Is it Okay for a Christian to Watch Yaoi and Yuri Anime?

Why do you post about yaoi on a Christian blog?

We receive this question from time to time across our various platforms when we post, say, fan art from Given on Tumblr or a first impression piece on a yuri series here on the website. And it is a good question, one I want to more fully address here today instead of piecemeal when we receive it, and in advance of my review of Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana) later this week.

Much of the Christian culture in the west has an aversion to all things homosexual. While the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” has gripped an entire generation of mostly evangelicals, the functional form of doing life with this in mind isn’t as easy as speaking it. Loving someone is a complex, dynamic action, and when someone’s entire identity is something your faith deems as sin, it’s all the more challenging.

I wonder also if, as it often does, the culture adds a layer to the issue that hinders us from expressing a godly love to the LGBT community—not “wordly” culture, but the church’s. Homosexuality is treated as a “special sin” in church, perhaps representative of both a complete rejection of Christian values and conservative American values. It’s uncomfortable and dangerous territory for many. And yet, we’re here to make disciples of people across the entire spectrum of humankind, and with otaku Christian reading this, and you connected to probably dozens of otaku who identify as LGBTQ, you’re in a unique space to love these folks, though you may struggle with it.

But you know what we struggle with less—and again, likely because of the acceptance within our culture? Hyper violence and fanservice. The latter, especially in ecchi series, may make us uncomfortable, and we might not watch anime featuring a ton of fanservice with others, but we’ll still often tune in. And violence? Well, we may watch a series with gore with even family members. Perhaps most telling, though, is that we’ll watch an entire series in which the worldview being presented, and sometimes promoted, is Shinto or otherwise one that would never fit within the Christian framework. Sometimes these series affirm those religions, thus negating a belief in the Christian God. We’ve become okay with Weathering with You, but not with Wandering Son.

We need to strip away the trappings of culture and look at how actions, lifestyles, and beliefs are presented in anime through a biblical lens. So Let’s ask the question in that framework: Can we or should we be watching yaoi and yuri? The answer, as is usual, isn’t clear-cut, though I do believe it’s clear that we should at least entertain the thought. I’ve heard theologians, and one in particular whom I respect terribly, state that we as Christians probably shouldn’t watch any media. I understand his perspective, and in truth, if we were perfect, we would be able to find this immense satisfaction and enjoyment in God alone that wouldn’t find in even the latest episode of Dr. Stone or The Promised Neverland. But stuck here on earth, we’re going to stream video. We’re going to watch anime. And more than that, being part of the culture allows us to understand people in a way that we wouldn’t if we lived apart from it. This is, after all, what we do here on Beneath the Tangles—our passion for anime and love for people collide as we chat about both anime and faith. I imagine Paul was much the same. Such a learned man, he must have doubly enjoyed studying the Greek philosophers—both as a way to exercise his mind and as a path into the hearts of the Greeks.

But as I’ve mentioned in the past, each person must decide for themselves where the line is, at what point he or she should stop watching a certain series. And as we mature in our faith and in all other ways, that line may shift and it may become zig-zagged and complicated itself. Returning to yaoi, we might find that series like Given expresses fundamental truths about love and care within a framework that isn’t scriptural, and that it could help us draw nearer to God. On the other hand, some show relatively devoid of violence, fanservice, or other aspects we might consider sinful has an incredibly desolate and nihilistic worldview that leads us to a dark place, away from the love of Christ. Which should we leave behind, and which should we embrace?

And so, as you continue your otaku journey, I hope you won’t exclude yaoi and yuri just because it’s yaoi and yuri. Think about all your media choices, how you approach anime and what impact it has on you. And if that one yaoi show leads you to sin, cut it off! And if that yuri show leads you ponder on the sacrificial nature of love, go give it a try! And the same for all anime—shounen, seinen, slice-of-life, coming-of-age, sci-fi, mecha, and on down the line.

As for us as a ministry? It is a little more complicated. We have to consider also that we’re a model, that what we do can be taken as “acceptance” or even reveling in sin. And we are certainly prone to error, as well. However, I want to assure our readers that we do think about these things as we develop and post content. For instance, after considerable discussion, we decided not to discuss a certain series currently airing because we did not find it likely to be spiritually uplifting in any manner, and very likely, instead, to lead our audience to sin.

Ultimately, though, we put much trust in you to develop godly viewing habits as you watch anime. And likewise, we do our best not to “promote” sin. That’s a blurry line itself, for is posting an image for said series promoting it? It could be. But returning to Weathering with You, about which we recorded a podcast episode and also developed much additional content, were we promoting a Shintoist approach to the world? I would say not, and I would think that you’d agree if you saw our posts. We were instead celebrating the goodness in the series, things reflective of God’s character—creativity, wonder, sacrifice, music, and love.

And if you can find the same in yaoi or yuri, even a glimmer of God, maybe you should be watching. I know we will be.


Featured illustration by おおね (reprinted w/permission)

15 thoughts on “Is it Okay for a Christian to Watch Yaoi and Yuri Anime?

  1. “Ultimately, though, we put much trust in you to develop godly viewing habits as you watch anime.”

