Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Like Jesus

 There are plenty of good reasons to like Jesus. For many, it is his simple words of peace and forgiveness that still ring true after two thousand years. Others grasp hopefully to the promise of eternal life in paradise. Some folks just like the beard. While I am drawn to his charisma and message of tolerance, what I love most about Jesus is the virtually limitless material he provided for single panel comics.

It started in second grade at Davinese Boys' school in Beaconsfield. We had to take a class called Scriptures. The format of this class was simple. The teacher would read bible stories to a bunch of squirmy, smart alecky British school boys (and me). We were tasked with listening attentively and then responding with drawings that depicted the stories we had heard. We were like prepubescent monks, illustrating a new, new bible with map pencils and crayons. I was in heaven - not literally, of course.

The cool thing about all of the old bible figures, and Jesus in particular, is that they are easy to draw. They all had beards and wore robes. Notable exceptions are Adam and Eve (but it would be years before I mustered the artistic courage to draw them). Once you have figured out how to make little circles for toes and lines to represent the sandals, all you have left to tackle are the hands. Hands and arms are always tricky. In the bible, they are often raised - whether it be to smite the wicked, raise the dead, or just hoist a glass of freshly vinted wine at a wedding. So, you bend the elbows a little, gap the robes around the wrists, and pray you don't screw up the fingers. A cool trick I learned at Davinese, was that if you dab a little Crayola crimson red on each palm, you have instant stigmata. It is a powerful image that conveniently distracts critical eyes from ungainly fingers.

As a boy, I added some secular touches to my pictures - fish gasping for water in a freshly parted Red Sea or a pair of wookies trying to sneak onto Noah's arc. But this was a private school and we avoided the profane out of self preservation, if not devotion. I grew up, somewhat, but never quit drawing Jesus. For a while I was publishing religious comics in a magazine called The Atheist. More recently Jenn and I launched a line of greeting cards, including a number of birthday/Christmas cards. Though the quality of the drawing has remained pathetically stagnant since grade school days, I like to think that the comics are funny and occasionally insightful.

I particularly like Jesus because I can draw him. I can draw him as a god or a man without fear of reprisal. And I've drawn some pretty offensive cartoon depictions of Jesus. I do so because I believe that Jesus had a sense of humor and that our gods and heroes are only worthy of devotion if they can stand up to fearless questioning while retaining their supposed message of peace. And if we are to be followers of these peaceful gods, we will strive to do likewise.


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