When Principles Aren’t Enough – Christianity in View of Osamu Dazai’s The Setting Sun

So… this is part-book review, part-religious monologue—thinking out loud, really. It’s just a personal reflection. It could come across preachy or possibly offensive, neither of which is my intention. Please feel free to skip if this isn’t your cup of tea. ❤

I appreciate you all, so much.


You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
—Matthew 5:43-45

As I write this, it’s 12:40 AM, Saturday morning, and we in the U.S. still do not know the outcome of the election.

We do know that our country is split down the middle. Actually, fractured would be a better description. There are some, on all sides, who are terrified about the future and for their own safety. This is just the tip of an iceberg that has been growing for a very long time. In some ways, it has little to do with presidents, and much to do with people.

With that weight on my heart, I’ve been meditating on the above verse. By meditating… I mean the phrase “love your enemies” came into my head a few weeks ago, as spoken on the Jesus movie by actor Brian Deacon. (The way he said it with a confident conviction is something that stuck with me since childhood.) Later on, I saw the phrase on a church billboard as I was driving one day. Then a friend quoted it to me, unprompted and out of the blue. It won’t stop following me around…

So, what does this all have to do with a somewhat obscure 1947 Japanese novel? For a Christian, and to my surprise, literally everything.

The great struggle I have with the verse is, of course, actually living by it. The characters in Osamu Dazai’s The Setting Sun grapple with similar conflicts, or rather, with living by principles in general. They come to rather different conclusions.

In the last analysis my death is a natural one—man cannot live exclusively for principles.

The Setting Sun, ch. 7

Victims. Victims of a transitional period of morality. That is what we both certainly are.

The Setting Sun, ch. 8

The overarching theme of the book is this: when life circumstances become terrible, destruction—of traditions, others, or one’s self—is a natural reaction. When things get bad enough, when simply living day-to-day is a struggle, leading a good and noble life is not only difficult—it’s unreasonable. Pursuing a hedonistic life, putting one’s self first when it comes down to the wire, may be the only way for us to survive.

Does this sound familiar?

Continue reading “When Principles Aren’t Enough – Christianity in View of Osamu Dazai’s The Setting Sun”