Friday, July 22, 2016

Rooting For You Anyway

I know a lot of things about you, Garth.
...And I'm rooting for you anyway.
by Doug TenNapel 

You should read Ghostopolis. If you disregard everything else I say here, at least heed my recommendation.

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapal tells the story of young Garth, who is accidentally sent by an inept ghost hunter into the afterlife.  There, Garth finds that a malevolent dictator has taken control of the afterlife. A live boy running around among the dead is an unwelcome anomaly, and the dastardly authorities are soon after Garth. Hearing legends of Joe, the mysterious former architect and future savior of this afterlife, Garth seeks out help and answers.

When he finally encounters Joe, TenNapal makes it pretty obvious to the readers that Joe is a metaphor for Jesus. But unlike your typical “Christian entertainment,” TenNapal doesn't beat the point to death. Instead, he lays out the subtle, and not so subtle hints, assumes you get the point, and moves on with the story. In that vein, I wouldn't exactly call Ghostopolis a Christian story, but it certainly has themes one might acknowledge as "Christian," whatever that might mean.  Overall, though, Ghostopolis is just a good story, and that's what matters most. But I would certainly be intrigued if anybody out there attempted to use Ghostopolis for a Sunday School class.

Anyway, when Garth finally finds Joe, and discovers Joe doing some very metaphorically Christ-like things, Garth becomes downcast and afraid of Joe. But Joe encourages the young boy to look up at him for, even though Joe knows much about Garth, including all the failings, he is still rooting for Garth anyway.

I love this. Joe doesn't order Garth to repent and change his ways. Joe doesn't even offer his forgiveness. Joe knows all of Garth's sins, failings, and iniquities, and he is rooting for the kid anyway.

When I first read this comic I had to stop everything and reflect at this part. Is Joe an accurate representation for Christ? Is Jesus rooting for me? Does God root for me without first demanding I recite the magical incantation of the “Sinner's Prayer?” This idea makes me feel valued, as in despite all my transgressions and general no-goodness, God still sees something of worth in me. I have some intrinsic value that God will always see, cherish, and root for no matter how far I run from him.

I wish my younger self had encountered this portrayal of God.  Younger Mitch could have used a God that was rooting for him instead of guilt-tripping him and terrorizing him with fire and brimstone.

Could this extend beyond matters of salvation? Like, when my world is crumbling down around me, does God still root for me? The gut reaction that comes to my mind says, “But Mitch, God doesn't need to root for you because he is in charge of everything! He's in control!” Then why does it feel like everything is out of control? If this is his plan for me then his plan kind of sucks.

Honestly, you can quote Jeremiah 29:11 all you want to me, and I still find the notion that God is rooting for me far more comforting. Plus, come on, Jeremiah hated his life. He lamented his own birth! That sure was some prosperous plan there. But instead of reassuring myself that God is the omnipotent orchestrator of this calamitous plan, I'm drawn to the simple, calming image of God sitting down along beside me and rooting for me, maybe even hoping for me.

Does God hope for me? Does God hope right along with me? Does God hopelessly hope against all hope, just as I do?  For, if such hope is impossible, who better to hope such impossible hope than God himself?

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