Calvin and Comics

Comic-strip superheros have always had their secret identities. But the concept of secret identity has just taken on a new meaning. Northstar, a superhero for Marvel Comics, recently announced that he's gay. I guess superheros don't just come out of phone booths any more. They come out of closets. Well, the comics aren't just entertainment any more. But maybe they never were. You see, people everywhere hold to some set of beliefs, some world view--whether they're a university professor or a comic-strip writer. And their world view is bound to come out in their work. The writers at Marvel Comics obviously hold a humanistic world view that worships at the altar of tolerance. The president of Marvel said the purpose in making Northstar gay is to [quote] "preach tolerance" of homosexuality. Isn't it interesting to learn that a cartoon is supposed to anything at all. But, thankfully, humanism isn't the only world view preached through comics. Think of the classic comic strip "Peanuts," created by Charles Schultz. He is an active member in an evangelical church and sees the world through Christian eyes. His humor is never cynical or vicious but filled with sympathetic insight into human nature. Several years ago, Schultz even published a book called The Gospel According to Peanuts. Another Christian cartoonist is Doug Marlette, creator of "Kudzu." Its characters are from the deep South, including the pastor Will B. Dunn. The strip pokes gentle fun at the foibles of imperfect Christians living in an imperfect world. The black cartoonist Ray Billingsley is also a Christian. His strip "Curtis" depicts the stark life of the inner city, but his characters model strong family values that have grown out of the black church. One of the most popular cartoons today is "Calvin and Hobbes," which features a little boy and his stuffed tiger, who comes to life in the boy's imagination. I'm not sure about the cartoonist's religious faith but the title plays off the names of John Calvin, the great Reformation leader, and Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher. What these two historical figures held in common was the belief that human nature is depraved. The little boy in the strip portrays on a childish level all the sin and weakness that flesh is heir to. What we're seeing is Christians working to shape popular culture. So often Christians fall into the habit of merely complaining about the bad parts of our culture--suggestive lyrics in music, sex and violence on television. Our major goal seems to be to criticize popular culture and keep our kids away from the worst of it. But we should also make it our goal to produce good, wholesome products to take its place. We have to create an alternative culture. If we're artists and musicians, we can create wholesome art and music--and not just for Christian audiences but for the mainstream culture as well. If we're businessmen, we can help support these efforts financially and market them. The point is, there's no such thing as "mere" entertainment. Whether it's movies or music or comic strips, everything has a message, everything preaches a world view. Our calling as Christians is to make sure the biblical world view is heard--in church, in business, in politics, and yes even in the funny pages.    


Chuck Colson


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