So, I heard about My Hero Academia early on, before it aired, and I recognized that the manga was popular, and that the type of show that it is, that of the Shounen, American Superhero, action comedy series, would mean that this show would probably become popular no matter what. I am kind of cynical, when it comes down to shounen shows with this sort of very obviously cliche’d set of classifications. I’ve never seen Bleach or Naruto, because I am not interested in running into season after season of filler episode and cliffhangers that amount to nothing. I’ve seen the only real anime that qualified as taking very serious cues from American superhero shows, that being One Punch Man, and I thought it was pretty alright. Nothing incredible in terms of storyline, but a pretty fun show with some incredible action sequences. I would describe One Punch as being anime’s answer to Pixar’s “The INcredibles” being a humorous take on how a world with superhumans would not actually be all that it cracks up to be, or what people expect of it. Being a superhero can be a pain in the neck, unfulfilling job, and boring, especially if you are so powerful that nothing is ever a challenge to you. This was new, this was fun, this was popcorn. When I saw the articles for Boku no Hero Academia, I was immediately bored with it. Coming out with a superhero shounen show right after the most successful superhero shounen show in history? That’s pretty brave I’ll give the show that, but all that to say, I was just not in the mood. Over the years, I have become jaded to the American take on superhero stories, seeing how most of the stuff that comes out is all monopolized by DC or Marvel, and all of that is always very generic uninteresting attempts at kicking a dead horse. The best of the best that DC or Marvel can come up with nowadays, is just a simple but in the end forgettable diversion. I’ll probably go see the next Avenger’s movie, but am I excited for it? No not really. I’m too aware of what’s going on in the universe, and the number of new things that they can do with the existing material is so limited that I don’t ever see myself being excited for another DC or Marvel movie ever again, at least, not as excited as I was when I was a little boy. So when it came to My Hero Academia, I was unimpressed to say the least with the idea of an anime becoming even more like unto those money grubbing, reboot-mongering slugfests that are American superhero stories. I expected My Hero Academia to have nothing new to offer, but some fun fight scenes, and maybe a dramatic character arc or two, you know, the usual shounen fare, something that I can get at baseline with any classic, highly rated anime I could watch that isn’t currently airing. If I wanted to watch some shonen action, I could pick up One Piece again, finish Hunter x Hunter, or start watching D. Gray Man instead. Why should I waste my time for something that is probably just going to be common popcorn fare at best? So I put it off until the first season finished, and the second season was halfway through its run. That is when I started hearing from my friend, the mysterious friend who kickstarted my anime viewing experience, and continues to enrich it for me with recommendations time and time again, told me that he was watching My Hero Academia, and actually enjoying it. What got me, is that if you watch my youtube videos, you will know that he and I have been watching the second season of AOT and have not been impressed. At all. Not only were our expectations disappointed, but the level to which AOT has fallen in our eyes was completely unexpected or called for. So as kind of an off hand remark, he told me that, “Yeah, a lot of stuff happens in episode six, but I think I still liked the new episode of My Hero Academia more though.” He went on to say that while he felt like more of a pleb for liking the show, he still thought that it had better directing, and therefor enjoyment quality overall. This peaked my interest, and since I also was feeling somewhat disappointed with the direction AOT is going, I decided to lay down, (as I was feeling unwell,) and marathon this superhero shounen show until I finished it. I did not finish it in one sitting, but two days, and eight hours later, I had watched and finished season 1 of My Hero Academia. Here are my thoughts. With all of this buzz going on around this show, I had expectations. As you now know, my expectations were mostly negative, but my point is that, when there are tons of articles, and excitement, trailers, and hype whirling around the internet like bees around a soda soaked watermelon, it can give you some extremely unrealistic impressions. I’ve gone through the roller coaster of hearing about a new movie or show with tons of positive impressions, and then been disappointed, and so now I’ve swung to the other extreme, being cynical of any positive hype around a show. In this case, it was best that I actually come to this show with lower expectations, because as is my favorite adage for things like this, “if you want to enjoy something for the first time, come to it with the lowest possible expectations, and you will be pleasantly surprised.” This has worked for me more times than I can possibly count, from things like beef jerky, to Hollywood superhero films, it has been proven, that if I have high expectations for something, those expectations are always unrealistic, and I end up disappointed when leaving the theater, or eating the beef jerky, I guess, but the opposite is true. If I don’t expect anything from the gluten free, dairy free beef jerky, I find it amazing when it has a sweet, smoky flavor. Or when I went to Captain America Winter Soldier, I went in expecting a stupid heartless, mindless, action-bloated attempt at making Captain America fight against the twenty first century corruption in the government, and…was happy with how well it did exactly that, but also threw in some interpersonal drama too. So, with My Hero Acadamia, I found that many of my surmises about it being a reprinting of a bunch of American Superhero ideas and cliches to be completely correct, but I did not expect the atmosphere, stylization, and the light-hearted tone, to completely make up for the lack of originality with its source material. Course, that is not entirely true; there are definitely some very original decisions and choices that this show makes which sets it apart, both from the shounen anime norms, and the American comicbook cliches. The main thing which it subverts, is taking the idea of a world where superheroes exist, and making it absolutely wonderful. In this world, everyone has a quirk. Like, literally everyone. 99.999-ad-infinitum is the percentage of the world population without a superpower or quirk as it is referred to in this anime. And that one.00001 percentile? That refers specifically to our main character, the only kid in the world who is normal…except that for him to not have superpowers in a world where everyone else does makes him the abnormal one. This takes the superhero formula and turns it on its head. You won’t find any superhero like Batman or Spiderman, brooding on a rooftop somewhere, mourning the fact that he is the only hero of his kind. In fact the opposite is true. How much more cruel would a bully with superpowers be to a kid without them? This is what the main character Midoriya goes through everyday of his life, yet he maintains an optimistic and hopeful outlook, that one day his latent superpower will indeed manifest and he will be able to become the greatest hero in the world, much like his and everyone else’s heroic idol, All Might, who is basically like the in world equivalent to Superman, if Superman was blonde and Spoke Like Captain America, yet was living in Japan. This is where I must interrupt myself, and talk about our protagonist. Everything about him, the way he’s drawn, the color of his hair, his height, his backstory and ambitions, everything about him tells us exactly what kind of story this is going to be. The design of this character, and most characters in this show, are both extremely simplistic, yet complex. He is short, and thin, denoting his plight as the only human amongst gods, he has wild, spiky-curly hair which is black with green sheen, which is normal enough in an anime where people have candy colored hair, but is individual enough to set him apart. His hair is always out of sorts and unkempt, telling us that he might be a bit clumsy, and out of sorts, unable to control himself at times. Someone actually comments on his hair, that he ought to shape himself up if he’s going to be a superhero. Also, this is the first anime I have seen in which a male character has freckles, which of course display a sort of immature and dorky youthfulness as a character type. All of this kind of combines to give you the impression of emotional, weird and wacky, which is exactly how I would describe everything in this show. Every character is truly unique, and while most of the quirks are unoriginal, and can easily be found elsewhere in Marvel comics, the look and feel of every quirk and way it is used has its own visual flare that can only be found here. I’d like to posit that the reason this show is both cliched as well as enjoyable, is that it takes the same amount of pleasure in its superheroes as the main character does. Midoriya keeps a series of journals in which he draws every hero he has ever heard of, and lists their powers, their tactics, their pros and their cons, geeking out at the designs of their suits, and the uniqueness of their powers in combat. This is something which I myself did as a child, writing down all of my favorite heroes, drawing them, and then creating my own based on the powers I saw in comic books, trying to make them as awesome as possible. The fact that he does this, and you are really sold on the fact that he’s a superhero expert by the first episode, shows that the authors of this story had the same passion for superheros, and it shows. There are dozens upon dozens of supers in this show, and every single one has a unique design, and just looks awesome. I even have my favorite in a gunslinger hero who shoots every baddie in like a mile radius in the arms and legs the second he comes on screen. He only appears for a matter of seconds, but if I were a child, oh man, I would have made a collection of drawings, and written my own fan fiction about that guy. So anyways, the show draws you into the details of each character and hero, and contains the same wonder and awe that I think comics were always meant to inspire. So, back to how Midoriya tells you a lot about this show. This is important because it helps me get to some things which remind me of other pieces of media I think it is based off of. So He has green eyes which match his hair, and when he chooses a supersuit color, it is the green of his eyes, as well as matching his last name, Midoriya, which is just “Green” in Japanese with a “ya” tacked on at the end. This reminds me intensely of another such shounen anime protagonist, one who was small and thin, had crazy spiky green hair, was an underdog who no one expected of greatness, and who had ambitions which soared to the heavens. That’s right, it’s Gon from Hunter x Hunter. The similarities between this show and that are only apparent in spirit. They both have ambitious, green haired, underdog protagonists with limitless courage and untapped potential, but who is one among many with special abilities trying to reach the top like they are, and feature a host of obstacles, tests, battles and struggles which they have to go through in order to become the most powerful heroes ever! They also feature one insane villain with a disturbing laugh and creepy smile who commands a host