“‘Good and Evil,’ the Graphic Bible, Considered With Dismay,” by Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Posted on October 31st, 2010 | Filed under Faith and Politics, InterViews

I am torn, completely torn, while watching the YouTube clip advertising an upcoming project from No Greater Joy Ministries.

Michael and Debi Pearl gained widespread media attention earlier this year on the anniversary of the death of an abused child—his parents claimed to be following “child training” practices espoused by the Pearls, and taught to parents through their ministry.

As a Christian also committed to the education and training of children, I followed this story with interest and some dismay. My heart went out to abused children, but I also have positive associations with homeschooling, with Bible-based education, and with Christian families who might use these teachings. I grew up with and went to church with many such families.

No Greater Joy Ministries recently caught my attention with another pair of projects. They have teamed up with a former Marvel cartoonist, and created a graphic “novel” version of the Bible.  Additionally, they are seeking to—and gathering funds to—turn the finished novel into a feature film in the style of anime and Hollywood successes based upon comic books.

This, I have no problem with. In fact, in the short clip of the film I was able to view, I did have a powerful reaction, and the subject matter resonated with me. Personally, my Christian relationship with God has shaped who I am, and how I move in the world, and I believe that God is real and good in my life.

I also believe in evil, so it would seem that I might be a natural audience for this project.

The No Greater Joy website provides both a video available on YouTube documenting the creation of the book, it’s dissemination, and the feature film goal.

They also provide a narrative describing the importance of funding and spreading this particular ministry.

Within thirty seconds of beginning the video, I began to get a sinking, creepy sensation. To use Christian language, I began to discern that the fruits of this film advertisement might not be… good.

In the first thirty seconds of the video, I count five references to religions other than Christianity.  With the sound muted, the video montages of people of different faiths, in different geographical locations look lovely. The landscapes and religious imagery are beautiful, and inspiring.  With the sound on, though, one hears the voice over, which includes commentary about places in the world  “…in need of hope.”

We are given the immediate impression that there are some of “us” (those who agree that this project needs to be translated, and might be willing to fund such an empire-based project) who understand what is “good,” and there are “those” who are in need of truth and revelation.

Certainty of one’s own righteousness has never been a Christ-based tenet, as far as I can tell. Since I was a girl, I was taught to refrain from saying my prayers loudly in the marketplace, and to instead freshen my face and pray to God in my own room.  To not judge, to focus on the beam in my own eye.  And… to believe in the power of God.

That’s right: I do believe in the power of God. If you ask me, personally, about my faith journey and my relationship with God, I am happy and gratified to evangelize in that way. I do believe God changes my life. I do believe the message of the Gospel has the potential to offer great hope and peace.

And yet. I live in a multi-religious world, in a community with many, many other points of view, profound experiences, and possibilities for truth and peace.

So many parts of the video are offensive to me.

The way a young female voice with a Southern accent from the US (so homespun!  So Christian?) translates the words of a Lao woman (not “girl”).

The way images of people worshipping [in apparent non-Christian religions] are used as foil to “the good” that needs spreading: Christianity.

The following description of the potential missionary power of the graphic novel:

“You can walk up to a Muslim or Buddhist street vendor and give him a box of these books and he will sell them, not caring that they advocate Christianity. After all, profit first,” my emphasis.

The many threads of tensions strain for my attention. I could watch the video a few more times, but it’s upsetting. It reminds me of the worst, most empire-driven aspects of Christian history. It reminds me of how tricky it can be to sort out “my truth” (or even, “my Truth”) from my openness (a God-created openness, I believe) to the passionate experiences of others.

How can I live as a child of God in community if I secretly—or openly—behave as if I’m the right one, and I pity those around me who haven’t had access to “the Good”?  Does No Greater Joy Ministries believe everyone else is “evil”?

How can we Christians reconcile this aspect of our community (our brothers and sisters, as it were) with pluralism and the increasingly diverse communities in which we live, work, and serve?  Why do Christians so frequently feel compelled to sell/send/share/insist on their message and experience to others?

2 Responses to ““‘Good and Evil,’ the Graphic Bible, Considered With Dismay,” by Stephanie Varnon-Hughes”

  1. […] A review of an evangelical graphic novelization of the Bible, “‘Good and Evil,’ the Graphic Bible, Considered with Dismay.” […]

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