In conservative Christian culture, there’s this ebb and flow in the reaction to homosexuality, between this uneasy understanding that the church is often not welcoming to the LGBTQ community but also a sincere desire, I believe (among most), to change that, and a doubling down in loudly stomping out anything that would make same-sex relationships mainstream. That of course includes media, and increasingly in a world where it’s becoming more and more popular, anime and manga.
What is a Christian to do when he or she wants to please God, to follow scripture and live a life of worship, but also sees LGBTQ works proliferating one of their favorite types of media? Ignore those pieces? Actively fight against them?
At Beneath the Tangles, we prescribe to a different approach, one which we use with all media and across genres, which for simplicity’s sake can be presented as two-prong: 1) To approach said works with eyes (physically and spiritually) wide-open and examining it for what it is, and 2) to flee from temptation as necessary. Both should be considered, the first especially in deepening one’s relationship to media and the second in protecting against sin.
Wait…Yuri Anime and Manga Might be Good for Me?
Last year, I finally watched the excellent show, Aoi Hana, a yuri work centered around romantic relationships between high school girls. I say “finally” because I’ve long been a fan of the mangaka on whose work the anime is based, and I’ve heard good things about this particular series for many years. But after I posted my review, some wondered, “How could you, as a Christian, not only review the work but actively promote it?”
The answer comes down to how we view media here on Beneath the Tangles, which I cannot say is assuredly and without reservation is the most godly way, but which I do believe is with wise and discerning eyes. The kind of reaction I described above comes from a place that sees media as inherently good or bad with a wide spectrum between. The more yaoi or yuri it is, the more sinful and thus, bad. But I think that’s way too simplistic of an approach and way too culturally-infused, too—maybe not by the “culture at large” around us, but as a worldly reaction against that by a Christian culture that is more Pharisaical in nature than truly Christ-centered.
That whole “good and bad” thought process misunderstands the “goodness” of media. There is not one “Christian” work out there other than the Bible, not if we’re considering a Christian work to be holy. Everything is imperfect. Everything is written by a human author, and thus, marred by sin. From St. Augustine to Veggietales, all works lack perfection, even ones that come close to it.
But I don’t mean to even compare a yuri anime series to, say, the latest Kirk Cameron film. I think the stickiness sometimes occurs when some works are judged as more wholesome than others (and thus “holy,” even if they don’t even really include God in the piece’s worldview). And we might begin to judge some sins as too bad to watch or read about.
If we don’t have a good response (and don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is one—see the second section below), we’re either being hypocrites or we’re uniformed.
We watch anime that is full of sinful actions all the time: unkindness, assaults, murder, etc. And yet, yaoi and yuri is especially set aside. That’s only because our churches, politicians, pastors, newscasters, and parents have said it be so. It’s not because scripture tells us to. And of course, the Bible—with the caveat that it is God-inspired and thus maybe not the best book for making this comparison!—is full of foul deeds, sin and mistakes and outright terror that we’re supposed to learn from.
What I’m pointing out here is that it’s a little too simplistic and ultimately incorrect to avoid a yuri series just because it’s yuri. There needs to be a more substantial reason if you’re declaring a godly approach as to why you’re doing so.
Either only read the Bible, or find a better approach to how you approach media in general.
To further point out that this is more complex than simply “yuri bad” and “other anime good,” remember that anime and manga is full of actions which can encourage us. Which, as is the purpose of this blog, maybe point us toward God if we’re approaching our consumption of media as just another form of worship, as is everything else*.
Yuri works have the potential to do that as much as any. And to be frank, maybe even more so, as so many of them are infused with a patience and depth that is lacking in their genre brethren. While a watcher may not agree with the same-sex relationship in Kase-San and the Morning Glories, we also don’t agree with Tanjirou praying to a Shinto spirit; both series, however, can be filled with themes that inspire us to know God more. Even by their very creative spirit, they encourage us to seek the invisible God.
If you count out a series just because it’s “yuri,” you may be missing out on something beautiful and profound. And you might be instead buying into a worldly form of worship—maybe not of a culture that is trending away from God, but into a “Christian” culture that is perhaps even more dangerous.
* The inference being that some anime may be irredeemable—and not just the most fringe media (hyper violent, hentai, religious propaganda). This is a topic I may dive into at some later time.
But as with Anything, Be Careful
Part of what I’m expressing above is that, in a vacuum, simply reading a yuri manga is no more sinful than reading a shonen one. However, that’s in a vacuum. There are exceptions, very important ones.
Jesus instructs us to take sin seriously. To cut off your hand (metaphorically of course) if it causes you to sin. And anime can indeed tempt us to sin.
It’s important here for me to point out, though, that I’m not singling out yuri anime. From a broad perspective, I don’t see it as being more tempting than any other genre, and perhaps less than many. But it may be the genre that tempts you (Later this week, we have an excellent article and testimony pointing toward that very idea, as well as others I’ve proposed here, and hope you’ll return to read it).
And if it’s tempting your lustful nature, if it’s tempting you to find your entire identity in something other than what God prescribes, if it’s tempting you to even distrust God’s goodness and truth—and the potential surely is there for any of that and more—a Christian should consider making the active choice to leave it behind.
For me, really violent series—graphically violent ones—are those that tempt me the most. I desire to see those types of images, and they stick in my mind intensely for days and weeks sometimes—sometimes for years and decades. They invade my dreams and revisit me, it seems, on a permanent basis.
As these thoughts dwell there, especially in the immediate hours and days after watching some horrid death, there’s little room for the light to shine through, and thus I begin to idolize such imagery somewhat, and to squeeze God out of my life and worship. Nowadays, when I’m at my best, I avoid such series.
If the yuri genre (and any other genre or type) tempts you to sin to a point where you find it dangerous to continue, then don’t. Stop watching. Avoid it until the time, if it ever comes, that you can watch it without that worry.
Take sin seriously. And in this case, do not watch yuri if you’re a Christian.
But for the rest of us, the yuri genre is a vast field that is brimming with potential. It’s full of good and great series, some which might nudge us toward both celebrating that which is good about life and thus God (humor, love, relationships) and toward worshiping him better in our daily lives (service, obedience, sacrifice).
Ultimately, what I’m proposing is that you do more than stop hating on yuri and more than simply ignore it; I propose that you open yourself up to the possibility that this genre can feature goodness straight from the living God, that he can use this media to show you more of his love for you—if you’re in a place where it won’t easily lead you astray. And if so, consider jumping in. You might find that you’ve been missing out on quite a blessing.