Faith Article: What Are You Conformed To?

” For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29, NIV)

Earlier today, I was reading this article on Beneath the Tangles. As I drove home, I began thinking, and this subject came to mind. In truth, I’ve wanted to start writing these “Faith Articles” for a while now, but never have gotten around to it. I even have an idea for what I intended to be my first Faith Article, but now I feel compelled to share this one, however long or short it may end up being. So, here it goes.

As the title suggests, what are you conformed to, and how do you know? Are you conformed to what you spend the most time/money/thought/energy on? That certainly sounds like a possibility, although evangelist Oswald Chambers may not entirely agree: ” It is not the thing we spend the most time on that moulds us most; the greatest element is the thing that exerts most power.” I can’t say I’m largely knowledgeable about Chambers’ teachings, but I remember seeing this quote in a daily devotional once. I think this is a good place to start.

So, what exerts the most power over you? What makes you want to change? What do you try to be like? No matter who you are, you are conforming to something. If you think you’re a non-conformer by joining a crowd of non-conformers, then you’re simply conforming to the beat of a different crowd. True, you’re rejecting conformity to what’s popular and choosing to walk another road, but conformity by any other name is just the same. How many times do we see it in the anime–or, perhaps I should say–otaku subculture? Just read the article above, and perhaps the resulting comments. Anime has a variety of genres, and yet the perversity in it always seems to get the attention. It’s what opponents attack and, if the article linked is any evidence, it’s what the proponents laud. Maybe that’s a bit broad, as I’m sure there are plenty of people who stay away from the sexualized stuff, but what about in individual fandoms? Do we sacrifice original opinion to fit in with the majority of the fandom? For example, does every Hetalia fangirl who pairs two male characters together start out that way, or does she begin to conform to what seems the “norm” of the fanbase? If we go back to Chambers’ quote, then does our fandom exert more power over us than it should?

Perhaps we just become more conformed in a slow, steady fade, though. It’s fully possible that we start out morally opposed to the immoral aspects of anime, but over time–a little fanservice here, some sexual immorality there, a bit of nudity every now and again–we become desensitized to it. Maybe we don’t participate in it as jovially as some, but we find ourselves less aghast at it and more tolerant of its presence. Wouldn’t this still be a form of conformity? Aren’t we now approving the same things our peers are, at least to some degree, when we were originally against the grain? I admit that this may not be a perfect formula, either. For example, one may start out vehemently opposed to violent depictions in anime, but then realize that sometimes these depictions serve a greater purpose, such as making a deeper point about the realities and far-reaching effects of war. We can, of course, debate over how graphic such depictions need be, but the point is that someone who is completely anti-violence in media may come to see that, at times, it can actually serve a purpose.

I suppose the best way to figure out what we’re conforming to is to simply look at what’s influencing us the most. For the Christian, the obvious goal is to be like Christ, and if you don’t believe me, just look at the Scripture that began this post. The end goal–the only goal–for the Christian is to be like Christ. How do we measure this? Well, prayer and a thorough reading of the Scriptures is a good place to start. Scripture tells us that we become a new creation in Christ, which says to me that we can’t recreate ourselves, so if we want to change then we better well include God in the plans, hence prayer. But we also need to know what’s expected, hence the Bible reading. We need more than a cursory knowledge of Jesus. We need to know who He was, His mannerisms, His attitudes, His responses, His everything. It’s hard to conform yourself to something you have no knowledge of. At this point we also have an element of will to add into the mix, though. After all, if it was simply an act of immersion, then no one who was taken to church every Sunday and Wednesday and had the Bible read to them every day at home should ever fall away. We need to desire it. We need to let Christ have power over us.

If we spend hours reading the Bible, but our minds are concerned with when we get to watch the newest episode of Golden Time (or your favorite anime here), then we’ve wasted our time. Conversely, if we watch an hour of anime and only read the Bible for five minutes, but we count that five minutes of reading as the most important thing in our day, then we are allowing that to exert more power, in my opinion. After all, don’t we tend to think about the things that are most important to us more?

