Below is the latest The
Pain -- When Will It End?
The idea for this cartoon came to me while I was half-asleep. I had no enthusiasm for drawing a cartoon this week (a cartoonistís life is complicated and often stressful) so thatís what I went with. I know I promised space battles. But Megan and I agreed that the thing to do was to combine our ideas into one cartoon--The Great Teddy Bear Space War. Sheíll draw the teddy bears in dresses; Iíll draw the spaceships and explosions. Just like Sim and Gerhard. Itíll be beautiful.
The Republican God is based on Edward Steichenís photographic portrait of J.P. Morgan (which believe it or not looks far more vicious and obsidian-eyed than my cartoon, an almost Gouldish caricature of the Heartless Capitalist Bastard); Democratic God, obviously Jerry Garcia. Iím not a big deadhead or anythingóthatís just how the Democratic God comes out looking. Itís unavoidable.
Iíve always been bemused by that hardassed conservative Dad aphorism, "Money doesnít grow on trees!" True, except food and clothing and shelter do. The same kinds of people who say that also like to say, "You think the world owes you a living?" No, it doesnít; it just gives you one. Or at least it used to, before they locked up all the food and made you pay for it. (See Daniel Quinnís Ishmael for elaboration.) I suspect most of us have a hardassed conservative Dad/ Dick Cheney voice in out heads, constantly reproaching us for being so lazy and weak and indulgent, telling us to grow up, get a job, quit our whining, nose to the grindstone, nothingís free. (Note: my own father was nothing like this.) Try to remember: that guyís an asshole. Arthur C. Clarke said that manís true purpose in the universe is to enjoy himself. "The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. Thatís why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system." Who are you going to believe: the man who invented communications satellites, or the kinds of guys who gave us Iraq?
It wasnít until Tuesday morning that it occurred to me how this cartoon could be made funny--too late for print, but just in time for the internet version, you lucky readers. This was by adding the last two lines, about God smiting Indonesia and Alabama. The first thing I thought when I read about the earthquake in Indonesia was what the protagonist of After Hours mutters to himself when he sees random shooting through a kitchen window: "Iíll probably get blamed for this." Just because itís a predominantly Muslim country, I glumly imagined that somehow the United States would once again be the object of angry chanting, if not for causing the quake by some top-secret seismic weapon then at least for failing to send enough aid in response. I wondered whether Muslims ever assume that God is punishing them the way some Christians announced that God was punishing us for our wickedness with 9/11 and Katrina. I like how God keeps hammering the Bible Belt with tornadoes and floods. Youíd think theyíd get the fucking message already: Shut up! You notice how at every natural disaster there always seems to be one dullard gratefully blubbering to the cameras that he or she must have been spared by a miracle because God has a mysterious Plan for them? How come we never hear theories from those people about why everybody else got killed?
Kurt Vonnegut wonders why the religious Right canít recognize Eugene Debsís famous declaration, "As long as there's a lower class I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free," as a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount. "My God," he despairs, "the religious right will not acknowledge what a merciful person Jesus wasÖ they enjoy punishment." Christianity has certainly given a lot of fodder to criminals and bigots and fools. Ann Coulter notoriously summarized her understanding of the book of Genesis: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" This is what you might call a rough paraphrase. Some Christians would argue that this sort of thuggish interpretation ignores Godís implicit charge to stewardship. Others, however, warn that environmentalism is perilously close to pantheism. In retrospect, it has to be said that God maybe would have been better advised to assign the job of taking care of the planet to the penguins or lemurs.
This week Ms. C.-H. received a long and rambling mass e-mail, written in Standard Christian Wackjob Q & A style, which said, among other things,
You are also wrong to conclude that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. He said this: "Heaven and earth may disappear, but I promise you that not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen" (Matthew 5:18 CEV). What is written in the Law? You know:
ďYou may not have sex relations with men, as you do with women: it is a disgusting thingĒ (Leviticus 18:22 BBE).
Did Jesus come to do away with the Law, as you suggest or hope?:
"Don't ever think that I came to set aside Moses' Teachings or the Prophets. I didn't come to set them aside but to make them come true" (Matthew 5:17 GW).
As The Dude says, "Youíre not wrong, Walter--youíre just an asshole." The Old Testament does unambiguously call homosexuality an abomination, and Jesus did say that not one word of the scriptures would be altered. Of course theologians who are wiser and kinder than this self-righteous twerp, men like Eckhart and Bonhoffer and Niebuhr, have wrestled with issues like these and sought out subtler, more metaphorical interpretations of scripture. But read literallyówhich is the only way that simple-minded people can read things--these passages present problems for Christian homosexuals and progressives. Not for me, though, because I donít give a shit what the Bible has to say about anything at all. Nor do I take seriously the opinions of people who try to mash that crude grid of ancient tribal laws down on top of complex contemporary ethical and geopolitical problems. Back to the kidsí tableóthe grownups are trying to talk here.
I think the twenty-first century is going to be what optimists like to call a challenge or learning experience or time of opportunity---what the rest of us call a catastrophe, a fucking nightmare, an unparallelled shitstorm. And Christianity seems to have jack shit of any use to say about the unprecedented and overwhelming problems we face. In Africa, where businesses are losing a lot of weekly work hours to funerals, the Catholic Church is still preaching abstinence and opposing condoms. New Orleans was recently destroyed and the polar icecaps are melting, and most evangelicals in America think gay marriage is the most urgent issue facing the country. Of course Christianity will continue to thrive in terms of sheer numbers, since funnily enough its popularity seems to correlate, along with high birthrates, to lack of education. But in terms of contributing anything good or helpful to the human debate, itís effectively the senile patriarch of the family, still angrily banging his cane on the floor and demanding attention even though heís just gabbling about something that didnít even happen back in 1947. Mattress party, anyone?