Greetings, and welcome to another of RishRaff’s Christianity v. Anime. The anime of discussion today is Sunday Without God, and the title alone let’s you know there is plenty to talk about. As an advance warning, there will be SPOILERS, so if you have not seen the anime yet, I do encourage you to watch it. Now, let us dive right in!
Why Christianity v. Anime?
For anyone who missed my previous Christianity v. Anime post, which I encourage you to check out if you enjoy reading this article, here is a quick catch up to why I am writing this. Japan is one of the most secular countries in the world, yet a lot of traditions and attitudes are rooted in religion. Christianity has an interesting backstory in Japan (which I encourage you to look up), and does have a presence, albeit minor, in the modern day Japan. As such, anime provides a useful tool for examining the attitudes of the Japanese towards Christianity. I desire to search out these insights, and see what I can glean from various anime that deal with Christian elements. Sunday Without God, based purely on the title, seems almost sacrilegious, as does the general concept of the anime. However, I would encourage you to look past that, and see the incredible depth this anime possesses. There are plenty of topics I could have chosen, but one topic really stuck out to me, and that is the anime’s depiction of God. Now, it is obviously incorrect based on what the Bible says, but I’ll get into more of that in a bit. It is what the anime is trying to convey that is of great interest, and the anime is more than anything a critique and criticism of humanity’s own arrogance. If you do not know the series, a summary is provided below, and you are welcome to check out our review of Sunday Without God.
Summary: God abandoned the world on Sunday. As a result, nobody in the world can die or reproduce. A little girl, Ai, is the gravekeeper for a village. She has prepared 47 graves for the eventual deaths of every member of the village. Later, a man who identifies himself as “Hampnie Hambart, the ‘Man-eating Toy’,” which is coincidentally the name that Ai’s mother left behind as the name of her father, arrives in the village and slaughters everybody. Just what is going on? -MyAnimeList
What The Anime Got Right and Wrong
This section requires a bit of disclaimer. I cannot mention everything that Sunday Without God got wrong about its depiction of the Christian God. The first and most obvious thing is God abandoning humanity, though this is called into question of the legitimacy of Him abandoning them. The Bible clearly states, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV).” While this is the biggest thing, some of the other more subtle things such as the claim that God said He “made a mistake” (though Hampnie Hambart refutes that God ever said that in episode 2) which is refuted by Genesis 1:31. The story presented as a the Creation account is also false.
Now while the list goes on about what is wrong, I do want to focus on what the anime refers to as the granting of wishes. The wishes can be interpreted in two ways: as God’s blessing or the working of miracles. Regardless of which interpretation the wishes are meant to represent, they both are in line with the Bible saying God provides both things. The blessings of God are seen numerous times throughout the Bible, with one notable example being the book of Job. The anime accurately reflects the impact of blessings too, as though they come and can be a help for us, it does not necessarily guarantee a better life, or having faith in God does not guarantee the easy life. Job also displays this, because Job suffers significantly as he swiftly looses all his blessings by the work of Satan. In a similar way, many of the children with granted wishes are forced into a school and separated from their family. The wishes can also be seen as miracles, which they are. The Bible is riddled with miracles, both which result in positive and negative outcomes. The wishes granted have a similar effect.
Let us take a step back from the inaccuracies of Sunday Without God, and look at some philosophy, specifically the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He famously declared “God is dead.” The most common way of interpreting this is not that God is literally dead, but that humans are moving away from needing God. Things like science apparently provide us with all the answers we need, and as we continue to progress and improve, there is no reason to fear or need God. Thus the idea of God, or the need of the idea, fades away from our culture. Whether you believe this is happening in modern society is up for you to decide.
Going back to Sunday Without God, I found the idea of God abandoning humanity to not be a criticism of Christianity or religion, but of humanity. The philosophy behind “God is dead” is clearly arrogant, or at least humanistic in nature. It assumes humans are capable of nearly anything, and does not seem to concern itself too much with possible negative outcomes of science. To me, it also suggests that science and religion are inherently incompatible, which is simply not true. In the anime, it is suggested that God leaves humanity to their own devices out of love, since humanity seemed to desire this. It is theorized by Hampnie Hambart that God may have left the world in order to sate humanities desire for immortality. Unfortunately, God decision reveals to humans just how much they need Him. It is also questionable whether God truly abandoned the world, since He sends the gravekeepers, and also even grants Ai’s wish in the last episode. Nonetheless, the world is a mess without God, and this is a very clear warning against the modern crisis that people are abandoning God out of their own stubbornness and arrogance.
The Child-Like Faith of Ai
Yet, even in the world that is apparently abandoned by God, there is a small light in Ai. She is the definition of child-like faith, which is a key tenant of Christianity. Jesus directly states this in Matthew 18:3. Ai obviously has age to her advantage in maintaining this faith that she can help the world, but she goes through plenty of trials that rock, but do not destroy, her faith. It for the most part remains unwavering that she can truly help people. Ai also expresses the Christian attitude of having a servant’s heart (see Mark 10: 43-45 to see where Jesus talks about being a servant). She most of the time seems to working with a truly selfless heart. In this way, Ai is probably one of the closest anime characters to being Christian.
Thank you very much for reading! I hope this all gave you something to think about. What are your thoughts on what I discussed? Feel free to agree or disagree. I also welcome constructive criticism. Are there any anime you would like to see me discuss in the future? If you have any questions, I would be happy to talk with you about Christianity or my own personal views. I look forward to your comments!
Here also some links to previous Christianity v. Anime if you want to read some older ones: