Bonus Post #39- Christianity v. Anime: Serial Experiments Lain

serial_experiments_lain-14373

Greetings readers, and welcome to another Christianity v. Anime! Today we will be exploring Serial Experiments Lain, and what it says, among its many complexities, about the nature of God. Just be warned that there will be heavy SPOILERS, if you have not yet seen this anime. Let’s not hesitate any longer and jump 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. Serial Experiments Lain is an anime that deals primarily with the relations between man and technology. However, sprinkled in there, it raises some questions about religion, most notably what makes someone or something a god. This is further made interesting by what the main “deity” character of Masami Eiri claims makes him a god. There are two things he claims that apparently make him a god, and we will compare these to the nature of the one true God. A summary is provided below if you need a quick refresher as to the premise of the series. If you have not done so, be sure to check out our review of Serial Experiments Lain.

Summary: Lain Iwakura appears to be an ordinary girl, with almost no experience with computers. Yet the sudden suicide of a schoolmate, and a number of strange occurrences, conspire to pull Lain into the world of the Wired, where she gradually learns that nothing is what it seems to be… not even Lain herself. -Anime News Network

Who is God?

The question above is first asked by Eiri, ironically enough, when he asks Lain in episode 8, “What is your definition of God?” The interesting thing is that as humans, from a theistic viewpoint, we do not get to decide that. God reveals Himself to us through two sources of revelation: special (which is the Bible) and general (study of creation aka nature). Therefore, we only know as much about God as He allows us. Now in episode 8, Eiri mentions two possible definitions of God, one as the creator of the world and one as someone who is omnipresent. Eiri is not the creator of the Wired, so he does not fit the first definition he proposes. The Christian God truly is the creator by contrast, as told in Genesis 1: 1-31. The second Eiri does fit, as he is omnipresent within the Wired. The word “omnipresent” is defined as “present everywhere at the same time” by Dictionary.com. This is also true of the Christian God, though this expands beyond just space for God in that He also exists throughout all of time. The Bible confirms this in Jeremiah 23: 23-24 when God Himself announces, “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD (NIV).” Now obviously, the nature of God is completely beyond human understanding, so we will limit our discussion to Eiri’s claims. Other classical attributes assigned to God include omniscient (all-knowing, supported by Romans 11:33) and omnipotent (all-powerful, supported by Job 37:23). Do note that what makes Lain a goddess of the Wired is her omnipotence over it. 

The Internet Idol

There is one other fact that Eiri claims makes him a god. It is the very fact that he has worshipers, specifically the Knights of the Eastern Calculus. This claim ties very closely to the themes of Serial Experiments Lain, and is actually an accurate claim. Before we explore that further, let us see how this compares to Christianity’s God. The very truth, and a hard one to swallow, is that God really does not need us humans. He does not need worshipers to maintain His existence or to justify Himself as God. God still calls us to worship as a sign of love to Him. Humans exist because God decided to create us, as an act of love. So if our worshiping of God does not make God who He is, how is Eiri correct? Well, this creation of a god comes from the worship of idols. Now, the mention of idols are a very common thing in the Bible, most notably the Second Commandment forbidding the worship of idols (Exodus 20:4-6). Idolatry is the act of believing something as more valuable than God, or as more worthy of your love than God. So therefore, the idol becomes a god. This is very common in the Bible, including among God’s chosen people. One such example is the story of the golden calf as recounted in Exodus 32: 1-35. A common idol nowadays is often money, something Jesus specifically warns about saying, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).” All this put together, Eiri is clearly nothing more than idol, having no more real power than the golden calf.

This ties nicely with the warnings in Serial Experiments Lain about becoming too caught up in technology. The Wired, the overall net that represents technology, is shown to be more dangerous than anything, and while many in the show believe it is above or of more value than reality, Lain dispels this rumor. The Wired is nothing more than a tool, just like any other gadget. As one can see, the Wired, and technology, had become an idol to people. This is very much reflected in modern society, especially here and now in the smart phone age, where your life on the Internet can become an idol too.

Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read. What are your thoughts on what I’ve written? I would love to hear any feedback, or any challenge to my assertions. Also, I will also link some of my previous Christianity v. Anime posts below, if you would like to read them. Thank you!

Christianity v. Anime: Sunday Without God

Christianity v. Anime: Blue Exorcist

 

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Bonus Post #39- Christianity v. Anime: Serial Experiments Lain

  1. It’s obvious that the series its on some of the same Christianity ideas, as well as secular themes, as Neon Genesis Evangelion, especially notable in its assimilation plot. I think Neon Genesis may ahve presented the assimilation plot better, but they both raise the same theological question (among many, many others) — would our collective conscience be a god-like entity? Eiri thinks that he can become god in his own definition by assimilating everyone into a collective conscience, making everyone one with each other, as everyone would be at peace with one another, fully understand one another, and be not happy nor sad, but satisfied. Perhaps this approaches what divinity or heaven is like, where full knowledge, understanding, and satisfaction removes troubles and differentiation, and it is our separation from each other and lack of understanding that creates problems and makes us imperfect and fallible to sin. In a sense, then, Eiri (despite his egotistical motivations) was a Revelations-like figure that is both ravaging humanity by destroying ti while also saving it from its own sin — whether this makes him akin to Christ or anti-Christ is debateable, for while he comes off as arrogant and evil, it is notable he died to create what he thought would be a better world devoid of sin. Lain herself, though, could also be seen as Christ-like figure, especially when her father asks her if the problem is that she loves everyone in Layer: 13: her love for Arisu and others is thus not of romantic nature or such, but just general deep love as Jesus shows for us.
    Of course, watching the anime is akin to being on drugs while reading Plato, in that you cannot tell if your thoughts are getting at the fundamentals of existence or are just non-sensible gibbering, so I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I welcome the discussion, though fundamentally disagree with many of the conclusions you came to. I’m not familiar enough with Neon Genesis to comment on it (maybe someday but Im not much of a mecha fan). There is clearly discord found within the Wired, shown with the first suicide victim being not satisfied with her existence in it. Secondly, his attempt does not play out as a desire to “save humanity” but rather assert himself above them. But like you said, 99% of the show is up to interpretation haha

      Like

      1. Gothca. I don’t necessarily agree with the claims either, but offering suggestions. I simply love how ya’ll are mixing Christianity and anime. Oh, and Neon Genesis Evangelion is only a mecha show for about the first season, which is mediocre… the rest is pretty much a psychological mindscrew in the same way Serial Experiment Lain is (and well worth waiting the first half of the series). It has more explicit Christian elements and themes as well.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s