Pentecost and cartoonists

In his "Letter to Artists," Pope John Paul II put liturgical art as perhaps the highest expression of the creative gift. But he noted that all art has value as it pursues the artist's vocation of bringing beauty to the world. He even noted that "bad art" has a place, it shows us a world without God.

Artistic expression covers a lot of ground. I have never been one to suggest that one expression is better than another. The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, giving them gifts that allowed them to speak to the people of the world in their own language, in a language they know by heart. The Holy Spirit also gives artists gifts that allow them to speak to people in a language they know by heart. Everyone will be drawn back to God in different ways. Some will be drawn by the priest and his sermons, others will be drawn by the artist that reflects the splendor of God and brings hope and joy to His people.

Different artists have different skills to reach different people. And as we heard from St. Paul, there are different gifts but the same Spirit. Just as no one can say Jesus is Lord without the working of the Holy Spirit, no one can paint Jesus as Lord without the working of the Holy Spirit. That makes all images of Jesus as Christ and Lord valid.

We should not dismiss any artistic fruit as trivial or irrelevant. Liturgical artists lift people's hearts and minds to God during the liturgy, landscape and portrait artists have the opportunity to depict their subjects glowing with the light of God. And then there are cartoonists. I have heard from cartoonists who sometimes think their work has no value in the service of God. They could not be more wrong. The best way to illustrate this is with an example. Charles Shulz, the creator of Peanuts, was also a devout Christian. He created a number of Christian cartoons that were collected in a couple of different volumes. This is one of his cartoons.
If you are unable to read the caption it is "Jacob worked for Rachel's family for seven years to obtain her hand in marriage ... I can't even find a boyfriend who will help my mother carry the groceries in from the station wagon!"

In addition to making us smile this cartoon opens the door for a deeper reflection on relationships, marriage, and commitment. This also turns our hearts and minds to God in a unique way.

All of us have been given gifts to bring scattered humanity back together. There are people who can only be reached by our unique use of these gifts. If a single-panel cartoon can cause even one person to reflect upon their lives in relationship to God then it is invaluable.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Charles Schulz is many things, but I'm not sure what you mean by "devout Christian," http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sonoma/12.30.99/schulz2-9952.html He gave important matters much more thought than the mainstream, but he saw him self drift away from any overt association with any organized religion as he aged. I understand wanting to call him one of our own, but I'm not sure that's entirely accurate.

Lawrence Klimecki, deacon said...

Well I mean devout as in "devoted to" and Christian as "believing in Christ as God." Drifting away from any organized religion doesn't make you un-Christian, and the article you referenced doesn't seem to detract from the assertion that Schulz was Christian.

Here is another article:


and some excerpts:

"He was a member and Sunday School teacher in the Church of God (Anderson), a conservative Protestant denomination in the Pietist and Wesleyan tradition."

He can be that and still be a devoted Christian.

"Yet Schulz put over Christian ideas (not fundamentalist ideas, but still fairly orthodox Christian ones) for half a century without creating a stir."

So my point was that all expressions of artistic ability are valuable and can help to bring humanity together and back to God. I used Charles Schulz as an example. The fact that he may not have been a model Christian doesn't make him less of one, it only makes him human.

Sonia Jackson said...

I wish I were at home and could quote from a favorite cartoon, but sadly I can't. I would like to add Bill Watterson, cartoonist of "Calvin and Hobbes" to the discussion. I've found beautiful philosophical renderings in "Calvin and Hobbes" which would remind me of Christian philosophy and teaching. I know I'm not alone: Readers thought that he was a devout Christian, perhaps even Catholic, but in the FAQ of his site, he mentions that he never had even been to Church.


So many artists are pulled away from faith in practice, but yesterday I was reading a passage from Father Richard John Neuhaus's book "CATHOLIC MATTERS" which points out that many of the greatest known and respected artists and writers who may not be thought of as Catholic or Christian, may have at least had Catholic origins, which is worth noting.

If I can find the passage later, and it's still relevant to our discussion, I'll quote it.

Ben Hatke said...

I think Bill Watterson was a member of the First Church of Grumpiness.

Ben Hatke said...

In Wattersons defence, though, I'm sometimes tempted to join the Grumpies myself.

DN said...

Haha. Yes.