Thursday, December 1, 2011


S'okay, I've forgiven worse!
Battle Pope #11
by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Cory Walker

Battle Pope is an irreverent and blasphemous parody of Christianity, the end times, and Jesus. I can see how it would easily offend many believers if they ever attempted to read it. But parody isn't a bad thing. In fact, I have come to value it quite a bit.

I wrote in my thesis about how some comics use unconventional ways to depict the Divine. There's of course Grant Morrison in Animal Man, as well as a story about The Fantastic Four where they go up to heaven and meet God, who looks like Jack Kirby, one of the comic's original creators. Of course God does not look like Morrison or Kirby, and depicting him as such can make some people uncomfortable.

But then, God most definitely does not look like the old, bearded Father Time we commonly depict him as. Yet that usually does not offend us. Instead, that is the norm that we accept and even expect, and anything deviating from that cliche takes us out of our comfort zone.

And that is one of the values of a parody. It can take us out of our comfort zone and (hopefully) give us the chance to reflect on why this misconception of God's appearance is our comfort zone. Why do we cling so hard to this wrong stereotype and reel against alternatives to it?

Parody. It can be blasphemous. It can lead to theological and spiritual insight. Certainly not always. But from time to time, it can. Once again, we're trying to find the Divine in the profane.

The context of the above panel is Jesus and Santa have just had a big brawl (which grieves the Holy Spirit) because they each feel the other has ruined Christmas for them. At the end, Santa apologizes for the fight and that his holiday has overtaken Jesus' birthday.

And Jesus immediately goes from angry and ready to fight to happy and forgiven.

And it's true, he's forgiven worse. He forgave my sins, after all.

Is it silly? Yes. But I kind of want to print this panel out and frame it and hang it on my wall somewhere. And whenever I get down about my own constant failings as a Christian, I can look to it and be reminded about just how much Jesus has forgiven. Yeah, I guess I'm turning a vulgar work of graphic literature into a devotional again. Deal with it.

I also like the fact that Jesus is happy and smiling. We usually don't depict him that way. Most often our image of Jesus forgiving us is him suffering and dying on the cross. That's not exactly a smiling image.

The pastor at the church I attended during my undergrad years often highlighted this as his favorite picture of Jesus.

Actually, that might not be the exact picture. I can't remember. But it was similar to this. It was a picture of Jesus laughing. It feels unconventional and goes against the solemn, even stern, mental portraits we usually have of Jesus. This feeds back into the idea of the humanity of Christ. Jovially laughing is a very human characteristic. It involves enjoying part of life. We think of God becoming man as a great sacrifice and lowering of himself, and it is, but there are also some good parts to a human life. I like to think Jesus had a couple good laughs while on Earth. Maybe he even guffawed a time or too. Think about that. Does it skew your religious views at all to ponder about God guffawing?

I like to think God guffaws.

Man, that would make a great book title, wouldn't it? God Guffaws

Don't steal that.

And then, sometimes there's the parody of Christianity trying to develop a more appealing image for God and Jesus. The classic example is Buddy Christ from the Kevin Smith film Dogma. The Catholic Church thinks the crucifix is too much of a downer, so they want to jazz up the common image of Jesus. The result is Buddy Christ.

Irreverent? Yes. Funny and actually kinda cool? Yes. I honestly wouldn't mind having a Buddy Christ figurine on my desk. Again, I think it helps point out the humanity of God Incarnate. And I've talked before about how we often neglect that aspect.

Parody: it can be funny and insightful. Even if it's blasphemous.

Yeah, saying things like that will probably get me in trouble one day.

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