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Sunday, October 15, 2006

There Are No Lions Here

A couple of months back, I remember, there were a couple of entries floating around on a few blogs complaining about the portrayal of Christianity in Comics.

They were very eloquent, well reasoned arguments, but something about them left a mildly bad taste in my mouth. I decided to file it aside for later thought.

Very recently I found myself revisiting the idea in my mind. On one level, I sympathize completely. It absolutely sucks to see one's belief system and life-path reduced to a caricature. I've complained about that very thing in my post about Catholicism. It's not fun and can be downright meanspirited.

So I sympathized with the bloggers in that sense, but there was something about their entries that grated on me. A sense of persecution that left a bad aftertaste. Not all of the complaints were like this, of course, but there were quite a few that seemed to be claiming victimhood.

And I'm sorry, but when you are a member of the dominant religion of this country. When your religious creed is regularly used to deny basic human rights to a group of people (regardless of whether you yourself believes this is right or wrong). When people have to fight to keep a scientifically supported theory like evolution taught in science class over religious doctrine and to keep organized institutionalized prayer out of public schools...

Then you can NOT play the victim card here. You CAN'T. Your religion runs this country. Your religion is being shoved down the religious minority's throats every minute of every day. Even if it were true that Christianity is unfairly portrayed in this one area, you still hold dominion over every other aspect of our lives!

Besides, I'm reasonably certain that if you got the major decision making personnel of Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and so on together and asked each one what their religion is, the majority of them would answer some denomination of Christianity. This is hardly astonishing as Christianity is the dominant religion of this country.

(At the risk of making swift generalizations, I don't think it's a stretch to imagine men named "Didio" and "Quesada" were at least raised Christian, regardless of their religions now.)

Actually, I'm not even sure that the complaint ultimately holds weight. I mean, sure, those mean intolerant preacher caricatures are infuriating, but let's look for a moment at Adherent.com's website cataloging the religious affiliations of comic book characters.

This site is incredibly useful because it categorizes all of the superheroes by their religious affiliations as established in the comics themselves. If you click on the links provided, you'll see that they've gathered a variety of evidence for each, based on creator quotes, scholarly theories, and examples within the text/graphics themselves.

Now, I'd estimate 1/2 to 2/3 of the names on that list to be some denomination of Christianity. Admittedly, the amount that they practice within the text can be debatable. But still the number of Christian heroes vastly outnumber those of any other religion.

Under-represented? Really?

Sure, we rarely see outward expressions of faith by these characters. Except for celebration of Christmas, naturally, or the giant church scene in Infinite Crisis. But we rarely see a Jewish person do anything more than wear a Star of David or light a menorah. Diana gets a little more focus on her pagan religion, sure, but given that the gods created her... It's really not any more focus though, than is received by characters such as the Spectre, Zauriel or Peter David's Supergirl, all of whom became living representatives of a (usually) benevolent Judeo-Christian God.

Even the atheists don't get very much lip-service, honestly. When they do, it's designed to contrast them as a minority against the rest of the DCU. That's hardly counting.

I can see why this can lead to the desire to show more outwardly religious characters in the DCU. And I'm always glad to see that sort of character exploration.

But when you think about it, most of these characters are already living up to the ideals of the Christian religion. They're just, kind, brave. They protect the weak. They act with honor. They do unto others and all that.

Basically, they're living the Christian ideal already. In as much as anyone humanly can.

Finally, there is one main reason that I think the complaints ultimately lose momentum...

Superman.

According to Adherents.com, Superman is a Methodist. While it's not overtly stated in the text, as far as I know, it's pretty clearly a part of the man's life. We've seen him enter into religious dialogues with clergymen. We've seen him attend church. We've seen that he does NOT drink alcohol.

He's pretty clearly portrayed as a quietly pious religious devotee. Perhaps not all the scripture means everything that it once may have, but the spirit is clearly there.

And he's brave, wise, true. He makes mistakes, but only out of the best of intentions. He believes in the goodness of people, in helping where needed and stepping back to let people live their own lives.

He's tolerant. He makes a very visible effort to respect everyone's different beliefs. He's attended Shabbos dinner and made a very sincere attempt in following the customs that were very different from his own.