of enemies, but that’s par for the course in any anime. So while I think that this show branches off from the norm very successfully in making a happy, black and white superhero future with clear lines of delineation from the good and the bad, rather than a grim-dark one where the superheroes have to fight for the government and the government is run by the corrupt and the only way to save humanity is to kill millions in order to save billions in a morally questionable ethical paradox, that if revealed could send humanity into another world war, but if it isn’t revealed it means that the heroes sacrificed their own honesty and goodness to perpetuate a lie. I’m actually a little sick of the dark and gritty superhero show, which is why My Hero Academia is actually a relieving breath of fresh air. Its premise, that of a young man coming of age in a highschool made to create superheroes out of the youth, smacks much of X-men, yet does not go into the dark and intense themes which X-men did, which takes much of the weight off of this show, whereas X-men has always been tasked with providing social commentary on the state of racism and xenophobia in the conservative west. This show instead is able to run full speed ahead to simply tell us a rousing tale of a young man who fought against his own fate to chase his dreams in a world where the odds were against him, and while that may be completely cliche, it is nice to be able to indulge in such a simple narrative now and again. That does not mean that this show is without deep themes, however, but most of the deep themes that are brought up are all positive, at least in this first season. The biggest one is that of sacrifice. The mc has it in him to become the greatest, but when it comes down to it, it is all for the sake of saving people that he wishes to be great, and of course he knows that it is cool when you can save people, which also is his reasoning for being great. But even when he does get a superpower, it is one which is so overpowered, that it breaks whatever part of his body he uses when channeling his super strength. This means that any time he uses his quirk, it is inherently an act of self sacrifice. Many other heroes won’t face the same dangers he does, even when they have more stable powers, but because of Midoriyas selflessness, he is able to save those people, and beat those villains, that no one else will. The second main theme here, is that of mentorship. Once again, Japanese culture succeeds in fostering this element where the west seems to have almost completely failed, and it surfaces the most here in the west in Asian stories, or anime of all things. The idea of the wise and powerful yet aging old sensei who teaches the young and impressionable hero, is definitely present in this show, just repackaged in a way that makes sense in an American superhero context. All Might’s interest in, and mentorship of Midoriya in this show, is so surprisingly close, so intimate and so emotional, that it literally steals the show. This is where the heart and soul of this show truly lies. The relationship of mentor and the mentee, is so strong, and I cannot help but bring up Rocky Balboa as a series of movies that the themes of this show really remind me of. The purpose of this show, is really to tell you never to give up, to always pursue what you know is right, to always be excellent, to push beyond the pain to become a better person, so that hopefully the ceiling of your mentors may one day become your floor, and one day you will look back and remember your friends, mentors, and even enemies, and be grateful for all the blood sweat and tears spent on their behalf, by their encouragement, because it got you where you are, in a place where you could reach your dreams, and catch your goals. That’s what this show is truly about. And to be honest, a show does not have to be about anything deeper than that to be enjoyable, it just depends on how that story is executed that makes it interesting or exciting. Heck, One Piece went on for almost 800 episodes, and I don’t think anyone is tired of the Shounen formula it used. On the contrary there are still tons of anime in production now which were inspired by this one plot thread. That of the boy who dreams. The Cinderella story. The one about reaching for the stars and bringing them down to earth, and having the spirit and willpower to do so. That’s what great shounen is about, and while My Hero Academia won’t be on any of my favorites lists, I bring it before you as an example of art that did not need to be unique or new in every aspect to be heartfelt and successful. It is actually kind of an inspiration, that no story, now matter how seemingly cliche it is can be enjoyable and meaningful if done the right way, and while I once again have to state that I don’t think My Hero Academia is a masterpiece, I understand why it is so popular, and give it a definite thumbs up for being an enjoyable yet memorable diversion, and a welcome addition to the superhero genre.
Anyway, to sum up, I love the character designs, (most of them) at least in concept, but I greatly wish and desire for the aesthetic choices in any show, to tell me something significant about the world. I would say any story needs that. So, I shall indeed continue to watch this show, and let you know if that ever actually happens. Thanks for reading. God bless.
So, now that I’ve continued watching past the first few episodes, I have happened upon the episode which has finally made the reasoning behind the anime’s reputation as a gut wrenching death show, clear to me. For those who have not seen the show, I shall leave the names out of it for the sake of spoilers, but throughout the first six episodes, a certain character was being slightly developed, with a sudden spike in development in episode 6, which was well received by me. I liked the character, and the development given her. In episode 6, this character is shot, bisected, and dies suddenly, and sacrificially, an event which would increase the motivation of the revolutionary faction which the main character is a part of, which is called Night Raid. This character who died protecting another Night Raid Member, was my very favorite character in the show til then, due to the amount of pathos written into her. The fact that this character was finished off so quickly, suddenly, and without showcasing her full powers, or even fulfill her full story arc before dying, seemed like such a slap in the face to me, that I am tempted to think that the writing of Akame Ga Kill is less than exemplary, rather it is somewhat to be deplored after a certain fashion. It is taking a viable favorite character of many people, and making her an “expendable crewman,” to make people understand that the situation is serious. I understand that this death gives the plot a bit more weight, and adds one more reason why the main characters should bear a grudge against the antagonists, but having more character development, and even just a bit more screen time for this person would have drastically improved the emotional impact of their death later, and left me satisfied with her death. To prove this point, another member of Night Raid dies some episodes later, yet that was not anywhere near as traumatic to the viewer, nor such a smack in the face, as the death of the previous member, owing to the fact that this next character got at least 8 episodes worth of character development, each with active screen time in each episode to give them depth. (Sigh) It may be that my liking the character that died in episode 6 somewhat clouds my judgement, but I also liked the second character who died, and yet I was OK with it. They both were really interesting, lovable characters with cool designs according to my taste; the one just got a cool, mournful, noble death while the other got a sudden, disruptive, and somewhat humiliating one, being too quick for me to really appreciate what’s happening, and too bitter for the audience to be able to actually move on from their death. This is what I would call, a cheap way to engage the audience. “Introduce a really interesting, lively character with a backstory which could be awesome when fully revealed, but only reveal a tiny bit of it, get everyone interested, and then kill them off before anyone knows what hit ’em. Yeah, that’ll get the viewers cryin’. I can hear the money just pourin’ in.” Well, I can hear some television-mob bosses quoting those words even now. But if one were to take one quick look on IMDB for episode 6, entitled “Kill the Absolute Justice,” ( by the way, yes all the episodes are entitled with “Kill the-” at the beginning,) one would quickly find that this episode, where a lovable character is killed off too quickly for us to appreciate them, is rated at least a whole point higher than the episodes immediately before or after it! This ploy, which I know from American television is an old, tired, and despicably cliched plot device, is one which invariably works. Lost did it, Breaking Bad did it, and now The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are doing it. Now, the thing is, this tactic definitely immediately freezes that scene, that episode, the characters, and basically the rest of the show in your mind, making the show immediately a memorable one, if for the wrong reasons. I must remind myself that this tactic is not always a horrible one. If done right, it can cause a show to feel truly perilous, like no one has plot armor, and who knows what might happen next. I feel like Attack on Titan, which I actually really like as one of my favorites, (that tells you something about me) actually did do this plot device justice, because while people continuously died left and right, there was always a disturbing reason for it, and the fact that people died did not always serve the plot, but it served the reality of the world. It gave you the feeling that this is a place and a situation where humanity, while safe for the moment, is being put in the position of imminent extinction by horrible monsters, and no-one knows why or how it is happening, so sudden, meaningless deaths are a matter of course, just like in real war. Also, another thing these quick-emotional-deaths have going for them in AoT, is that all of the characters who die are secondary characters who you are immediately able to empathize with, no matter how much development is given them, and also, if they are given development, then it is always enough for you to be able to properly feel like you’ve known the character long enough now to let them go. You are never forced to accept the sudden death of a close companion of the main characters, and I have not yet had to accept the death of my dear glutton Sasha, at leat, not yet. But, for that character that just died in Akame Ga Kill, I’m still burning with anger that I was not able to see much more of her in the show as she so desperately deserved and needed as a character. Now, while all that negativity has been said, I still was not put off by this death enough to make me want to quit watching it, it did not disgust me to that degree. I immediately understood the type of show that this would be from here on out, one which murders its beautifully crafted characters with extreme prejudice for the purpose of plot convenience and quick thrills, and if they can use this trope more effectively, then I am still up for the ride. Indeed, in the very next story arc there was another death of a very close member of the cast, and yet that one was done with elegance and grace, giving you at least two more episodes to prepare you for what was to come. Will this show be able to keep up that elegance and grace? We shall see, next time. Thanks for reading and joining me on my viewing experience.
