May all of our dear readers be enjoying a blessed Advent! Having watched the original Irresponsible Captain Tylor anime, I thought that I would be writing about justice and mercy and the need to balance the two. However, while watching the “White Christmas” episode of the OVA, a blasphemous mural of the Madonna and child caught my attention. Even a less observant viewer would have noticed it, since this background is used thrice and the episode shoves it in the audience’s face at the end. This obnoxious mural (I will not show it) was obviously influenced by modern art; so I thought to myself: “Could it have been an accident of style and lack of talent rather than deliberate blasphemy?” Only a minute chance of this being a tenable excuse existed, but I decided to check that famous modern artist Pablo Picasso and see whether he had ever painted a Madonna and Child, which would give me an idea of how modern artists treat the subject. This is what I found:
Not the best religious art I have ever seen. Some might well object to it not fulfilling the purpose of drawing our minds to heavenly realities, as sacred art is supposed to accomplish. But, Picasso’s painting stands in stark contrast to the mural in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor OVA for its reverence. Reverence stands as the fundamental principle one should work from when dealing with the sacred.
Curiously, the whole episode exuded a kind of reverence for this day of cheer, love, joy, and good will. We see Captain Tylor helping out a boy who is spending Christmas Eve alone, him sharing saké and Christmas cheer with some homeless persons, joyful camaraderie among the crew, and Yuriko waiting with the patience of a saint for the forgetful and meandering Captain Tylor. How does one explain this evil mural with an episode redolent with all the virtues associated with Christmas?
The esteemed Scottish Presbyterian minister and novelist, George MacDonald, once made the profound observation that people love the virtues of the Faith but reject their informing reality. For example, they love the idea of individual liberty and human rights but hate the idea that these rights rest upon man being in God’s image and likeness. In the same way, people love Christmas but hate Christ. They love the peace and good will people offer each other. They love the magical joy of the Yuletide season. Yet, they reject the source of all these good things: the Son of God, who became incarnate in order to free us from sin and eternal death.
I recall a billboard posted a while back in Scotland which stated: “Two million Scots are good without God.” Atheists and non-believers often hark on the notion that many of them behave more decently than some Christians. They claim that God has nothing to do with a person’s virtue. The mural in the “White Christmas” episode says the same thing: “Look at how fine we are doing without the need for your superstition. We can make Christmas happy and joyful and peaceful without Christ!” They say that despite the fact that God created the very joy of this time by His blessing. God speaks through his angels: “Fear not; for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: for, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David….Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will,” (Luke 2:10-11, 14). The very spirit imbuing this time of year is a gift from God. All good things are His gifts, and Scripture notes that he permits both the just and the wicked to enjoy the sunshine and the rain. If atheists are good, they owe it to the working of the Holy Spirit.
People imagine God as an angry God, threatening death, fire, and judgment for those who break His commandments. But—to steal yet another thought from MacDonald—the justice God wants most of all is justice in his creatures. He wants men and women to be holy and will stop at nothing to make them holy—even, as Catholics believe, offering a purgatory after death so that every blemish may be removed from the saved. If an atheist or non-believer is good—good! God wants them to be good. If the atheist enjoys good things, God wants them to have even better things. If the Spirit of Christmas can be reflected by pagans, it is because the Spirit works in them. Christ’s mission, beginning with his Incarnation, is inseparable from the Holy Spirit, who Himself rules, sanctifies, and animates all of creation. Most powerfully, the Holy Spirit bestows His gifts upon those who have been regenerated in baptism; but, He works with all non-believers so that they may one day receive Christ into their hearts.
My wish for all Christians is that they may retain the dignity that is theirs in Christ. May all non-believers who enjoy Christmas be graced with both joy and faith. And, may all have a merry Christmas!