Comics, in general, are rarely a reliable place to turn to for great theology, and web comics — even less so. Radio Free Babylon is often pretty solid — or, at least, thought-provoking without being offensive or mindlessly reductionist — which is usually the best that one can hope for on the ol’ Interwebs, where the click is king and content producers of all stripes will do whatever it takes to collect.
All that being said, web comics and other funny Internet junk is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, and one of the sites I check out from time to time is Cyanide & Happiness. To me, the strip is the perfect embodiment of the kind of hit-or-miss nature of postmodernist, online humor I’m talking about. I’ve seen C&H comics I thought were biting, wonderfully well-rendered satire of some of the most insane and ridiculous things that characterize our everyday existence. I’ve also seen ones where the punchline was somebody’s butt or “Jesus is a zombie.”
But anyway, this one gave me pause:
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net
I realize that deconstructing a web comic can sometimes be a bit like dissecting an eraser (you’re not likely to get very far, or find anything that’s not already plainly visible on the surface), but humor me for just a second.
I liked this because I think it illustrated something that is true of most of us, especially us religionites. Whatever our level of “devoutness,” it’s so easy to receive a clear command or directive from God — whether it be from scripture or the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit within — and immediately start looking for the wiggle room.
This comic also illustrates, I believe, the same kind of woodenly literal hermeneutic that leads to certain Christian groups and their followers elevating the historical interpretation of the Genesis creation narratives over scriptural directives that seem far clearer. I doubt any young-earther would interpret Christ’s statement in the story of the adulterous woman the way this comic does, and yet, their reading of Genesis 1-3 seems to miss the point just as much.
But I digress.
Finally, I like this comic because it’s in line with my view of original sin. I have no quarrel with the idea that we have a sinful nature, but I think the full-blown Augustinian/Calvinistic notion that every human baby is born spiritually dead and condemned by God because of something that supposedly happened thousands of years ago (I’ve found this is sometimes called “original guilt” to differentiate it) is both biblically untenable and intellectually repellant.
I simply don’t understand how you can affirm that all flesh is born guilty before God and still make any sort of sense of a Jesus whom most Christians believe was a) completely human (i.e., he shared the same flesh we do), and b) completely sinless (i.e., not guilty before God).
So, in other words, I like this comic because I can show it to my ultra-Calvinist friends and watch them pretend to find it funny even though it goes against some of their most deeply held doctrinal convictions. Which is always fun.