Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
My editor, Andy Markowitz, called to tell
me about an angry phone call he'd received about this one. Andy has gotten
very adept at thinking on his feet when it comes to defending the outrageous
offenses to public sensibility I perpetrate every week, and said that he thought
it was an absurd depiction of a very human behavior in extremis, in
contrast to what the Bible holds up as an example.
"That sounds like a lot of intellectual bullshit,"
the man said. [I'm paraphrasing Andy's paraphrase here, so pardon me if I'm
gettng the phrasing wrong.] "This is just typical of the anti-Christian
sentiment in this culture. You would never hve run a cartoon that insulting
to any other group!"
"You obviously aren't a regular reader of Tim's cartoons,"
replied Andy. God bless him.
Andy gave me the guy's phone number in case I wanted to
discuss it wih him, which I didn't--what, I'm going to go out of my way just
to get yelled at?--but in case that guy, or anyone like him, is reading this,
let me speak for myself now:
I realize how disingenuous this will sound, but it honestly
hadn't even occurred to me that this cartoon might be controversial. I admit
that I have drawn cartoons that are pretty unambiguously hostile to Christianity
(for example, "Sour Grapes at the Rapture," which shows me and my
friend Jim swigging whiskey out of the bottle and taking pot shots with a
rifle at the Elect ascending into Heaven), but I never thought of this as
one of them. In fact at first I was going to depict myself on the cross,
breaking down and bitterly cussing out my persecutors in the same unChristlike
manner shown here, but I'd just done a couple of other cartoons using myself
as a character and I didn't want to get to self-centered. So I just used Jesus
instead. As it says on my tombstone n the cartoon on the back of issue #3,
"I Thought It Would Be Funny."
I'd just sort of forgotten that there are people out there
for whom the image of Christ on the cross is just not an acceptable subject
for humor or parody under any circumstances. I live a very insulated life,
and it's easy for me to forget that people still actualy believe in
God, just like I forget that most people still think we live in a democracy
and actually watch TV every day.
There are three reasons I tend to mock Christianity more
often than other religions:
1.) I was brought up as a Christian, so I have a few personal
resentments against it. Although not as many as you might think. It didn't
really do me any harm, except made me feel guilty about everything, and once
I figured out that it was a bunch of hooey I turned out okay. I don't have
the kind of rabidly rebellious or vengeful feelings about it that a lot of
lapsed Catholics and Born-Agains sem to. I don't believe that I'm any more
entitled to make fun of it than non-Christians, but I do think that my familiarity
with it makes me better at making fun of it and all its lovable foibles.
2.) Christianity is the majority religion in this country,
and it is the job of cartoonists, comedians, humorists, artists, and other
cultural critics to subvert the dominant culture. I know that Christians,
like pretty much every other group in this increasingly Balkanized culture,
likes to feel like an embattled minority holding out against the overwhelming
onslaught of secular humanism, but come on: ninety-five percent of the population
believes in God; some appalling percentage, like fifty, actually believe in
angels.You can't run for public office in America wthout pretending
to believe in God. You guys need to accept that there are plenty of non-Christians,
agnostics, and atheists out there, and I'm afraid we get to say whatever we
want, just like you do.
3.) Christianity is just much stupider than other religions.
I'm just digging myself in deeper here. Well, I probably
can't convince anybody not to be offended by this cartoon, but maybe I can
convince you that offending you was not my intention. You can only use something
as a subject for irreverence if you, or your readers already understand it
as sacred. What Andy tried to explan to the caler was correct; the only way
this cartoon could even be considered funny is by absurd contrast to the example
of (literally, if you believe in the divinity of Christ) superhuman dignity,
unfaltering faith, and compassion for his executors that Christ is said to
have exhibited on Golgotha. (Yeah, I went to Sunday School, you fuckers.)
So at least give me credit for familiarity with (if not reverence for) the
text I am parodying. Thank you for your attention, and may the Lord Jesus
Christ bless you and keep you all, the humorous and the humorless alike. Amen.