So, this post in-particular should indeed be shorter than is my wont. That is due to the nature of it being about the fact that I am just watching Akame Ga Kill, right now, and little else. We’ll see how that goes by the time I stop writing it. I decided to watch Akame Ga Kill on a whim recently, as I usually do with anime, and not because of a review I watched, or a recommendation I listened to, which does sometimes happens but more rarely. As I slowly grow the amount of blogs I write, and attempt to become more aware of my tastes and decisions, I realize that I have been mainly watching fantasy anime as of late. This has not always been so. I had finished Sword Art Online, and Log Horizon almost three years ago, and felt a little burnt out by the RPG, Fantasy, Isekai genre in general. Since then I have remained in the realms of supernatural thrillers, mysteries, horrors, and comedy, without any further dives (SAO reference) into another fantasy world. That was until what I might term another “SAO killer” came along to put a shot in the already holey and steroid ridden arm of fantasy anime called, Re:Zero. After finishing that first 2016 season, which is useless when it comes to plot conclusion or emotional closure, (at least for me) I craved even more of this Fantasy genre, this thing which I did not know I had been starving for. That is when I actively began searching out more anime like Re:Zero, and ran across Danmachi, and then Konosuba, and you can read my thoughts on those elsewhere on my blog site. Now, I know for certain that I am a very mystery oriented person; any Sherlock Holmes story is my favorite short story over anyone else’s, and I have watched almost every iteration of Holmes in cinema that I could, so I did enjoy myself while taking a hiatus from fantasy to focus on the more dark and mysterious side of anime between Log Horizon and Re:Zero. To be honest though, I am so much more happy analyzing and agonizing over points of logic or plot when it comes to fantasy themes than I am with mystery when it comes to anime. Maybe it is because of the supposed lack of big mystery oriented anime in the medium, I don’t know. Now I’m kind of caught up in the whirlwind of second rate but enjoyable fantasy shows, which I am thoroughly enjoying while also able to thoroughly enjoy criticizing heavily. I also watched an exorbitant amount of Fate/Zero while in this mindset, and even that show was enjoyable for me to watch, while being one of the most vacuous stories I have ever seen. This is the state of mind I am in, OK. So now, while sitting on the couch, waiting for another episode of Attack on Titan 2 to come out, I stumble across an anime that My Anime List has been recommending to me ever since I told it that I liked Mirai Nikki and Tokyo Goul, that being Akame Ga Kill. The main things which drew me to the show when I first came across it were the facts that it was a thriller type, something like Mirai Nikki, which I liked for its plot and action. I liked that it had cover art and character design which I viewed (and still do) as being incredibly interesting and beautiful according to my tastes, and yes, that it was a fantasy. (I do always get sort of excited when I see the cover art for this show, even now, and the design for Katana Wielding Akame is absolutely brilliant.) This is a show however that I had sort of unwillingly decided to avoid based on reviews alone, because almost all of these reviews had nothing but negativity with which to describe it. “It’s a harem anime, don’t be fooled by the action. It’s so bloody no normal person should be able to stomach it. The animation is so inconsistent it might as well be Fate/Stay Night,” and so on and so forth. All of these things hit home with my perspective of morality I bring to anime, which states that the reasons to not watch shows are determined by them being too sensual and fan-servicey, being too gory or violent, or having a very shallow or meaningless plot. So, I hesitantly turned a blind eye to Akame Ga Kill, believing it to be another over-hyped, over-rated crowd-pleaser show, with no depth. That is, until now, and to be honest, I still don’t know if I will like this show in the end, because I am only a few episodes in, but I can tell you right now, that two things it is not; badly animated, or shallow plot-wise. Yet again, I must stress the importance of expectations when it comes to entertainment. If I had jumped on the bandwagon of hype and marketing which surrounded it in the Summer of 2014, declaring it the apparent savior of anime, I might have been disappointed with the somewhat obvious direction which Akame Ga Kill goes in, in its first arc. But hey, that first episode, while bloody, illogical and ridiculous, was still incredibly enjoyable, strangely enough, as well as fascinating, and by the third episode, you are finding depth you never expected to find in a show of this sort. Is it a classic? Well, again, I don’t know, but I am not put off from the idea that it might be, even if it is a bit like pulp-fiction for the masses. The fact that something is flawed does not preclude it from becoming a classic. So, the titular question of is it a classic, or just some more over-hyped anime trash, is one that I hope to answer by watching, and blogging. So far, I am liking it, despite its obvious flaws, and if you care to follow along in the ride of my thoughts on the subject, I shall be posting more of those thoughts as they come, and as I watch. God Bless!
There are always bad or immoral parts or additions to any given medium, and it is the duty of the discerning consumer, and especially the critical thinker, to find and praise the best, and to find and warn the world of the worst. The funny thing about these particular anime that I’ve been criticizing, is that all of the more fan-service focused shows, are Isekai shows. SAO was a fan-service-like show, Re;Zero was a mildly fan-service show, DanMachi is a certain kind of fan-service show, and Konosuba is definitely a fanservice show, and it definitely does not help my case that Konosuba definitely fulfills the perverted stereotypes. The common denominator among all of these isekai shows, is that they all share a negative problem with anime in general; fan-service. The world may say, oh sexual fan-service can be good if it is done the right way, but for upright, self-respecting, morally minded people, especially Christians who have their reasons for moral standards given to them by God, fan-service is never right, and no amount of enjoyable content can make blatant sexual objectification OK.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading, I am impressed by you. Keep on keeping on, watching anime in the goodness and grace of God.
(The Deluge, by Francis Danby)
In the last segment, I addressed the world’s secular view of death and the afterlife, or lack of view rather, and what that view leads to. Annihilationism leads to the destruction of human morals, religion, and therefore, humanity itself. In this segment and the next however, I shall address the worldview that matters, and the one that makes sense of the death and destruction of this world; that of the resurrection. In order to rightly explain this, it is necessary to go back to the beginning; Genesis.
