Turn the Other Cheek, Ikari!

Neon Genesis Evangelion is full of memorable scenes.  Among those is an early one featuring Shinji and Rei on an escalator.  Shinji, full of anger toward his father, expresses...

Neon Genesis Evangelion is full of memorable scenes.  Among those is an early one featuring Shinji and Rei on an escalator.  Shinji, full of anger toward his father, expresses his frustration.  The mostly emotionless Rei responds in a surprising way – by slapping her fellow pilot.

If Ikari had been a Christian (like Misato?), perhaps he would have literally turned the other cheek.  After all, this was instruction provided by Jesus.  Then again, maybe he would have been interpreting that instruction wrongly.  In his book, Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary, J.D. Greear posits that the cheek was symbolic of relationships to Jews in Jesus’ time.  Striking the cheek meant to break that relationship, while offering the other meant to “reoffer” the relationship.

This reminds me of another scene in Evangelion that happens just a few episodes later.  Shinji, still stung by years of neglect, begins to speak to his father again.  They visit a gravestone commemorating Shinji’s mother and have some tender words (as much as they are capable of).  It would be a monumental step toward reestablishing relationship – toward turning the other cheek – if not for the irredeemable spirit that is Gendo Ikari.

Evangelion Ikari

Art by Siv

Most of the people we come into contact with are quite unlike Gendo; though they may be full of pride, most are still willing to bend somewhat.  And when we understand the radical love that can transform our lives, and how irredeemable we ourselves are, we are able to step forward and offer the other cheek to difficult people we know.

Last week, for instance, I had dinner with an old roommate.  We were once great friends, though our relationship quickly devolved into antagonism that even led to physical altercations.  I’ve retained a bit of bitterness even after all these years.  Still, I decided to reach out to him and give him a visit.  Though we’ll never be close again, I was happy to rekindle that old friendship, at least a bit, and move closer to fully forgiving him for the hurt he caused me.

And I think that’s lesson here – whatever the hurt that’s caused, whether it’s a physical slap on the cheek or a relational one, we can respond with grace.  And if we understand the grace that’s been measured to us, it becomes quite natural to swivel our heads and reopen that which may have been intentionally closed forever.

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  • Tommy Phillips (@CrazyPackersFan)
    31 October 2012 at 7:44 am

    I prefer the Rei & Asuka elevator scene – perhaps the greatest moment in the series. And the twist that occurs in the movie version… that’s perhaps even better.

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      31 October 2012 at 7:45 am

      Yeah, I love how that scene has become such a big part of otaku culture that Anno can mix things up for effect in the movie!

      Leave a Reply
  • Nick
    31 October 2012 at 9:53 am

    The explanation as given by J.D. Greer reminds me of how a priest explained this to me one time: we turn the other cheek because we’re opening ourselves again to the person who harmed us, attempting to embrace them, and thus allowing ourselves to be hurt again if such is the case.

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      31 October 2012 at 10:18 am

      That’s a great explanation. Even without the cultural context, that explanation is largely the same.

      Leave a Reply
  • medievalotaku
    11 November 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Medieval Otaku and commented:
    Here’s a site which I find rather inspirational. One usually doesn’t see how Christianity and anime can be linked, but TWWK and the other writers here do that regularly. This article is a perfect example of their general style.

    I promise to come out with an article by tomorrow. At least, I now have the James Bond movie to rant about. 🙂

    Leave a Reply
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