Archive of articles classified as' "Religion"Back home
A graphic novel by Chester Brown
Subtitle: “Prostitution And Religious Obedience In The Bible”
I recommend this book with reservations.
Some of you who are Christians shouldn’t read it; not because it has naughty pictures in it, but because you aren’t spiritually capable of processing Brown’s interpretation of the Bible.
You will rant and rave and condemn his book
and his ideas but gain no benefit from them.
And by “benefit” I don’t mean you will change your mind and accept what he says, but that you won’t take his perspective to look at the source material with fresh eyes.
Because frankly, that’s the most important thing about this book: Its ability to get us to step out of our traditional mindsets and look at the text anew.
We may opt to say, “Hmm, interesting, but I’m not convinced” and return to our original point of view, but we will at least now have the ability to evaluate that belief in comparison with another, far more different interpretation.
And that can only strengthen our belief in the long run.
Conversely, some of you who are skeptics shouldn’t read it either because you lack the perspective and context to grasp the points Brown makes.
You’ll gleefully shout, “Aha! Mary was a hooker! I knew it!”
and decide there is no reason to look any further into
the teachings of Christ because it’s all bogus.
That’s not what Brown is saying.
So after the jump I’ll analyze what Brown’s point is.
I will say here that Brown’s style is aptly suited for this book, just cartoony enough to make the stories and characters accessible to all readers, realistic enough to forestall unintentional comedy. Brown has chosen to approach his versions of the stories mostly from a plain text reading (i.e., what does a story itself tell, not “Is this story factual?”) although he does look at some stories in the context of extra-Biblical knowledge of the cultures involved.
As Brown has chosen a plain text approach, I will offer my critique of his book based on a plain text reading as well. If you’re not capable of reading what follows with an open mind, here is a hopefully amusing post to keep you entertained.
The map, as Alfred Korzybski was so fond of pointing out, is not the territory.
Neither is the flag the nation,
nor the word the reality.
The worst piece of art in the history of the world hangs under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
It is not, in and of itself, a technical or aesthetic failure.
Quite the contrary.
Indeed, if it were called
“Zeus Tricks Prometheus Into Pulling His Finger”
“Jor-El Sends Kal-El To Earth”
it would be great.
But as it is, it’s proven to be a destructive and divisive instrument to the Good News, a tribute to humanity’s vainglorious lust for ambition and power and not to the spiritual truths that bind us all.
It is — and without the least sense of irony by either artist or patron — in direct violation to one of the revered Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
There’s a reason for that, folks;
it’s not just a petty tribal taboo.
Creating an image of the Divine basically puts God in a box.
A box of human making.
A box that serves human purposes.
A box to keep God confined.
A box in which God is dead and buried.
The Sistine Chapel exists very specifically to put a human face on the Divine, to change the Divine, in fact, into God, and to depict God as part of humanity’s authoritarian power hierarchy.
That’s nonsense, of course.
Human power hierarchies are meaningless to the Divine.
It’s like trying to confine the vast reality of the oceans into the tiny word “sea” written on an index card and then claiming that because you are holding that card, you are the chosen representative of that “sea” and invested with the power and authority to decide who gets wet.
Putting the Divine into God|box|coffin only benefits the makers of the box.
This is an old, old problem.
It first cropped up immediately after the Divine offered the Covenant from Mt. Sinai to the collected nation of Israel.
The collected nation of Israel freaked, and turned to a substitute God of their own making.
No, not the golden calf:
They wanted Moses to be their intercessor, because they could not conceive of the Divine as anything other than a ruthless, merciless, violent tyrant.
Because ruthless, merciless, violent tyrants were the only authority they understood, and authority was the only social structure they could comprehend after having been subjugated to tyrants for centuries.
So Moses obliged.
Moses did not so much interpret the Covenant so much as create loopholes.
“Thou shalt not kill” — unless you violated this, that, or the other tribal taboo.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery” — unless you’re a guy wanting to trade up to a newer, hotter model.
“Thou shalt not covet” — unless you’re part of Moses’ own tribe, and in that case you don’t have to actually own anything ‘cuz you can just tell people you’ll turn off the God spigot unless they give you their best stuff.
He crafted laws that — outside the context of building a unique national identity among people without one — are at times insane excursions into pointless minutia.
The Divine certainly doesn’t.
But we as the Church in the 21st century are stuck with the finely crafted coffin our predecessors have made for the Divine.
A coffin that imposes human concepts of gender and human concepts of emotion and human concepts of form and even human concepts of physicality onto the Divine.
As was said in only a slightly different context:
 The Divine already did that a millennium and a half early, and with much better results.
 And very explicitly to link God’s authority to that of Pope Julius II (Michelangelo’s patron) so he could justify laying the smack-down on anyone who rejected him as Head Honcho Of Everything On Earth.
 It could be argued that water is a much better metaphor of the Divine than God the Father: Water permeates every living thing, is comprised of basic, simple, easy to grasp characteristics, yet moves in its own way without regard to the desires of humans; indeed, humans who attempt to defy water invariably come to a bad end, while those who learn to move with and accommodate water find it a limitless bounty. And while Jesus used many metaphors for the Divine, he was certainly fond of the water one.
 No, we’re not trashing Moses; he had a tough job re transforming a mob of slaves into a nation of believers. But the Bible is pretty clear he was a hot tempered, impetuous, judgmental, violent, murderous man and the laws he felt inspired to write often reflect those prejudices and peccadillos. That he was even able to articulate “an eye for an eye” as a proportional limit to justice marks a significant positive growth and change in his worldview and probably one of the few genuine Divinely inspired laws he laid down.