Now, I don’t know if it’s morally acceptable to devote an hour to anime and only five minutes to God’s Word, but my point is that we need to consider our priorities, not just how much time we devote to something. Spending two hours in prayer and an additional hour in the Bible means nothing if we do it out of a rigid schedule, with no true desire to know God or let Him have an effect on us. We need to give in, we need to desire Him more and more, and we need to let Him exert His power over us. If we think we can change ourselves, we are simply fooling ourselves. If I may share a bit of my personal story:

I was a pervert, through and through. I grasped on to that trope in anime and ran with it. Granted, I was perverse long before, but I think it got worse after I discovered anime, and particularly fanservice anime (remember that whole conformity thing?). It’s probably no exaggeration to say that I was like the people being discussed in the Beneath the Tangles article. At one point, after several years of dating my girlfriend (now fiancée, soon to be wife), I watched Suzuka, and something about it hit me. I started to regret my impurity and my perversion. I wanted to change. That resolution lasted for maybe a couple days, and I fell back into my old habits. Conversely, when I came to Christ back in 2012, my life changed rapidly. I can’t give you an exact time frame, but I don’t think it was more than a couple months before perversity was behind me. That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle with inappropriate thoughts and urges. I did, and still do. Temptation will always be there, but the difference was this: something new was exerting power over me, something greater than the perversion to which I conformed before. That something greater was Jesus Christ.

I would argue that the only time we can truly break our conformity to something is if we find something we esteem to be of greater value. Theoretically, this could be an endless cycle. You find one fandom you like, so you learn everything about it and adopt the mannerisms, attitudes, behaviors, etc. of that fandom and continue in it until you grow tired and find another fandom, and so on. Perhaps you leave anime and find a new interest, and the cycle continues. The only way to truly break the cycle is to find something that it so much greater and so far above the things you’ve been conforming to that nothing could ever top it. Jesus Christ is precisely what–or rather, Who–I’m getting at here. It only makes sense to allow God to conform us to His likeness, as there can be nothing greater than the One who created it all. A creation cannot become greater than its creator, so how could a creation of the creation become greater than the Creator? In short, it can’t. We can continue the cycle of conforming to one thing after another, or we can surrender and let God conform us to the image of His Son.

Even as I write this, though, I fully acknowledge that I have not attained this level of perfection. All of this is easy to say. I’ve read the Bible, I know what we’re supposed to do, I know what Christ wants from me, but putting it all into action is another story. I include this because I want to be real with you, the reader. I don’t want you reading this and simply thinking I’m another Christian on his moral high horse looking down on the world. In all reality, I’m probably still trying to get into the saddle. This article is already too long for me to delve into my personal struggles, but my point is that I’m far from being conformed to the image of Christ.

So, what are you conformed to?

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5 thoughts on “Faith Article: What Are You Conformed To?

  1. Pingback: Something More: Cain and Abel in Shiki, Anime in the Christian Life, and 7 Unholy Priests |

  2. David A

    Interesting article.

    Good point about people trying to fit and letting their fandoms influence them. I have seen that in tumblr. People succumb to the emotional manipulations and guilt trips done by “social justice activists” (cultural marxists, would be a more accurate term). Sudenly, some girls that previously opposed yaoi/yuri, hentai, lgbt agenda, etc, became femisnists, pro-lgbt draw/write smut, yaoi/yuri, etc after some weeks or months spend in tumblr. In one case, the girl in question became agnostic too.

    A solution is having good principles and rules. Know when to say no.

    This season I dropped lots of shows when something terrible appeared, or if reading about the manga, or the show, I discover what kind of things are going to appear later.

    Something important is to not leave pass supposedly small things, that after that get into bigger things, and then people end up watching things they would objected to some weeks before.

    God Bless you!

    Reply
    1. rmiller1656 Post author

      Thanks for reading! It sounded better in my head than it came out, I think, but that probably has something to do with me not jotting down my ideas first (and also conceptualizing this while I was driving).