In the first few chapters, the creation of all things is poetically explained, as well as presented in philosophical detail. Much of what is written there is written not so that we could know the details of how things looked, sounded, felt, or how things happened, but rather so that we could know how to think about God and His intentions for creation in a theological, philosophical way. What gives rise to an unrealistic, humanistic, or nihilistic worldview, is a misinterpretation of these passages of scripture.
The first error, is reading it symbolically, that the things stated here are meant to convey metaphorical, or “spiritual” realities. An example might go thus, “God did not literally make the universe in six days, Genesis says that so that we would have a framework for a weekly Sabbath day of rest after six days of work so that we don’t burn out in ministry” or some such nonsense. God actually did the things it says. He is to be credited with the creation of all things in six 24 hour days of creation. Creation of the planets and stars, of male and female, of angel and demon, of plant and animal, and more to the point, He is the creator both of life and death.
The hackles rise on the necks of many conservative Christian denominations nationwide when that phrase is heard. “God is responsible for death? That is blasphemy! Death is the fault of Satan and the sin of Man, not of God! God gives life! Not death!” This reasoning, while Biblically wrong, has a logic to it. They are trying to uphold the holiness and arbitrary goodness of God, while ignoring the justice of God, and they do not realize that they are creating a paradox. The reason why this is so important to oppose, is that by interpreting the Bible this way, they are unwittingly giving more credit to the power of the Devil, and the Power of Man, and the Power of sin, than to God Himself.
The question I always tend to bring up in the conversation about why God allows so much suffering and death in the world, (I admit with something of a devilish grin) is this; who is responsible for bringing death to the world? I grin at them maniacally until they answer me, and almost always they answer with the good old argument that “It’s Satan’s fault” or “It’s the sin of man’s fault,” sometimes with an impudent “of course,” thrown in there for good measure. That idea, while long held to be true in Sunday schools around the world, is a simple misinterpretation of the Word, a seemingly insignificant error which in fact causes the entire foundation of the grand masterpiece of the Gospel to fall apart with a deafening crash if believed in unconditionally.
So who caused death to come into the world? The answer is simple; God did. It was God, and no one else, who chose to make death a consequence of sin, and He instituted this consequence before ever man sinned, and before Satan ever entered the Garden of God. Not only that, it was He and He alone, who intentionally caused sin to be taken into effect once man sinned. I hear death and sin spoken of as basically interchangeable, or that death is just a symptom of sin, like the ripple that is caused when a stone is thrown in water, “it affects everything it touches.” This is bad theology, but even worse, it is sacrilegious to think of death as the product of sin, because according to the scriptures, sinners would live on forever in sin, unpunished by the consequence of death if God had not decided to make the rule of law that those who sin will also surely die, and then also enforced it by banishing men from the tree of life. That is the only true, and right way to view death, as God’s punishment for sin, as well as the inhibitor for man’s sinful ways.
People die every day because God chose for them, in His perfect will, to die. This is a hard truth to deal with because death is so negative, and we tend to attribute all negativity to Satan, and all positivity to God. It grieves Him to put man to death, but it is the wisest choice when faced with a disobedient, and depraved humanity. That was not His plan in the beginning, and Man did make an avoidable mistake when He ate the fruit of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, but ever since then, God has willfully enforced the punishment on all of creation that “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
Later in Romans 8:20 it states, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope…” It was God who did this of His own accord, and it was just and right for all men to die for the sins of Adam, and it still is. It is God’s own goodness that He subjects man to death, for can you even imagine a sinful human race, who are both hopelessly sinful as well as immortal, continuing to live for themselves while hopelessly flawed? We can see a taste of that in Genesis before the flood, a time when men lived anywhere from 300 to 900 years of age depending upon how well they lived, and it says of that powerfully vigorous generation, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
What did God do then? He did not allow this sort of evil to continue unchecked. So how did he stop them? His answer was death. God’s answer to the blight of sinfulness, is the intervention of unnatural death, for men was meant to live forever, but by the grace of God, the punishment of death was instituted over every immortal human, that men might learn to fear the Lord. Pagans and atheists both argue with perceived authority that because there is suffering in the world, God does not exist. My argument, is that if death did not exist in this sinful world, then I would agree with them that God does not exist, and in this way, death itself is a testimony of the existence, and goodness, of God.
But the type of death that we see in the world, is not the only death that there is. All we experience on the earth in our mortal generation is the death of the body, and the passing of the spirit of those we know and love. The body breaks down, either by disease or killing (yes, those are the only two sorts of death there are, because dying of natural causes only means dying of diseases which we do not have a cure for) and the personality of the person we knew is no longer there. They are, for all intents and purposes, gone, and there is no one else like them in all the earth. This experience of ours understandably gives rise to this simplistic notion that when death comes, the spirit is destroyed, and they no longer exist. As I mentioned in the last blog post, Christians cannot, if properly informed by the Word, believe this however, for Christ’s salvation is not salvation from non-existence, but from that which Christ Himself calls “The wrath of God against sinners.”
Those who believe upon Christ are saved from the wrath of God, as the gospel states. If that is true, then why do Christians still die around us? This is a very apparent phenomenon. The most holy, devoted, and astute Christians still experience death, and their bones are in the ground where they are buried. So what Christ meant when He said “the wrath of God” must mean something other than physical death. So what does He mean by it?
The fact that all men die is one that cannot be argued against, the wicked and the just fall prey to it, and as I mentioned before, death or the destroyer is seen an actual angel who comes to take away the life from our bodies multiple times in the Bible. This is Christian doctrine, although one which is never spoken of much from the pulpits. How the angel of death does this, and whether or not he, she, or it comes to every human in turn is not told to us specifically, but I think it is safe to say that the angel of death/the destroyer would not be named as such if he, she, or it were not in charge of bringing death itself. This is simply an interesting aside, and one which is only meant to show us the power of God over His angels, any one of which can destroy an entire army of humans without our knowledge.
My point is, that the Gospel is not meant to save us from immediate physical death. God may grant us miracles which could delay death for a time, for which we should definitely pray and expect an answer, but God’s salvation, and His Spirit, are not given to us for the purpose of health and wellness. What He saves us from in this age, and what He subjected His own son to, and what His son knowingly put Himself through, is the experience of estrangement from God, and the suffering of the curse which will follow us into the afterlife if we do not repent and cling to Christ as the sacrifice for our personal sins, and our eternal Bridegroom, King, and Judge. There will be a day, when Christ returns with the multitude of His Godly ones to destroy evil and bring the Kingdom to earth, and then there will be no more crying, dying or pain, but that day has been coming for over 2,000 years, and while the time is nearer than before, we will experience this cycle of death and pain all the way up until that day comes. Christ’s sacrifice made a way for the transformation of the heart now, and the transformation of the body then.Until that day, we must struggle with this issue of death, and strive to understand it.
So what is the Gospel meant to save us from? Well, in this interim period between the fall of Adam and the Second Coming of Christ, we have a choice to make as to how we shall live, and what we believe. This choice will determine the way in which God shall judge us when death comes. The choice is obedience, or disobedience, pride, or humility, love or hate, to believe in the Words of Christ implicitly, or disbelieve Him and believe the words of men and our own minds. This life we have is both a test, and a chance. A test as to whether or not we deserve to make it to heaven, and a chance to get there even though we do not deserve to. This is the goal of salvation; intimacy with God, and if God is in heaven, then that is where we will want to be.
So even if we do believe in God we still have to reckon with this painful thing called death, which is both a hindrance to, and an aid to our intimacy with God. This shows us what is most important to God. If what He cared about most was our immediate health and comfort, then we definitely would already have it. (This is the mental framework from which atheists and agnostics begin when positing the opinion that if God were good then suffering would not exist, that God is meant to make us immediately happy.) What He cares about, is that He have a corporate Bride, a group of people who will choose to love Him rather than ourselves, and to accept physical death, and the death of our sinful desire, gracefully, and lovingly, so that we might be shining denizens of love and light who continually shine brighter for all eternity. That is His goal, and that is what He gives to those who follow Him through the trials and pains of life and death.
