possibly a large one): you said the transfer of souls mirrors the unnaturalness of homosexuality but the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah practised buggery – there is no evidence that this was their natural inclination for sexual attraction. In fact, since their sin was that they were being deliberately disobedient to God it is very likely that they were “straight” and used buggery as a dominating and controlling method of disobedience. Beyond that they were rapists and murderers and those explicit sins were the cause of their downfall (or, more properly, their lack of repentance for those sins).

    The same argument (such as it is) that uses Sodom and Gomorrah to claim that God punishes homosexuals is the same one that uses the sin of Onan to suggest that masturbation is a sin. Once again, the sin was disobedience to the Lord and masturbation was Onan’s method of showing defiance to a direct order. Neither homosexuality nor masturbation were listed in the ten commandments…

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I’m trying to separate buggery from homosexuality in my mind, and it’s hard. Even if buggery does not proceed from a homosexual inclination, the act itself is homosexual. In the same way, if a homosexual man married a woman, say, for the purpose of covering his condition from his neighbors, the consummation of the marriage and subsequent marital acts would be heterosexual though not proceeding from a heterosexual inclination. At any rate, homosexuality and the acts proceeding from it are unnatural: “And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:27). Though, it is certain that God has great patience with repentant homosexuals, and such people do not sin as long as they do not indulge in lustful thoughts or the acts themselves. The actions of the Sodomites, which likely included other things besides buggery, merited the wrath of God irrespective of their interior condition.

      Concerning the Ten Commandments, each commandment covers more sins than the one specified in the literal reading. “Thou must not murder” also means one must never unjustly harm another person in any way or even delight in the thought of doing so. Beating up inoffensive people also breaks the fifth commandment–just not to the same degree. Likewise, the sixth commandment does not only prohibit adultery but every illicit lustful act or thought. This becomes apparent through other prohibitions of lustful deeds in the Torah and subsequent books all the way through the New Testament insisting on purity of heart. So, both homosexual acts and masturbation fall under the sixth commandment’s prohibition.

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  2. Well….wait a minute. This whole line of thought has Unfortunate Implications.

    Let’s accept for a moment that God prohibits homosexuality. Wouldn’t you also say there’s not much of a difference between a straight man lusting after a woman he’s not married to and then actually having intercourse with her? There’s this prejudiced idea that this is somehow less sinful than lusting after a man, but I don’t think that it is. As you pointed out, what the Bible actually says is that we’re all equally corrupt, and that we can only be salvaged through the love of God. Not that homosexuals must somehow be more scrupulous or more sinful than the average heterosexual man.

    The thing is….I was actually born with a predisposition and attraction towards the darkness. The second I was even old enough to form a personality, I was attracted emotionally and sexually to….representations of the Devil, more or less. Supposing I was redeemed by Christ and abstained completely from that which has the greatest chance of corrupting me. Am I still more tainted than a guy born without my predisposition?

    I don’t think that he is, because to say so is to essentially state that both you and God are prejudiced. I think that we’re all just born with different sins to bear, and none of us are natively born “worse” than any other.

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    1. Hi, Luminas! Your comments always look at things from a unique angle and I shall try to answer as best as I can. When I think of this topic, three salient facts come to mind: 1) Mankind has become broken through the effects of Original Sin; 2) God needed to restore the order that was broken in man; and 3) secular beliefs and the Law of God are usually at odds: “…for that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). The Seven Deadly Sins point out exactly those areas where man has become broken, and it takes the effort of a lifetime and much grace to even minimize the hold of these seven capital sins on a person.

      Lust is one of these capital sins. It is one of the strongest forces in man, which prompted Freud base most of his psychology on the sexual side of man and the writer of “The Code of the Samurai” to refer to lust as “the foremost confusion of humankind.” So, the fact that many people have a disordered sexuality should not surprise us. Looking back at my own lusts, I can hardly call all of them normal either. In your case, lusting after certain representations of the devil makes some sense: sin takes on the appearance of being fun, pleasurable, and glamorous and the devil is the prince of darkness and lust part of his kingdom. (n.b. In my mind, I separate lust from libido, the former being concupiscent and the latter in accord with nature) Halloween costumes of the devil take advantage of this very thing!

      I would say that the homosexual must be more scrupulous than the normal man, i.e. the man who has tempered his sexual desire to fit the norm. The normal man has an end to his sexual desire: a wife. The abnormal man, either in lusting for many women or a woman other than his wife or lusting for someone not in accord with nature, has no proper end for his lust and can only renounce it completely as he prays for God to restore order in his soul. God is not prejudiced toward any particular person, but He is prejudiced toward the Norm He Himself established. We are all bent in certain ways, and need to cooperate with grace in order to be made upright.

      The struggle to overcome lust is painful, but the world is not being kind when it tells people things like “looking at pornography and masturbation are normal,” “marriage is outdated and unnecessary,” “open marriages are okay,” “having fun with lots of women/men is good,” or “homosexual love is the same as heterosexual love.” All of the above lead men away from the road of virtue and faith, which is the only way to God. That the world strives to lead people from God derives from the fact that the devil is the prince of this world (cf. John 12:31), and his goal is to lead people away from virtue and God.

      I hope my response helps you to see that God is not more favorable to heterosexual than homosexual men (“…God is no respecter of persons” Acts 10:34), but insists upon people rejecting evil completely (…”but from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right” (Acts 10:35). God is not unfair.

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  3. That begins to make more sense. It’s more in accord with what I understand the Bible to teach, I.E. That we are all born with sin within us due to the actions of our predecessors, and we must avoid that with the greatest ability to tempt us…But that nobody’s really “better” or “less sinful” than anyone else at the start. The guy with the heterosexual desires might, in fact, instead have an extremely bad temper or a gambling habit or addiction he can’t kick. Although it’s notable that a lot of Christians treat even being homosexual (Or rather having homosexual tendencies) as tainting the person, even if said homosexual has chosen to be celibate as a result (And assumes this is what God probably intended, because otherwise why would he or she be born unable to feel any attraction to the opposite sex?).

    My favorite, by far, example of a Godly person in anime who was likely homosexual is Franz from Gankutsuou. It is implied all throughout the show that he is madly in love with Albert, his best friend, but that he (Because he’s in a place with the social norms of 1860s France and because Albert is straight) refuses to approach Albert such or anyone else. At the end of the show, he knowingly lays down his own life for that same friend to try and kill “the Devil.” The Count, who in that particular show (Because the Japanese seem to despise vengeance) mimics Satan exactly.

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    1. I understand the sentiment: if people are strong in one virtue, they are often weak in another. Yet, curiously, sanctity is often built upon overcoming our worst vice so that our weakness becomes the foundation of our glory through the transforming grace of God.

      Franz was a great friend to Albert. I didn’t catch any yaoi in their relationship. (I need to watch that show again, it was superbly done and a great twist on one of my favorite books.) But, their friendship was closer than most.

      The Japanese attitude toward revenge is curious. At one time, revenge was obliged for the sake of honor in certain circumstances. So, the Japanese might be reacting against their past history in their aversion to revenge. The Count is made to look devilish or vampire-like, but his thirst for vengeance strikes me as all to human. Many people have been driven to revenge throughout time. Someone has taken everything from them, and they hate the thought that this person will get away with it. Yet, the Count does take his vengeance to a devilish extreme in the anime, especially when one compares him to Dumas’s original Edmond Dantes.

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