Humanizing the Enemy

In the fifth episode of Angel Beats! we see the Afterlife Battlefront have some level of success. Their goal? Mess with Angel, whose real name they discover is is Kanade Tachibana. How? By messing up her tests in class so they appear to be mocking the entire testing process thereby stripping her of her title as Student Body President. What happens? It works.

Before, during, and after the tests – Otonashi talks to Kanade. First, she tries to calm him down as he appears to be “freaking out” over the test. During, he calms her down over the shenanigans the Afterlife Battlefront are doing between exams. After, he tries to see how she’s doing. Something changes in her and in Otonashi in this entire encounter. Before this, the team thought of Angel/Kanade as some kind of powerful being – more powerful than them, otherworldly in fact. Now, Otonashi sees her for who she is – a person, just like them. The girl who appears to be his enemy is a real life human being who loves spicy tofu and is sad when she is accused of something she did not do.

Otonashi had, for a time, fallen for one of the oldest lies – we are to hate that which is different, hate our enemy. We all fall victim to this lie. Hatred wells within us at various times in our lives. Be it in the form of sports rivalries, political rivalries, family conflict, or anger at a coworker. We allow our anger, our rivalries, our animosity to transform into something else. To gain it’s own life as sinful, vile, hatred. Hating anyone is sinful, for Christ called it internal murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

For the Afterlife Battlefront, they direct their anger for the negative things which happened in their lives at God and later “Angel” as their local outlet for said anger. Their anger becomes rooted in hatred and they dehumanize Kanade, treating her as more of a force of nature to oppose than as a person. But, Kanade isn’t a force of nature. She’s not merely an inhumane creature. She’s a person and that realization is making Otonashi struggle.

We are not supposed to dehumanize our enemies. We are not supposed to hate them either, but to love them (Matthew 5:44). Loving, praying for our enemies is what Christ calls us to do. If they wronged us, vengeance is not ours – but the Lord’s to take (Deuteronomy 32:35Romans 12:19). The Afterlife Battlefront’s rage toward Kanade is misplaced both toward God and toward Kanade, as we begin to learn in this episode. As discussed before in my assessment of episode 2, life isn’t fair. I wrote:

[Yuki’s] losses remind me of that of Job. Job seemed to be doing everything right. He listened to the Lord, gave regular offerings to God. He was righteous in a challenging time. He was wealthy. He had a happy family. He had it all and appeared to be a good person. But, then it all disappeared – he lost his wealth, his physical health, and his children suddenly. Did he curse or condemn God when it was all gone. Job was upset, but he refused to sin – he praised God instead (Job 1:21).  Job knew something we oftentimes forget – God isn’t always fair, but He is always just and always deserves our praise.

If God were fair, we need to be real here and realize we are all lawbreakers. We are all sinners (Romans 3:231 John 1:8). We all fall short of God. We lust. We get jealous. We desire that which is others. We steal. We hate in our hearts and therefore murder in our hearts. We commit adultery in our hearts as we lust. We steal. We worship idols, whether we call them that or not. We sin constantly. If God were fair, we deserve to go to Hell. Period. Fairness would ensure that all sinners were destroyed and bound for eternal damnation.

God does not promise us a fair life. For if it were fair, we’d be condemned. God promises justice, He promises love, and He promises to be with us. Anger toward God because life wasn’t fair is misplaced. It’s not His fault life is not fair, life is not fair because we sinned, we corrupted the world, and people around us are cruel apart from God. In his track Nothin, Lecrae said, “If you catch me givin up money so folks can eat / It’s really God working through me / I’m not that sweet.” The goodness we perceive in others is merely a reflection of the Almighty. We’re all broken sinners who are unfair, unkind, and apart from the Lord. But, we can and will be made whole again. Christ promises that through the amazing power of His blood to recreate us into that perfect version the Lord envisioned us being – but I digress.

Otonashi and the entire Afterlife Battlefront need to realize that Kanade is a person, just like them. She has feelings. She desires to have friends. She is not an otherworldly being responsible for all their ills. Having righteous anger toward evil being done and those who truly commit evil is one thing; blaming a girl and God for the sins of others is what the group has done thus far. Hopefully as they begin to see the human in Kanade, this misguided viewpoint will fade away and love, Christ-like love, for their enemy can grow.

About the Author

Matthew Newman
Matthew Newman is a Christian environmental engineer (Professionally licensed in Maryland). He’s also a husband, beard aficionado, Dad of four beautiful children, blogger, and all around geeky guy from Baltimore County. When he’s not chasing his kids or working, he’s probably asleep.

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