    Thank you so much. Even though I’m not into the subject matter, and I really hadn’t put any thought into this, I’ve noticed more than a few times that certain aspects of even “worldly” media are willing to delve into and deeply discuss themes that traditional “Christian” culture sometimes shies away from, which can leave a void, whether of curiosity or of simple emotional longing.

    A lot of our culture’s approach toward homosexuality, primarily from the political right, felt more like a sleight-of-hand meant to rally “I’m-not-like-them” conservatives to a voting cause, rather than a pragmatic assessment of healthy priorities. (And oftentimes, that same sleight-of-hand feels like a distraction, as though cultural influencers are trying to get us to obsess with something irrelevant while they advance their own agendas. The teachers of the law and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24 were condemned for obsessing over tithing but neglecting “justice, mercy, and faithfulness [New International],” just as nowadays I feel like there’s an unhealthy cultural obsession against ‘gossip’ and depictions of physical or sexual nudity but not so much an obsession about stopping racism, sexual abuse/assault, or hatred.)

    And there were quite a lot of genuine Biblical questions (does God exist, is God sovereign, is God good, does God love me, what is the purpose of honoring Him) that all too often got lost in the shuffle when trying to translate religious interpretation into secular government policy. And yet, if all that political effort were done for the sake of God’s approval, not man’s, it wouldn’t have dropped off so sharply after the US Supreme Court declared gay marriage the law of the land nationwide. And even as a straight person with a traditional interpretation of the Scriptures mentioning homosexuality, I thought a lot of the discourse aimed at LGBT people was and still is disgraceful. It’s all too easy to point fingers at something that 95% of people will likely never struggle with.

    1. And thank YOU as well! The original draft of this looked far different, and started as me trying to navigate further how politics and other deeply held beliefs are competing with Christian principles, either to share the spotlight or overtake them. It was an angrier look at that topic (and myself, too), though I ultimately realized that wasn’t at all what I wanted this article to say, so I’m glad you brought more of this important discussion in that I hadn’t.

  2. Very well said. I used to be a homophobe and a transphobe and all that, I’ll admit it. Not anymore. I now sympathize with those in the LGBTQ community and want to show my love for them. Why? Because if you were to point the finger at me, I’d be exposed as a complete fraud and a hypocrite. I am guilty of many, many sins. I need to repent daily. I am in no position to be telling people that their sexual preferences are wrong.

    If you’re in the LGBTQ community, I just want to say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry Christians have treated you this way. In the words of the late Elijah Cummings, we’re better than that.

    1. I think there’s a real reticence and even fear for many Christians—and I’d felt it myself—to even explore these types of issues, because of how they challenge what we hold true, whether it’s scriptural (and it very well could be) or just cultural.

      1. Thank you for these responses. I split the difference here, as I did used to be very … vitriolic against these issues (not so much transgender as that simply wasn’t commonly mentioned when I was young and impressionable) and had to grow, and be grown, out of that. I don’t interpret the Bible as really approving of either, but I also think the hysteria against them often isn’t born out of a legitimate desire for religious orthodoxy.

        I’m not going to say that either of these things is necessarily a legitimate “preference,” though oftentimes the arguments “for” and “against” seem to come down to word meanings. While I think that can be important, the Bible explicitly warns us against quarreling about this — 1 Timothy 6:4 in many translations. But then if we refuse to talk about it, that can leave the complainers, whether about homosexuality or about women’s ordination, feeling like they’ve won by virtue of our refusing to participate. And so we pray for Godly discernment and leadership, because there’s no way God is being glorified by His church being so deeply divided on issues like this.

        More to the point, I also don’t think Scripture places a very high priority on either of these, because while it doesn’t praise homosexuality, it also doesn’t obsess over it, and fictional stories sometimes do things with sex and gender that don’t match, or need to match, regular human biology (the first “Mass Effect” game got controversy over this since there’s one race of aliens who are either mono-gender or “all-female,” depending on who you ask, but are nonetheless heavily sexualized according to their feminine appearances). You could probably do a very interesting if complicated story where you have a faction trying to enforce traditional gender roles in a society with far more than two biological sexes (imagine a species for whom procreation and reproduction occur as if on an assembly line).

        1. Two points you raise which really speak to me are the need for Christians to avoid quarreling, which often happens based on pride and ignorance, and how issues of gender and sexuality can be complex—to which I would stress that again, we need to be thoughtful (and of course scriptural) in our approach as well.

    1. Btw we have a weekly newsletter now, if that’s a better way for you to receive notifications and as long as you’re looking again at subscription options.

  3. Really great article. I am putting more thought into the media I consume, and while I don’t always get a clear answer, I think spending time thinking about it is better than not.

  4. I reject the notion that Homosexuality is a Sin at all. Those Torah verses have qualifying statements to them that Conservatives ignore, same with Romans 1 which was a Rhetorical rant anyway. Sodom’s Sin was inhospitality and bigotry.

    Galatians 3 ends with Paul’s deceleration that Gender doesn’t matter. The Mainstream Church’s obsession with pretending it does comes from their fatal mistake of admiring Plato.

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