Untangled: Christians Blogging about Yaoi and Yuri

Recently on Anime Pop Heart, we received the following anonymous question:

Why do you repost/blog about anime that are clearly homosexual in nature, such as Given? It could send the wrong message to people who do not know or are confused about whether homosexuality is a sin or not. I’m not trying to cause anything, but I just wanted you to be aware. Thank you! I really appreciate the wonderful posts y’all write!

Thanks, Anon! I appreciate the question, and it’s an important one—so much so, that I decided to address it here on Beneath the Tangles, which is a better platform for a long form comment. I also hope this can lead to some discussion—it was already taken up on Anime Pop Heart, where another Anon came in full force, inferring that posting about Given indicates an acceptance of sinful lifestyle. Let’s pull back for a second here, though, and take a wide-angle look.

Anime is an art form created almost exclusively by non-Christians, filled with material that doesn’t reflect a Christian view and often glorying in themes and ideas that scripture might condemn. We find, for instance, that Puella Magi Madoka Magica makes for a brilliant allegory of Christ’s sacrifice, but it also exists in a world without the Christian God with a story that is more properly aligned to Buddhism than Christianity. A refusal to acknowledge God, and even put characters in the place of God, seems a weightier issue than a show espousing same-sex relationships. Yet, Madoka has become a “classic” among Christian audiences.

Whether with thought and critical thinking or not, Christian otaku have already accepted that these series are made outside of their faith’s scope and often contradict or are otherwise at odds with a Christian worldview. So, should you trash all your anime DVDs and cancel your Crunchyroll subscription? I would recommend you stay your hand and keep those Evangelion DVDs from the trash can, and instead spend some time considering media in general. I think we all understand that western media, even steeped in a culture where Christianity is the main religion, often challenges the faith more frequently and purposely than eastern media does. I’ve also made the argument that even “Christian programming” is off the mark, often lacking the creativity that should be associated with our God and filled with imperfections since they are made by sinners like you and me. There is no perfect, holy programming.

That doesn’t mean we need to be all in or all out—sometimes we need to draw a line. A typical Christian response may be to say no to yuri and yaoi anime, just as it would say no to hentai. But what of very violent shows? What of ecchi series? we recently asked about the latter on Facebook:

63% of respondents believe that ecchi anime are generally or never a compromise to their faith. Think about this for a minute—shows which glorify sex and are full of fanservice meant to elicit lust don’t cause one to sin, but a yaoi series that may contain none of those elements does? I think that some of what I see as a dichotomy here can be explained by the personal lines we each draw when it comes to what we consume. For instance, series that are overly dark and contain gore are no-no’s for me, because they affect me personally and tempt me to sin far more than ecchi series, even though I generally stay away from those as well. However, others may not be affected by either splatter anime or highly sexualized ones. When it comes to yaoi, a series may tempt you to sin, in which case Christ tells us to take extreme measure. But if it does not, you may be missing something special by just skipping out on shows because they’re classified as yaoi and yuri.

I watch anime not just for entertainment, but because I love the ability for these stories to reveal something about humanity, the world, and ultimately, God. No, Trigun isn’t about worshiping Yahweh, but the grace of God has been reemphasized to me over and over by Vash’s actions. And no, Daikichi and Rin don’t ever attend church, but their relationship (at least in the Usagi Drop anime) serves as a modern day parable illustrating God’s adoption of us into his family. And while I haven’t personally watched Given, I’ve heard that it has a lot of goodness to show us as well, as long as we have eyes to see and as long as other elements in the series don’t draw us away from Christ.

Hourou Musuko is a show featuring transgender, homosexual, and even Christian characters—and it is wonderful.

And that returns us to the idea that each of us needs to be very aware of what our “lines” are when it comes to entertainment—movies, books, and anime. What doesn’t harm one may harm another. The original Anon inferred this as well when she says we might be sending the “wrong message.” This is an important point, and one again stressed in scripture about what our responsibility is to our brothers and sisters:

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (full passage)

Going by this verse, I could easily make a justification to avoid any yaoi or yuri series. I’ve explained already that such series don’t necessarily lead to sin, so my conscience is clean in having freedom to try such shows. But others may stumble just by knowing that we don’t necessarily shy away from them. This could lead some to make the assessment that yaoi is okay and the jump to homosexuality isn’t a sin.

However, I trust our readers and followers are more critical in their assessments than that, that they don’t take our views so blindly and instead are careful in how they approach their faith and how they weigh what the world says (including what we say) against what God tells us through scripture. And even if not, we here at Beneath the Tangles simply cannot write for all audiences. Yaoi would be inappropriate, in my view, to introduce to elementary-aged students in a Christian household—they’re not ready to make such decisions. But I’m not writing for those kids, even though some of them will read our blog. I’m writing to those at a certain level of maturity, give or take, and trusting you to let the Holy Spirit convict, guide, and lead you to grow. If yuri series aren’t for you, if they cause you to sin, if you just believe they’re abhorrent to God, then exhort you to avoid any blog posts we have about such shows (which, to be fair, are rare or non-existent any way); and if you can partake of those series without sinning and want to draw in content that helps you grow in your faith, then read our posts. Make the decision, and allow us to function as a resource than can help you with your faith.