What follows then, is the explanation of what happens to those who do not follow Him, who do not love, who do not believe, and do not die to themselves gracefully. This necessitates it’s own blog post, and the explanation of both of the Old Testament ideas of Sheol and Gehenna, and their references in the New Testament.
So in the next blog post, I will continue to speak on this topic of death, but this time moving on past burial and the grave, and ascend (or descend) to the afterlife, where men even there, can still find the mercy and goodness of a moral God, who still has it in His heart to speak to those souls with grace and compassion
Death is ubiquitous; it claims us all. It is said that death is the only certainty of life. The reality of death has been characterized, personified, and anthropomorphized the world over, from ancient depictions of gods of death like Anubis, to the depiction of Death as the Grim Reaper. Associated with all of these gods or folk tale characters however, is the character’s duty as the guardian or shepherd of the afterlife. There exists no deification or personification of death in the world who leads a person to utter annihilation after killing them. The two ideas, an angel of death, and annihilationism, are diametrically opposed thoughts. If supernatural beings exist, then the afterlife exists.
To the ancient mind, and even just the traditional mind, the body dies and the soul flies. Annihilationism in the public eye is relatively speaking, a very new philosophical idea in world history, although unique individual cases of annihilationism have definitely existed in the past. It is a philosophy which comes only from intense and convoluted human reasoning, not something to be found in a literal understanding of the Bible. This philosophy of nothingness after death has now been widely accepted and propagated by the scientific collective of first world countries, yet this common sense of eternity and life after death continues to persist in the west, no matter how much philosophizing one engages in. This is because to be dogmatic about annihilationism is to be dogmatic about the unknown, which the open-minded understands to be synonymous with close-mindedness.
To quote Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.” Yet in our western society, life after death is consigned to the musings of poets or the superstitions of religious groups. The scientific community and media try to convince us that “we all know that life after death is just a mistaken dream. We have now been enlightened by higher science. We know there is no such thing.” The economy thrives on the idea that this life is all there is, and the ultimate moral to follow in our culture is to “live life to its fullest.” There is no arguing this point. For the secular evolutionist, each individual must strive for their greatest good, and the greater good of humanity as a species, without consideration of dated morals or ethereal spiritual phenomena. This is because the consensus of the scientific world is that the furtherance of technology, and the continuance of life on earth are the most important goals to achieve.
This has ramifications on all parts of western life, from how we treat each other in relationships, to how companies and nations are governed. There ceases to be a value in the “ethereal” ideas of kindness, of unconditional love, of personal sacrifice, or of objective moral standards. The true Darwinist does not concern himself with these all too simplistic humanities. If someone were to follow Evolutionism, Nietzscheism, and Darwinism, (each of which inform our current liberal first world mindset) to it’s logical conclusion, their life would mirror that of the highly intelligent and amorally bestial Wolf Larsen in Jack London’s disturbing masterpiece, The Sea Wolf. It meticulously described the truth of what kind of man the “Enlightenment” would produce; someone who can be both incredibly learned, and yet inhumanly cruel. Someone who will maim and kill anyone regardless of age race and gender for his own ends of success and pleasure, and if he cannot accomplish those ends, then suicide is the only logical answer. Someone who would rather die than be at the mercy of others, because all that matters is survival of the fittest.
This is what comes of a mind conformed by annihilationism in a secular context, but is not without influence upon the Christian mind. Indeed I have met and spoken with a surprisingly high number of people who believe in the annihilationist view of soul sleep, in which God merely puts to sleep the souls of those who are damned, never to rise again or taste of the blessings of eternal life which those who receive salvation experience. They say they read the Bible all the way through, and see in it no trace of a literal Hell, nor of eternal damnation, for how could God be good if He sends people to torment forever? This argument comes from the desire to make God merciful at the expense of God being just, and the added expense of sin being sinful, or worthy of punishment. They say this idea comes from their reading of the gospels, but it comes from an imaginative, metaphorical understanding of scripture, and therefore, not a literal, or real one. It explains away passages which speak of worms that die not, of eternal flames, of torturers, and of lakes of fire, with super-spiritual language and inductive reasoning which twists the straightforward message into something ethereal, and therefore not easily understood. If those concrete terms about perdition’s flames are figurative speech for soul sleep, then my third grade essay about my family vacation to the mountains is really a treatise on the doctrine of predestination.
Those who hold to this idea of soul sleep are lobbying for the mercy of God, but what if I told you that God is only truly merciful not in spite of his sentencing humans to Hell, but because of it? And what if I told you that He is merciful enough to speak to those whose sentence has long been passed? These are the truths that I shall address in part the second of this my blog on The Immortal Dead. As always, this blog is intended to spark the intellect, not to spark fights. I am as faulty as any other thinker out there, and therefore just as easily mistaken, so if you disagree with me, tell me why, and I shall seek to become better informed. God bless!
Greetings friends! And welcome to Charles’ Classic Blog. This time my entry shall be geared towards a genre of artistic media which has been considered both strange and obscure but is rapidly growing in western popularity, Anime. Yes, that Japanese cartoon style so famous for its flashy Saturday morning cartoons, and infamous for its oversexualized depictions of female characters. My focus in the genre however, has always been to find those Anime serials which avoid both the childish and the oversexual, tending rather to more dramatic, romantic, suspenseful, and therefor more mature content; mature meaning the opposite of immature, rather than the opposite of “For General Audiences.” These types of anime, neither too immature nor too “adult,” do definitely exist in greater numbers than they are given credit for. Some entries in the genre even deserve to stand up next to some of the greatest Hollywood films, and sometimes surpass them in scope and imagination.
So if you have no interest in Anime whatsoever, you might think this post to be too specific or narrow-minded in its emphasis, for you. BUT! If you have any semblance of an open mind, this review may lead you to an understanding of and appreciation for a widely neglected form of entertainment which you may not have seriously considered before. This is an Anime review not just for Anime fans I assure you. I would also like to point out that as with all things I write, I tend to rant and ramble, and therefor will take more than a modicum of patience to read. With that, let me set the stage for how I came to view this rather thought provoking anime.
The weekend of June the 20th, I was experiencing quite a bit of ennui, and therefore began looking through a list of recently aired anime, to see if the Japanese could in any way interest my bored mind with their two dimensional machinations, as they have so many times in the past. All I was looking for was something highly rated, four stars at least, with a deep and interesting plot which could intrigue me, at least for a bit. I did not want to be dragged into a long and episodic marathon, like some Shounen anime tend to be (which literally translated means few years and is currently applied to anime or manga which would appeal to young or teen boys. Think Pokemon or Dragonball Z.) As I scrolled, I came across the title ERASED, with a rather attractively drawn picture of a young boy and girl in winter apparel, sitting in the back of a dark bus, with a dim lantern casting shadows on the floor.
I had heard of this anime many times before; seemingly the instant the anime aired in January the internet exploded with praise for it, even before the anime ended in March. So I heard of it immediately when it aired, but held off from watching it for several different reasons. The first reason, was that the art looked so good and of such a specific style, as to be highly reminiscent of emotional drama anime, by which I mean HEART-RENDINGLY TRAGIC, such as Clannad, which I have seen, or Angel Beats, which I have not. I did not wish to repeat such an experience so soon after having seen Clannad (almost six months before.)
The second reason, has much to do with my own eccentric personality. I highly prize older and sometimes more obscure anime, such as Trigun, Lovely Complex, and His and Her Circumstances, and so if I see that something is popular, and everyone is losing their minds over it, I feel a slight sense of disgust because, based on experience, hype many times leads to disappointment. I had this same reaction when made suddenly aware of the wildly popular One Punch man by seeing rows and rows of it selling out at my favorite Barnes and Noble bookstore. After waiting five or six months for the hype to die down, I watched One Punch Man, and as I expected, it was…OK. Nice animation though…
The third reason, was that I had heard from a couple of friends who saw it, that ERASED had an interesting start, and a disappointing finish, turning out to be an overall mediocre piece of entertainment which may not be worth the time. The general consensus seemed to be that it was a show which hyped itself up in the first episodes, but soon died away in a bad ending. This, more than anything else, helped to make up my mind that this was an anime which, like a poorly built fire, would flare up suddenly due to good production values, but soon die out due to lack of solid writing.
