Cathedral: religion in Gundam 00
It has been quite some time since I have finished an anime series, but I (at last) finished Gundam 00 about a week ago. I absolutely loved it, despite the fact that many people think it’s too emotional or bathetic. I love heroic bloodshed movies, and this series just seemed to be exactly like it. In addition, despite the futuristic setting I thought the characters were convincing, especially Soran.
Lockon, Lockon, Lockon, Lockon bawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
‘There is no God in this world.’
The statement is what Soran Ibrahim, or Setsuna F Seiei repeats throughout the season. There was no God, for it was because of him that Soran killed his parents: there was no God because their supposed religious leader was simply a charismatic warmonger. If there was a God, there wouldn’t have been a need for Celestial Being or the Gundams that were the implements and instruments of its aims.
It is in this vein that the four Gundam Meisters set out to do the tasks assigned to them by Celestial Being: use violence to end violence with the ultimate goal of terminating all wars in the future Earth. The task is daunting, if not nigh impossible. Yet the four meisters, as I had discovered, have chips on their shoulders that they set out to banish or rectify with their piloting of the Gundams. Despite the similar goals, however, the central figure of the series is Setsuna.
It was religion that corrupted him, and it is religion he banished in the nether regions of his mind, culminating in the Nietzschean proclamation that ‘there is no God in this world.’
Perhaps people are incredulous with regard to his character. But this atheism brought about by religion is not merely a construct of the anime series. There are a lot of Moslem extremists who sacrifice their lives in fighting or even in suicide for the greater glory of Allah: the series has children, through a perverted religion, kill their parents and bear arms only to die against more powerful machines and mobile suits.
This does not, however, only happen with Islam.
There is also skepticism regarding Christianity by the Christians themselves. Contrary to the rashness of Islam, however, is the cowardice of Christianity. I was meaning to write this post immediately after I had finished with Gundam 00, but I decided to postpone it to read a doctoral thesis on the actions of the Philippine Catholic Church between 1930 and 1972 (when Martial Law was declared). The title of the book was The Church and its Social Involvement.
It was not a pleasant read.
While I was happy of the social actions and the liberation theology of priests from our university, I could not help but hate the unwillingness to act by most of the Philippine Church. In those times, the problem that needed to be resolved the fastest was the problem of land reform. There were a lot of farmer-tenants who did not get their just wages; the landlords kept on getting richer and richer, while the farmers poorer and poorer. Most of the Philippine Church performed acts of charity and community development, but these only served as palliatives: they did not address the true problem which was the inequitable distribution of land to such extent that the farmers’ wages for a week were supposed to be their wages for a day. Even the author, who was a priest, commented that
[…] the Philippine Church was nowhere to be found to provide guidance and leadership except in a few small sectors of militant Catholics centered in Manila.
I’m proud that the priests of my university acted, and not only proselytized. But even then this was stultified: Father Hogan, a priest who wanted to act for the restructuring of the social order, was forced to keep his mouth shut regarding his aims of establishing labor unions for nonprofit organizations. Ironically, the other members of the Philippine Church did not even pay or want to pay the minimum wage to its workers.
It was a concern for the underprivileged which was expressed primarily through prayers and acts of charity which answered the immediate needs of the poor but failed to address the root cause of poverty.
The Philippine Church, led by an archbishop, even condemned the rights for the workers which they deserved. The archbishop disallowed Father Hogan to lecture anywhere outside the Ateneo de Manila University. He was only allowed to act within the ISO, or the Institute of Social Order which was one of the first, if not the very first, Catholic institutes that enacted measures targeting the core problems of society and not just palliative acts of charity. With regard to this ban, the author of the book (or thesis) commented that
The aftermath of the debacle was a sorry witness to the Church’s infidelity to her own teaching.
There was internal strife. The Church was unwilling to act; its inaction led a priest who wanted social restructuring (but initially avoided violence) to quip
In other words, violence could be a morally acceptable program for social reform and not merely a reaction against the inflexibility of the powerful who had refused to heed to the demands of justice peacefully asked for.
There was little action from the leaders of both the Church and the state, and then there was martial law. It could have been averted had the Philippine Church decide to act; however, they did not, and Philippines plunged into an even worse crisis.
I do not believe that God is dead, or that he is not in this world. But I believe that instead of trusting the people who supposedly facilitate these different religions we should simply trust God instead. At least for me, the Gundam meisters were not completely mistaken. In a world blinded by religion, the quest for meaning inside one’s own self doesn’t seem bad at all.