In the first episode of Angel Beats – we are welcomed into the afterlife. The viewer, much like the protagonist Otonashi, is confused about this new world we’re entering of…some kind of afterlife. In the world of Angel Beats, the afterlife is like a High School and reincarnation is real. This temporary high school setting is filled with violence as some of the people are fighting against the people leading the school in an attempt to remain in this afterlife. God’s presence is also called into question.
Otonashi meets Yuri who is the leader of a group opposed to a character they call Angel. According to Yuri, Angel is trying to control whether people are destroyed or return back to Earth in a different reincarnated form. Yuri’s band of teenagers (the Afterlife Battlefront) are fighting against Angel to allow them to remain in this afterlife world instead of moving on to another life back on Earth or being destroyed by Angel. There is a lot of depth one can go into to dissect the world setting from a Christian perspective. It does not remotely resemble the afterlife mentioned in the Bible. But that is for others to dissect. Here, I want to discuss Yuri and her views on God.
In Episode 1, Otonashi meets the members of the Afterlife Battlefront and is told their secret password to ensure only members can enter their group. The password requires them to deny the existence of God. Yuri, however, later confesses to Otonashi that she believes there is a God out there, just wishes that God would intervene and not step to the side. Both views are wrong.
Clearly, the Bible speaks of a real God who created all things (Genesis 1:1). A real God who became flesh and dwelt among men as Jesus Christ (John 1:14). To deny the Lord’s existence is foolishness (Psalm 14:1). And yet, there they are – denying God’s existence while living in some kind of afterlife. Why? We want an existence without God. Without God, we are our own god. We are in charge. We can control our own destiny. We want that control, we want to be in charge of our universe – but the universe around us continues to point us in a direction opposing that. We are not in control and we never will be. Random events occur outside of our control all the time. We lose our jobs. We lose our lives.
Yuri when she thinks upon it more discovers that while we crave this control – there’s a part of us that will always hope for more. There has to be more, we tell ourselves because we can’t control everything. We can’t be our own gods, in the end, because we’re not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omni anything or that matter. When we become our own idol, eventually our weakness as humans comes forward and we realize we are just like worshipping golden statues – we can effectively do nothing to change the world in our own power (Psalm 115:5-8). As much as Yuri wants to fight God, hates where she is and the control she perceives from Angel, and does not want to be reincarnated – she still wants hope in something bigger than her. She puts that in a clockmaker god that winds up time and walks away, but we who know Christ know that is not the case.
We have a God who intercedes. A God who saved His people time and again. A God who wants to reconcile us to Himself and did so in the only way it was possible – by becoming a man and sacrificing Himself on a cross. The only sacrifice capable of taking the entire punishment of God was Christ, God made flesh. That’s our God. He’s not up on high ignoring His people. He is living, He is listening, He is interceding, and He will one day save those who choose Him making all things new.