This was my impression as an onlooker while the anime community waxed and waned in devotion to this well made, but apparently ill executed adaptation of a highly acclaimed manga series of the same name. I had therefor panned the series, avoiding it happily for the reasons stated above. At the time of which I write when boredom had set in, it had been three months since I had last considered watching the show. ERASED, originally known as The Town Where Only I Am Missing, was the highest rated in the list of anime I was looking at, and I decided it was high time that I found out what this apparently controversial anime title was about. I watched a couple of non-spoilerific reviews on the show, and came away quite surprised by the overwhelmingly positive impression that the reviews gave of the show. I had expected that there would be some praise of the animation and the premise, but that then there would come the hammer of criticism on weak plot points, and an ending that would somehow make the show not worth watching. Indeed, right after the show finished, I had read and heard scathing reviews which warned everyone from watching it, telling everyone to “beware disappointment.”
So, I heard horrible things, listened to contradictory arguments about the show’s value, and subsequently thought that the show was an emotional waste of time. I decided to watch however, expecting an entertaining but unimpressive past-time at best, or a total waste of time at worst.
But then I started watching the show, and holy crap was I wrong. I was immediately impressed with the premise and supernatural time travel elements which are put to good use within first five minutes of the beginning. I was reminded of the sort of edge-of-your-seat intensity and mind bending content as what is found in Steinsgate, which is itself my standard for judging good sci-fi/time travel dramas, which means I was quit pleased with what I saw in the first episode. It made me want to watch the second immediately, which I was not expecting. Every subsequent episode was better than the last, adding interesting characters, intriguing subplots, a mystery to be solved, strange powers to be employed, victims to be saved, and a culprit to be caught. And the trend never stops…except that it does near the end, which is a definite downer…and I shall get to that later.
Up until the tenth episode you don’t know what will happen, and crazy heart breaking events occur ever so often to remind you that this is no kids show, this is life and death, and it’s enough to allow this show to exist under labels of “Psychological thriller” and “Tragedy.” These two elements are some of my favorites in all media, live action included, and both elements usually occur in some form in all of the anime which I like.
There are sound moral messages, episodes that are aimed at raising awareness for child abuse, kidnapping, and depression, and black and white bouts of good versus evil, all of which combine to form a surreal time-travel drama which is also darkly realistic. People die every day, children are kidnapped, and suicide happens all of the time in the real world, and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it. No one can turn back the clock. But what if we could? How could we change things? And more importantly, if we could change things, what would be the consequences for the hero? This show explores these ideas. You cannot come away from being invested in so many people’s lives unscathed, and the MC for this series certainly does not.
Self sacrifice is a pivotal theme to this show, and I can’t help but think that this show can’t help but be a good one because of that fact. It gives us traditional messages which harken back to timeless tales of courage and selflessness. It gets at the heart of why we exist, and the answer this show gives, while somewhat incomplete, is to love others unconditionally, no matter what the danger is to ourselves. It’s a traditional hero tale, with traditional hero tropes, and while that may be a cliche, it’s a cliche I will never tire of, and one which will always have positive impact upon the viewer.
All that being said, this show, while enjoyable, heart wrenching, and nail biting, still has a couple of fundamental flaws which caused some viewers to toss the remote at the TV in frustration by the end. This is what I was referring to earlier; the time when the unpredictable element goes out the window, and becomes hopelessly cliched. The flaws are thus: romance never comes to focus or fruition. This show is literally gushing, oozing, overflowing with romantic tension. Every moment the character spends with the female leads is another coin in the bank of an emotional payoff, and makes the viewer hope to God that they will get together someday. The problem is, that while their relationships do deepen, heck, even young confessions of affection even take place…no true romance ever happens in this anime. The bank full of emotional coins is never broken to give us the romantic payoff we hoped for, and the incredibly loved starved reactions of the main character at the end of the show is an unabashed statement of that fact. He wants love, he needs love, but because of the circumstances, he is constantly denied it. The moment he may be granted happiness, is where the show ends, which is one reason why someone might hate this show.
However! The fact that they showed that the MC will find love after the show, is a merciful sign of compassion from the creators of the show to the emotionally scarred people who slugged through this roller-coaster of a thrill ride to it’s conclusion. I say that this show ends well, precisely because while it does leave you hanging on the romantic note, it gives you enough proofs that romance will happen, that it does not need to tell you the details. It hints at Satoru’s perfect love, but does not insult your intelligence by having a bunch of episodes dedicated to how it will happen. It leaves it up to your imagination. Another thing about this somewhat disappointing romance, is that romance is not what the authors intended when creating this anime. It is not the point, and never takes center-stage because it was never meant to; the mystery and drama of the serious happenings which take place and the stakes involved are the thrust and foci of this show, not romance per se.
The second and final negative of this show goes thus:
The badguy does not have a good motivation, and his identity is easily guessed pretty early on. This is a huge problem, because every episode has something in it which is trying to figure out who the killer is, and why he does what he does, which builds up quite a bit of anticipation in those who watch intently with that purpose in mind. In any mystery, there exists the desire in the reader to attempt to solve the mystery himself; it is inherent to the genre. So when the killer is so easily identified, there comes the hope that the writers will bring in a plot twist of some sort to throw you off, and show you how it was someone else all along, and every couch detective will then moan in self derision for not figuring that out, and smack themselves in the forehead, which is both an artful thing to do, and intellectually pleasurable for the reader. This particular mystery show, does not even try to do this. There is a finite and definitely small number of suspects to start with, and by the eighth episode, it can come down to only one person. The culprit is then unmasked at the very end in such a dramatic fashion as would connotate that the writers meant it to surprise everyone watching, and cause a collective “My GOD! How could this be!?” to escape from the throats of the viewers and the anime characters alike. Instead, the viewers will inevitably make this face, -_- and fold their arms, uttering a collective, “No duh,” from their throats.Not only that but the culprit’s motivations for killing, kinapping, or doing anything are so utterly simplistic and cliched that it is a wonder that the writers even chose to include an explanation of it in the anime at all.
However! There is an element of classic villainy in this formula, which also makes it endearing to those who enjoy a good “black and white superhero flick,” which I do. It reminds me inparticular of the motivation behind Batman’s infamous villain the Joker, who only ever does anything evil because it “makes him laugh.” He has a demonic sense of humor, and no conscience to stop him from making fun of society, therefor he is the most deadly criminal in human history, he doesn’t need an ingenious childhood backstory to make his motive believable. It’s just Batman versus Joker, and the interesting thing is not Joker’s motivations but the action that happens between the two that makes the whole show worth watching. The same is true of the villain in Erased, he does what he does because he wants to, and all that matters is which one wins in the end, the main character, or the antagonist. This is definitely a shame though, because the show has this gritty and realistic tone to it that makes an ingenious character motivation necessary for the villain to fit the tone of the show. In this case, the character falls flat, and there is no further excuse or validation to be made for it, it was a bad choice, and it takes the series down a notch because of it.
That concludes my review. The only other negative thing I could possibly say is that there isn’t more insane nail bitingly intense episodes to this story, which is definitely not a negative. On the other hand though, I think it remains so engaging and intense precisely because they limited it to twelve episodes, allowing them to pack in as much of the plot as possible into as few episodes as possible, which keeps it from having a bunch of meaningless filler episodes jamming up the gears and slowing down the pace. I wanted a shorter series with more of a punch than your typical long running anime, and that is exactly what I got. For ERASED, my rating from one (being the worst) to ten (being the best) based on how many positive elements there are to this show compared with how many negative elements there are to the show, then I would give it a 7.5-8.0 out of 10, with a 0.5 margin of error for those who dislike the negative aspects more. There is a lot more positive than negative, and while it is more of a simple good versus evil drama, the way it is framed is so engaging and interesting that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller. It is definitely on my top ten list. There you have it.
When it comes to anything in entertainment, or in life for that matter, you are in more of a position to be disappointed or bemused when one does not know what they are getting into, which is why I make reviews. I hope you found this helpful, and if you have never watched anime before, this would make a good entry into the medium for you, because anime is not a genre, it is just another medium, like painting, or music, or theatre, it is meant to tell a story in a specific style, and in this case, this animated thriller goes right up there with the live action ones. That’s it for me! God bless, and one more thing…
(The above painting is by Joses Feid Anastasius Grün entitled Picture of a Mountaineer.)
I admit to giving this entry a rather provocative title, but to be honest, this is the title that most adequately expresses the question in my mind as I ponder the modern phenomena which I have observed in a large number of my friends, known simply as (drum roll) Wanderlust. Before I get into the meat of this little discussion point, I wish to give definition to what I am talking about.
Wanderlust is a simple compound word straight from the German words Wander, which means to wander, and Lust, which means to you know, lust. Obviously. That is a pretty straightforward etymology, especially since English has adopted these words as its own without changing them whatsoever. These words were apparently put together as one, in the 1850s, an age when travel and industry were rapidly increasing, with Steamboating, Railroading, and Keelboating having been perfected for public travel in the decades previous. The word was meant to be used to express the unique feeling which those who have traveled and enjoyed it feel when the urge to travel again comes upon them. There is a certain similarity inherent in the meaning of this word which is akin to the meaning of being stir-crazy, or having cabin fever. These phrases however, both have to do with being confined to the indoors and desiring to go outside, whereas wanderlust has a much more wide ranging scope in its definition, which includes but is not limited to going outside, seeing new places, visiting old ones, and generally going on long trips to far away places. It is a very convenient word for a very specific meaning.
In modernity, and specifically in the community of Evangelical Christians in which I find myself, the term Wanderlust has taken on even more significance than its etymology so obviously suggests. It has come to be the defining trait of an entire community of people who can relate to one another on the grounds that they always want to be somewhere else than here. I say that jokingly, but in sincerity that is how it is with them, and they would agree to that with a chuckle. My question is whether this type of lust should be praised for its unique brand of culture and excitement as I know the secular world sees it, or regarded as a sinful modern malady to be treated.
How on earth would you have come to such a negative conclusion sir, you ask? I will tell you, but first, I must put forth some qualification. I myself, am not a traveler, rather, I am an introvert. I have lived in the same house for twenty years and have little desire to leave. I have never left the United States, and have never felt the sensation of Wanderlust so talked of by my peers. I should also qualify that much of what I will say is based on my own opinions and experiences as an inexperienced hermit. I therefore have something of a bias against vacationing, since I myself find little pleasure in a simple change of location. And to all those who are determined travelers, I bear you no ill will, and mean no offense or disrespect to you or your hobby.
So to begin, there is nothing about travel which, on the face of things, makes it inherently sinful or sacred. It is what it is, getting from one place to another-traveling. Many say traveling is good; it brings new experience, and allows for the culturing, and maturation of the traveler, as well as opening new opportunities for financial gain, creation of friendships and spiritual growth. I agree with them. There is a whole world of wonder and adventure to be explored, created by our God that we might experience it with Him, and so there lies an incredible prerogative for the inhabitants of God’s earth to do so. There is little more impactful to the human mind and life, than to stand on a mountain, looking over the vast and detailed beauty of the landscape beyond, and to know that it was God who shaped it all with His hand. This is definitely worth doing, and would be a practice which I would call sacred.
Practical or spiritual types of travel however, i.e. travel for the betterment of someone who has never been to another country, business traveling, family reunions, or traveling on a spiritual pilgrimage, is not the kind of travel I am talking about. People have been traveling for pleasure and spirituality for centuries, and the royal or wealthy have been doing so since the dawn of human civilization. What I am referring to, is a certain subculture of traveling for the sake of traveling, done by those who have traveled much in the past already, and who will continue to do so as their hobby, their entertainment, and/or their goal for saving up each month. The point of this travel is to culture oneself, to experience other ways of life, to get away from responsibilities and veg out in beautiful, exotic surroundings. The people who do so often, proudly wear the badge of “Worldly and Sophisticated,” often saying how much more mature and experienced they have become for traveling the world; no one around them can argue that point, even if it’s not true, simply because “Well, I haven’t been to Paris, so I guess he’s more interesting than I am…” You also seemingly cannot legitimately call yourself a true artist if you have not had at least one tour of Europe, and you will be ridiculed if you claim to be someone who likes foreign culture if you have never been to one yourself.
This culture has been present in the world ever since 1800s, when the Victorian English of the upper crust would see such travels as the right of passage for the noble and aristocratic who would lord their travel experience and breeding over anyone lower than themselves on the strata. Since then however, it has become easier and easier for the non-aristocratic to travel, til now anyone with a job that brings in any more than minimum wage has the opportunity to go to France and see the sights like the Victorians did. The ability to travel has changed, but the attitude and culture of the Worldly and Sophisticated amongst the people of the west has grown rapidly in the past fifteen to twenty years, and seems to have affected mainly the 20-something, to 30-something age demographic. It is not limited to these ages, but is notably observable in these generations. Indeed it has taken on a different tenor than before, idolizing travel not for the sake of becoming a well bred noble lord, but for the sake of “Becoming a better person,” a moral well exemplified by the book and film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which accurately depicts the type of artsy travel aesthetic I am describing.
This is simple fact, and even this trend, which has it’s own unique aesthetic and demographic, may seem like nothing more than an interesting piece of trivia in current events which glorifies being a cultured world traveler. Indeed, magazines are filled with travel sections encouraging young people to get away from their jobs and busy lives to partake in some frivolous and expensive foreign fun, usually including a centerfold of a hiker in full gear looking down on a green valley from some cliff in the lofty crags of the Alps. It is not an evil, it is simply entertainment for those of us who have a more active or energetic temperament, they say, and works to make a person healthier, happier, and gives you a taste for foreign cultures. In a secular mindset, they would be right. In a secular mindset, being more experienced, more worldly and sophisticated than someone else is a valid pursuit.
This is where Christian religion comes in, and when I say the word religion, I mean a system of beliefs or traditions about deity and spirituality which informs your thoughts and actions. I will always mean to use the term religion in a strictly literal way without any negative connotations. Religion is a good thing; false religion is what Christians are to avoid. Loving Jesus as God and loving your neighbor is indubitably religion. False religion, is pretending to serve God, and using Him in order to garner fame and fortune, or a sense of personal gain. Just wanted to clarify that.
Now then, back to wanderlust. In terms of daily life and traveling, Christianity especially in the Protestant church, has had a pretty well established say on how people are to view foreign travel. If you travel anywhere, it should be for the opportunity for preaching the gospel, even if it’s because you are visiting your German aunt Bertha. The Protestant church is indeed identified by it’s focus on foreign missions ever since the reformation, and this focus increased greatly with the advent of revivalists and traveling missionaries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In modern Protestant thought, one can go so far as to say that there are only two types of Christians, (in fact I have heard several Evangelicals say these very words) there are those who go on missions trips, and then there are those who are disobedient.
Now, I highly value the gospel, as well as the Evangelistic focus to evangelize, but my thoughts on this particular quote are quite contrary. You are either a traveling missionary preacher, or you’re disobedient? The Bible says nothing of this sort, and the Bible is our authority on all things. We are all to be witnesses, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that doing foreign missions as a gospel preacher is a mandatory activity for all Christians. Most of the disciples of Jesus never left their country of origin, and many never even left their cities or towns to preach the gospel. In fact, Paul himself, the foremost evangelist in the Bible second only to Jesus Christ Himself, said that not all are preachers, not all are teachers, not all speak in tongues, and not all prophecy. Each one is to do his duty, whether that means Preaching to the masses on the streets of a foreign country, or speaking in tongues quietly at home to the Lord. Both are valid forms of obedience, but neither are mandatory according to the Scriptures. We can be witnesses to the unsaved by our example, whether we are a preacher, an encourager, or a waiter. In God’s eyes, there is no difference, we all can show Christ’s love.