      I think you have a good point about knowing when to say no, but I think there also needs to be the ability to discern between your conscience and somebody else’s. I speak from experience in this, because there are many things that I’ve wondered, “Is this okay?” simply because another Christian (or other Christians) at some point and time have said that such and such was bad, even though there are other Christians who disagree. Things that I would have just chalked up to being make-believe or fantasy turned in to, “Is this really okay? But what if it isn’t?” worry fests, not because I personally saw anything wrong in them, but simply because another person’s condemnation of them put the thought of “what-if” in my head. That’s kind of where my heavy criticism of Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions comes from. I’m fairly confident that there was a time when I would have watched that and not made such an issue over the characters using “magic” or whatnot.

      We forget, I think, that there are areas of conscience where we are allowed freedom to feel as we want to feel. As a kid, Power Rangers/WCW/WWF never turned me into a violent aggressor, and Harry Potter never turned me into a twisted occultist, but there were certainly people out there who seemed to think that was the end result of any child exposed to these things. Now, there may be someone out there who was actually negatively affected by these things, in which case avoidance is a good thing, and that person’s conscience may be rightfully grieved if they encounter such things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the thing is a stumbling block for everyone. As a side note, I will admit to having a temporary curiousity about magic when I was in high school, although I feel like that was sparked more by the anime “Sorcerous Stabber Orphen” than anything, because I thought it would be “cool” to be able to shoot magic out of my hands and stuff (and my step-dad was dying of cancer, so I was kind of open to anything, I think–not that this justifies my actions). I never did practice any of it, but I did research it. Needless to say, I know better now.

      Anyway, I hope that sort of makes sense. Essentially, I think we need to also have discernment to make sure that we aren’t conforming to someone else’s conscience and doing/not doing something simply because someone else says we should/shouldn’t (unless, of course, they have clear biblical evidence, but that’s not the kind of stuff I’m addressing here).

      EDIT:

      For the record: I don’t intend to excuse my curiosity that was mentioned above (in fact, in thinking about it, I did some stupid stuff as a kid in my ignorance–thinking I could form balls of fire and stuff in my hand just by concentrating, for example… there are other instances of stupid thoughts/considerations/stunts that come to mind, too). From where I am now, I know that those things were wrong, and that I shouldn’t have tried that, regardless of how innocent it was in my mind. That’s the problem, though. When you don’t know something’s wrong, you have no reason to think you shouldn’t try it. At this point in my life, I don’t believe something like Chunibyo to be a stumbling block to me simply because I know better than to imitate (or try to imitate) what I see in the show. Someone who comes from a Wiccan background, though, may have trouble with it, because the practice of magic was actually a part of their life, and seeing images that cause memories of that to surface (regardless of how close to reality Chunibyo actually gets) may tempt them back in to that lifestyle. In such a case, knowing that it’s wrong may not be enough, because the lure of practicing magic is actually a temptation to them. Granted, there is no actual magic practiced in Chunibyo, just imagery, but still… I hope I’m making sense here. In relation to my point above, though, is that the ex-Wiccan may decide that this show is sinful, period, and therefore tell me that I’m wrong for watching it regardless of whether it’s actually a stumbling block to me or not. A better explanation of what I’m trying to get it is probably in the article below:

      https://www.unlockingthebible.org/christ-changes-how-you-evaluate-2/

      Evidently, I think I suffer more from weak conscience rule 1: People with a nervous disposition “Just tell me what to do. I’m afraid of doing wrong. I don’t trust my own conscience.”

      Reply
      1. David A

        Yes, the near and remote occassion of sins. Something can tempt someone, but not another person. But still, there are things that are sinful to watch, regardless if these are particularly tempting or not. Ecchi, yaoi/yuri, etc.

  3. rmiller1656 Post author

    Agreed there. I should post my review of “I Couldn’t Become a Hero, So I Got a Part-Time Job” (or something like that), and by review, I mean my feelings on the whole two or so minutes I watched of it…

    Reply

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