Thursday, May 3, 2012

MitchWords: Part Seven

One of the issues I encounter with examining theology in graphic literature is that the theology usually isn't very good. I've found ways it can make me pause, explore related issues, and come up with a (hopefully) thoughtful analysis. But the problem still stands that, on the surface, most of it just isn't sound, correct, or orthodox theology. I've opined before that this might be due to pop culture allowing for an avenue to critique matters of religion that you'll never hear in a church.

When discussing my thesis on theology and graphic literature, I lamented over this issue to my advisor. "For better or worse," I said, "comics are talking about Christianity."

My advisor waved my concern away. "For better or worse," he responded, "theologians are writing about Christianity. And a lot of the books they write don't have any good theology in them."

The issue of bad theology isn't unique to graphic literature. It occurs frequently in academic theology as an inherit necessity to academic discourse. Hopefully sound theology prevails, but right thinking usually isn't the most popular way of thinking among the masses.

Apparently the flavorful internet-hyped scandal of the week concerns the ranting of Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A video of his recent sermon has gone viral and stirred up quite a response. In the sermon, Harris speaks out against homosexuality and urges parents to "man up" and "squash" and "punch" their little boys if they exhibit any "effeminate" behavior. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell critiqued Harris' sermon as well as the pastor's formal non-apology.

Regardless of your views on homosexuality, I think we should all be able to agree that child abuse, in any form, is unacceptable. I don't know what saddens me more, the fact that a purported man of God would say these things, or how many of the congregation seem to be laughing or vocally expressing their agreement with this call for violence. This seems like a clear example of why so many people are avoiding the church and instead resorting to popular culture to look for and discuss God.

On another note, Harris' views on masculinity seem rather draconian. I'm not homosexual, but I doubt I'd meet his expectations of what a "man" should be. I don't really play sports. I don't even follow any or watch games on television. I'd rather watch Downton Abbey. I love the movie Enchanted and, yes, I totally sing along ("How does she know....."). Is this effeminate behavior that should cause concern? Should my parents have beat me when I was younger so I wouldn't act this way as an adult? I don't think so and I am so thankful that they didn't (and not just because Downton Abbey is a fantastic show!). Nor do I understand how punching a little boy can be considered "manning up."

In summation, yes graphic literature is full of bad theology or views on God. But it usually serves a purpose to a story, character development, joke, or is just the personal opinion of the creators. When a pastor or theologian says something similar, though, it often comes with the expectation that they are relaying the true will of God. Christians need to be especially discerning on both Wednesays and Sundays.

For better or worse, graphic literature is talking about Christianity.

For better or worse, pastors are talking about Christianity.

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