Superman is one character, yes, but he is the flagship character. Superman IS DC Comics. The image of Superman standing on the world, cape waving like an American Flag. That's an image recognized by people all over the world. He is SUPERMAN.

And he's one hell of a good Christian.

I admit, Superman and other devout Christian heroes will never get the attention with regards to their religion that the loud, obnoxious preacher gets. When people think of Christianity in comics, they're not going to think of the good guys, of the moderates and the temperates, tolerants and true. They're going to think of that raving preacher, threatening fire and brimstone, demonized for hatred and intolerance.

They do say that Art is a mirror of Life.

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26 Comments:

  • At October 15, 2006 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can we Christians be victims of our own kind? Sorry, couldn't resist. Really what you say is pretty much spot on and it is so because of the more judgemental and rigid of Christianity. That extreme is not the norm. The trouble is that too many well meaning people blindly follow these that have been elevated by their talents of speech.

    I am a minister and church is calling. I want to comment more, because I have been the victim of my own kind, and comics was the vehicle they attack through.

    I just hope that like you and others want women to not be seen in the narrow sense of how they are portrayed in comics negatively, remember that there are those of us who believe and strive to live the example of Jesus Christ and not the example of the current conservative majority.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 10:16 AM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kali,
    I find the mysticism surrounding Catholicism in comic books (and media in general) to be so strange it is almost laughable. But I was raised New Orleans Catholic, which is less a religion and more of a culture. We don't read the bible, nor can we quote it, and most of us really don't know Latin. At all. Plus, there's the whole Mardi Gras thing, which is a Catholic holiday.

    Are you watching Studio 60? There's a running concern regarding portrayals of Christians in the media and, in particular, the show in the show. Very interesting stuff!
    Ciao,
    Amy

     
  • At October 15, 2006 4:12 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    Adherents is a good site, but I'm not sure I agree with all their assessments. They have a tendency I've noticed to conflate the religion a character may or may not have been raised in, with their religious affiliation. F'r instance, whether or not Batman was raised Episcopalian or Catholic, he identifies himself (explicitly) as an atheist. An Atheist isn't "Episcopalian / Catholic (lapsed)," an atheist is an atheist. And their 'evidence' for Lois Lane being Catholic is specious and shaky at best (the page they have with Ron & Lucy is out of context, and interpreted in a horrendously wrong fashion--Lucy didn't want Lois to know she was pregnant, not that she was considering an abortion).

    Something I've noticed, and I apologize for the generalization that follows this, particularly in the conservative Christians who wear their faith on their sleeves, is that they often have a "persecution fetish," where they perceive the world as though they are constantly being assaulted, from all angles, for their faith. The level of this varies, from those who protest the "banning" of prayer from school to those who believe in an overarching atheist/humanist conspiracy to keep Christian beliefs out of the mainstream.

    Whatever the case, this belief is nearly always unfounded to the point of ridiculousness. Yes, there are places where Christians are persecuted, even today. Those places are not in the United States, or indeed most of the Western world.

    Christianity, it seems, is much like heteronormativity. As a starting point in this world, we assume that people are Christian until we're told otherwise (just as we make that assumption about heterosexuality). Since one's religious affiliation can't be determined by appearance, the most prevalent affiliation becomes seen as the "norm." So, unless a character's religion is particularly important to their daily life (Daredevil, Huntress), or they explicitly identify with another religion (Shadowcat, Wonder Woman), we assume they must be some sort of Christian denomination.

    So it seems to me that much of the "Christians are underrepresented in comics/Christians are portrayed in a negative light" rhetoric is just a grander part of this persecution fetish, that suffering, or the perception thereof, somehow increases the value of their faith and the virtue of their lives.

    I certainly don't mean to suggest that all Christians are subject to this; but my own experience is that the more one prays "standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men," the more they subscribe to this "everyone's out to get me because I'm a Christian" belief. No one's telling the "pray in the closet" crowd where to stick their faith, and it's not because they're doing it in secret, it's because they're not shoving it down everyone else's throats.