The Bible does say however, that we are always to do all things unto the glory of God. This leaves nothing at all out of it. It is an all inclusive statement, and if taken with the rest of scripture, means glorifying God in a very specific manner at the same time. You cannot glorify God by any and all means. That is not what the verse is trying to say. What it means is, glorify God by obeying His commandments found in the rest of the canon at all times, thereby, causing all that we do to be glorifying God. It means, staying away from narcissistic tendencies, from doing anything that will glorify yourself rather than God. It means that we keep God in mind at all times, thanking him for the good and praising Him in the bad, taking every opportunity when going out to speak the good news of God’s love to those who might be open to it, doing everything necessary to keep daily quality time with Him, and remembering and talking with Him when doing things that are not outwardly spiritual. It is prioritizing the inner life of worship and prayer to God above all things.
Therefor the question arises; is it sinful to travel around the world just because I want to? The modern day Evangelist uses scripture effectively to convince you that the only Christian “legal” way to travel is with the intent to evangelize or minister. The modern day secularist uses science and numbers effectively to convince you that the best reason to travel is to do it for the fun of it, rest, and relaxation, and is the most healthy thing a young person could do for his or herself. Who is more right?
Is there a solution? What is the answer to this question? You may answer for yourself. That is between you and God. Indeed, I do have a thought or two on the subject, but the reason I wrote this was mainly to cause thought on the subject more than anything else. I definitely have had to think much on this subject, simply because it gets brought up a lot in modern media and in the circle of friends and family I possess.
I have served in several churches, and a couple of different ministries, and all of them had a focus on missions and evangelism to some extent, which attracted a significant catch of those who would call themselves “citizens of the world,” and would fit into the “wanderlust community.” They are all Christians, and ascribe to living their lives for God, which meant something specific to me, but in all actuality means many things to many people.
All of these youthful adherents to the Word of God had participated in Missions at some time in their lives, but not all continued to do so. I would hear of some of my friends taking trips to Europe or South America once every couple of years, once a year, and sometimes even once a month, with differing focuses on missions and entertainment. Those who were very active missionaries would travel constantly to and from the Middle East, and I could definitely understand their reasons why, and their ardor for preaching the gospel there, while I could not necessarily relate to their insane energy. But when I would hear news of those who traveled once a year over seas or even oftener without so much as a thought to ministering to others, I would be legitimately taken aback. Questions such as “Do they have the money for that?” or “Are they visiting family?” or “Couldn’t they be using their money for someone else?” or “Why are they even doing it?” would run through my mind like a swarm of hornets disturbed from their nests by a well aimed stone throw.
The answers I would get from them when they returned would do little to quell the little flurry of doubts in my mental wasp’s nest. “Why do you go so often if not for missions?” I would ask.
“The people are just so nice over there! Nicer than here.”
“I feel so much more cultured when I go to new places.”
“I just love the art, and architecture.”
“The atmosphere is just so unique and wonderful.”
“The views, wildlife and landscapes are just so beautiful.”
“Rock climbing on those mountain ranges is worth the time and effort it takes to go there.”
“The food and wine is so great, you can’t get it anywhere else.”
“I love the feeling you get when waking up in a different country. It’s so exciting!”
These, among other comments of similar content, were always the types of answers I would receive upon asking the question of why; and if I were to be brutally technical, I would call those secular answers to a theological question. For these types of things, the adventurous and restless of heart spend thousands of dollars multiple times a year in hotel costs, food costs, and plane tickets. Consistent recreational travel can be pricey.
The question I would raise in response to those answers, as a representative of the heart of God, and partially as a representative of the introverted homebodies of the world, would be this. “You spend all that just to have fun and pamper yourself by touring another country, but how much do you spend on God every year?” Now most people, both secular and Christian, would call the person who would ask that sort of question legalistic, a killjoy, or a party pooper. Those who wish to be technical about it would try to justify themselves by saying, “I spend the entire year working, serving, and ministering for God, the least I can have is a few weeks of culture for myself. The proportion I serve God is much greater than that of my own pleasure. Surely a loving God would not begrudge me of that small luxury.” And that is actually correct. God Himself begrudges us no good thing or luxury. In fact he does not even begrudge the secular of their sin. At least, not yet…
When we sin, we do hurt God. But when we pass up the chance to Love God more, it is not only that God is neglected, but we lose out as well. We lose out on spiritual maturity, we lose out on a moment with God which could change us forever, and most importantly, we lose out on a chance for greater intimacy with God which will never come again. Is it wrong to spend a few weeks and a few thousands for our own amusement? No, not at all, but if we do it with the goal being self fulfillment, it is definitely settling for less eternal blessing and present intimacy with God than we could have had otherwise, had we intended that trip for experiencing God and preaching the Gospel.
The bottom line is this; the world seeks health and wellness because it values self gratification over the worth of God. If you’re healthy, you will have more fun when you play. For those of us who know we have been bought with a price, and have given ourselves to the Lover of our souls, even our health and wellness becomes secondary to the calling of Christ. That being said, God Himself values our bodies and our health, and desires that we respect the temple that is our bodies by doing what we can to be in peak physical condition in order that we might fulfill the deeds he has called us to do before the creation of the world. So, if we follow His plans and his heart, we will take good care of ourselves anyway, which may include a restful weekend in the mountains, or a trip to a museum, or even an afternoon at he beach, but if we give ourselves to a lifestyle of extravagant traveling, apart from a goal to win souls and give glory to God, we will become dependent on it, just as one may become addicted to drugs. A drug addict suffers withdrawals. An avid traveler suffers from wanderlust. It may not be as debilitating or openly negative as drug addiction, but it will definitely be as destructive to the inner life, and will cost us even more.
We live in a day and age which idolizes travel, and traveling to an inordinate degree, and if we follow the trends, we are in danger of having the sacred sucked out of our activities, and replaced with secular ambitions of a humanistic nature that leads to the sort of pride which separated the upper class from the peasantry of old. The reason this is so important an issue to me, is because the Lord has clearly stated in the Bible how we as Christians are to live. Scripture clearly states that all men will be judged, yes for their actions, but also for the thoughts of the mind, and the intentions of the heart.
There’s the rub. If you do it for God it’s the good, right, and Christian thing to do, if you do it for yourself it is a secular, Godless and therefor worthless thing to do. You either are sowing to the Spirit, or you are sowing to the flesh, as the Bible states, you are always doing one of the two. I definitely do not think that having a vacation, or taking a tour of Europe from time to time is wrong, I greatly desire to do so one day. However, one should always ask oneself “why am I doing this?” Because as a Christian, everything we do should be either for God or for others, and even doing things for others will be doing it for God. The more of God we see and love, the less we try to please ourselves and our own “Lusts,” whether they be monetary lusts, sexual lusts, or “Wanderlusts.”So, the next time you consider going on a trip to “get away from it all,” just make sure you don’t run away from your responsibility as a bond-servant to God.
Now I know that this post was quite preachy, but God has called us all to a standard of holiness we cannot reach without intentionally following in the footsteps of Christ, whose footsteps I might add, only led him out of his home country once, and that was for the purpose of getting alone with His father, and ministering to a single Canaanite woman. This was recorded for us as an example, let us not neglect it.
Now this admonition of mine applies not only to traveling, but to any form of self indulgence that our modern era has made accessible to us. If we leave God out of anything we love, we are withholding our love from God, and anything, from reading books to video games, can become an idol in His place. Wanderlust may be used in an innocent way, just as the term stir-crazy may be, but I hope and pray that the culture of wandering will not cause a generation to wander from the commandments of the Lord with an innocent and healthy activity. I am reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to Leave the God I love, Take my heart Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” Amen.
To all those wanderers out there, I love and support you in your wandering, as long as it leads you further up, and further in. God bless you in all your journeys.