Ultimately, that’s what we’re here for you—to help Christians grow in their faith through use of anime, and to lead non-Christians to Christ through the same. And I believe it’s a testimony to God’s power than even in this crazy day and age, even through a weird art form created in a land that persecuted Christians to near extinction in their country, even in shows emphasizing themes and ideas contrary to scripture, God can and will work.

Note: All this said, we remain careful in choosing which series we “recommend,” as opposed to watch we simply write about. We’ll make best use of our judgment and prayerfully when it comes to challenging topics. Also, our staff has varying views and will not all agree with my on this assessment—we agree, rather, on our mission, vision, and values, and on several statements of faith that are a requirement to join the team.

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

7 thoughts on “Untangled: Christians Blogging about Yaoi and Yuri

  1. So a long time ago, before I started writing for BtT and worked on my own blog, I wrote a post on whether it was “good” for Christians to watch yuri (and by extension yaoi) anime. Not just if it’s “okay” to watch it, but whether such anime can possibly be good for our personal or spiritual growth. My thoughts were as follows:

    – We Christians cannot run away from the LGBT+ community. We have to approach them and show God’s love to them, regardless of our own beliefs on their lifestyles. Yuri and yaoi shows can give us a look at what LGBT+ people are like and help us understand them, and that can only help us in interacting with them.

    – How is a homosexual relationship different from a heterosexual one? What role might gender play in relationships? For those willing to take a deep dive on these questions, yuri and yaoi anime can give some food for thought.

    – As this post mentioned, yuri and yaoi shows may have several edifying elements outside of the whole romantic relationship aspect.

    – This one might be a bit of a tough sell, but even if the exact form of it goes against your beliefs, love between two people can still reflect some of God’s love. As far as I see it, even in portrayals of heterosexual romances, many are a combination of beautiful godly love and… stuff we shouldn’t really be copying. If one believes that fictional heterosexual romances are edifying as long as you filter through the non-godly stuff, perhaps the same is true of yuri and yaoi romances.

    – As a bit of an aside, many shows (especially in the cute-girls-doing-cute-things sphere) feature girls whose relationship with each other, while not explicitly romantic or yuri, definitely approaches that territory. With the above points largely holding true for those, I think these kinds of “borderline romantic friendships” may be worth a little bit extra. I believe that, in Heaven and beyond, since we will no longer have to deal with temptation or social stigma, our relationships with people of the same gender will become *much* closer than they usually are on Earth, quite possibly even putting our romantic relationships (minus the sex) to shame. In this way, perhaps these sorts of portrayals give us a glimpse of an “ideal” same-gender friendship (minus the blushing since we won’t be embarrassed about it), and even inspire us to invest more in our existing same-gender friendships.

    I do also want to make it clear that, for all these potentially positive benefits, for some Christians, yuri and yaoi anime may pose big enough problems to not be worth seeking out. Discernment should be used, as with all things in life. And, of course, not all yuri and yaoi shows are equal; some will have more of the above edifying elements than others. And, of course, one can always just watch such shows for entertainment. But I do believe these shows can be more than just “okay” to watch: they can actually be good to watch.

    1. In a few short bullet points, you said it better and more deeply than I could have, Frank, haha. Would you send me the link to your original article so I can link to it in this piece?

  2. Hmmmm…. I’m not loving the argument here that “everything had something wrong so we can post whatever.” Yes, sometimes we pull Christian meaning from works with sinful elements (I know a lot of people would turn up their nose to the violence and s scantily clad girls in One Piece but BOY LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT HOW IT CONNECTED ME WITH GOD), but I feel like a Christian anime blog’s job is to point out the Christian elements, not just share anime fanart/gifsets without comment like a secular blog would.

    Like, I get what you’re trying to say – no sin is worse than another – but I don’t think this mindset is the way to go about it.

    1. Hi, Kelly! Thanks for the feedback.

      It seems like you’re aware of what we do here on the blog and perhaps don’t have as much issue with it, since we do what you say—draw elements from anime that point toward God, that can enrich our walks with him.

      Posting gifsets and screenshots and so forth aren’t about doing that (not usually). Tumblr isn’t a great forum for sharing such elements, though we try. The posting of art and animation from anime series on those sites is simply about developing an audience who we hope to connect to through our deeper analysis at some point or in one-to-one conversations. I can understand if you feel posting material from those series is promoting sin—I agree that at the least it can be unsettling, but as I point out above, I hope our readers can make informed decisions about the entertainment they watch and consume. I’m frankly more concerned about ecchi series, at least from a male’s perspective, than yaoi, but that doesn’t prevent us from covering such shows.

      If we post specifically sinful content, however, I can see that as being promotion of that sin. I see it as glorifying in it. If we’ve posted such content, please let me know. You can reach me via email (beneath.the.tangles AT gmail) or by messaging through most any of our social media sites except for, as it were, Tumblr—I run the Anime Pop Heart Tumblr and not the Beneath the Tangles one.

  3. The Bible does NOT Condemn Homosexuality, that is one of many Heresies that developed as a result of the Early Church’s misguided reverence for Plato. All of the verse people love to cite about specific things in specific contexts, usually Pagan Ritual Prostitution, but Sodom’s real Sin was their Cruelty to Strangers, manifested in Genesis 19 as them want to assert their dominance by Raping them.
    https://solascripturachristianliberty.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

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