God Loves You, Even if You Watch Anime: A Homily (or, “Street Preachers at the Anime Expo”)

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[I have removed the comment section for this post because sometimes religion makes people salty.]
[Also I am not a pastor or an expert, but I’m just throwing this out there, so there it is. You should take questions to a pastor, again, said expert if one there can be.]

At the Anime Expo this year, men with signs and loud speakers stood outside the convention hall, “preaching.” I assumed–though perhaps I shouldn’t have–that I knew the kind of men that they would be, the “Brother Jed” type of men from my earliest college days who spew the fires of hell from their mouths and bodies, so I did not stop to chat. Maybe they weren’t the “Brother Jed” types, but the King James Bible still erupted from their loudspeakers like a judge laying down the law, and while I’ll not argue that as much isn’t within the preview of God, this type of evangelism (which renders me deeply uncomfortable for the face it presents of Christianity), strikes me as wrong.

I grew up in the Church, knowing I was loved by the Lord from my conception. Throughout my life, I have always been fascinated by various denominational doctrines, as well as the tenements of other religions and their execution. Because of my upbringing, education, and personal experiences, I am deeply committed to my Christian faith. Due to this commitment, others sometimes have preconceptions about who I am and what it is that I stand for. What does it mean to be a Christian? It’s a very applicable question in the world today. We live in an era of social reform, political upheaval, and general unrest. We live in a world today that claps back at Christianity for its sinful past, overlooking the good in favor of the bad and being on the right side of history.

Answers are hard to come by, and I live every day seeking out the Truth like Edward Elric on a quest to get Al’s body back. In all seriousness, I have long since accepted that I’ll never have complete information while I yet walk this earth. My humanity is not equipped to understand the will and workings of the Most High. And that’s okay. I don’t need to know all the answers to believe with everything in me, and that frightens some people. They look at me as an otherwise intelligent person with this one fatal flaw to my academic facade, a hard-headed sheep lacking personal responsibility, someone who hates more than she loves and condemns more than she lifts up, and it hurts. That people make these assumptions without knowing me, simply by nature of my Christian identity? It hurts, but more importantly, it’s wildly inaccurate, and it’s the label being put to religion nowadays. People like those “Brother Jed” preachers are part of the problem.

As a Lutheran, I completely understand the need for both Law and Gospel. In every sermon on every Sunday morning, we sit in the pews and we’re given our lessons for the week. Law is the force that acts as a curb, mirror, and guide. It shows us our sins and strikes at our conscious. It tells us that we are imperfect people, born in sin and destined to screw up by the very nature of what we are. I won’t get too deeply into our theology here, but you understand my point. We sin every single day, by those wrong things that we do and by those things we neglect to do. What that means is that I am broken. And that’s why we need the Gospel, for my friends, the Gospel heals.

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, and that means that I am healed. Jesus Christ loved us all, came down and walked with us, ate with us, spoke with us, laughed with us, lived with us, DIED for us… And because of His mercy and sacrifice, because of His love, all my broken pieces are healed. Because He looked at me and saw my soul as precious, I am redeemed, daily and completely. I move forward with that knowledge into a broken world full of God’s precious souls who don’t know how deeply they are loved. And when I see all the sorrow and hatred presented by certain “Brother Jed” Christians, it fills me with despair.

The world first needs to see God’s love. I believe that, somewhere deep inside, all of us know that we are flawed. Or, at least, we should know. And I believe that the world is full of souls crying out for something they don’t understand or even want to need. I believe that a person can only run for so long before their legs give out and they need someone to catch them, and that someone is Christ, in and with you and me.

If we are the hands and feet of Christ, we should be eating with our fellow sinners. We should be speaking with them, loving them, holding them. We need to be illustrating what life lived in and with Christ looks life, how whole our broken pieces and filled our empty spaces have become. How blessed we feel.

We invite them to share in that through love, not fear.

We don’t look down on someone who is just like us. We shine God’s light into their broken pieces and make them whole. We share our faith through word and deed and, for me, that means living quietly and humbly and thankfully, praising my Savior and Creator for everything that He gives. That means, that when I see someone in need of God’s salvation, I don’t pick up the most inaccessible translation of the Bible that I can find and start shouting the Law at them.

No. Instead, I sit by, and I let them know I’m present, and I speak of my faith as the beacon of light and hope that it is. And God does the rest.

There’s all kinds of Lutheran or general Christian theology that I could get into. I could talk about what it means to be a sinner and saint. I could talk about the Holy Trinity, the “gender” of God. I could talk about the sacraments and the office of the keys and excommunication and the creeds and suicide and being gay and pastoral calling and what it means to fear God… but I won’t. Because, in the end, much of that is universal, but much of it is subjective. I’m going to let you determine which is which. It’s a life-long process, battling between what we interpret, what we’re told, what feels human, and wondering if it is indeed supposed to. As stated, I don’t know all of the answers, and I’ve changed my mind a great deal over the years as I examine myself and my choices. As I learn and as I grow. But knowing that the Lord loves you, whoever you are and whatever you do and regardless of the choices that you make, is something I’ve never doubted. As a Christian, that’s what I want for you.

I want you to repent, yes, just like I do every day. I want you to live your life to the best of your ability in service to others, yes, this much is true. I want you to fear and love God, respect and praise Him, open up your hearts to His amazing grace.

But I want you to do that because He loves you, and you need Him.

I want to lift you up to bask in the presence of God and show you what a beautiful creation He made when he blessed the world with you. I want to show you how precious your soul is, how very much He loves you that He would die, JUST FOR YOU, today, to redeem that, beautiful, sinful, broken creature.

Not because some man with a sign, floppy hat, and loudspeaker told you that you’d be going to hell.

I’ll end with this. Our Lord (and my faith) is the greatest expression of love, and it will never be on the wrong side of history. ❤

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