    Gosh, I sound angry in this. I'm really not meaning this to come across so spitefully.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 4:14 PM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said…

    I second what Palladin said.

    On this, you really can't lump all Christian faiths together. We don't all share the same beliefs and act the same way. Protestants don't act like Roman Catholics who don't act like Baptist. We bicker among ourselves with great regularity.

    Beyond that... Very interesting reading.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 4:30 PM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said…

    Tom Foss has shamed me into giving an example.

    Take Northen Ireland for an example. For years, it's been run by a Christian dominated government. Through out that time, the Roman Catholics have been treated like second class citizens in comparison to the Protestants. (How true it is now a days I don't know; I just know that it was true at one point.)

    My point (assuming that I have one) is that just because the majority is of a Christian faith doesn't mean that Christians aren't being persecuted. Nor are the loudest representative of the whole.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 5:06 PM, Anonymous Mela said…

    Something I've noticed, and I apologize for the generalization that follows this, particularly in the conservative Christians who wear their faith on their sleeves, is that they often have a "persecution fetish," where they perceive the world as though they are constantly being assaulted, from all angles, for their faith. The level of this varies, from those who protest the "banning" of prayer from school to those who believe in an overarching atheist/humanist conspiracy to keep Christian beliefs out of the mainstream.

    That's the problem. I'm sure that most Christians are like me & my immediate family - we take everything in stride and have an active interest in other faiths & philosophies.

    But like Palladin said, it's the "judgemental and rigid" that are the ones that raise a stink about every little thing & thus get the lion's share of the attention. For example, we're the 'non-whackjob' branch; we'll still shop at Target even though they don't beat employees for not saying "Merry Christmas" (like my crazy relatives seem to want). They embody this "persecution complex" like you wouldn't believe.

    I think the problem is that, creatively, there's an imbalance with Christian characters. You have to guess (like Adherents does) to find the good pious people, while the bad ones are rendered as larger than life & thus more painfully obvious. The worst part is, this just feeds the real-life you-just-don't-get-it Christians and their desire to be seen as suffering martyrs by giving them something else to complain about.

    (Although I will say this, for every atheist I've actually met who's okay about someone believing in a religion, I can easily find two who are blanketly hostile towards every possible faith. One compared religion as a concept to fairy tales for the simple and then tried to plead 'miscommunication' when pagans, Christians, & others rallied together to tell her to shove it. I'd like to see more atheists in this vain instead of "cool, superlogical nihilist".)

     
  • At October 15, 2006 5:51 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    Cullen said: My point (assuming that I have one) is that just because the majority is of a Christian faith doesn't mean that Christians aren't being persecuted. Nor are the loudest representative of the whole.

    And like I said, Christians are being persecuted in places (though the Northern Ireland situation has changed somewhat...I seem to recall that even the terrorism has subsided recently), but not in America, nor in mos of the Western world. And this is a prime example of the fact that even where Christians are persecuted in the West, they're still the majority: they're being persecuted by other Christians. And so it comes down to people not being "persecuted because of being Christian (the majority group)," but "persecuted because of belonging to a specific denomination (a minority group)."

    mela said: You have to guess (like Adherents does) to find the good pious people, while the bad ones are rendered as larger than life & thus more painfully obvious.

    Is there really that much guesswork? Daredevil, Huntress, and Nightdrawler are all outspoken Catholics. Punisher is a semi-lapsed Catholic. Granted, Catholicism is a subset of Christianity, but that's about equal to the number of outspoken Jewish characters I could name off the top of my head. Given the number of Christmas specials and cross-bearing headstones in comics, I think we can come to some pretty clear conclusions about a lot of non-Catholic Christian characters as well.

    What I think it comes down to in this instance is a quietly understood assumption that the "good" Christians express their faith through their actions, while the "bad" ones are the bombastic fire-and-brimstone hypocrites. It's hard to show a preachy Christian in a positive light.

    (Although I will say this, for every atheist I've actually met who's okay about someone believing in a religion, I can easily find two who are blanketly hostile towards every possible faith. One compared religion as a concept to fairy tales for the simple

    I'm not sure how comparing religion to fairy tales constitutes being "hostile." I'll agree that there are a lot of hostile atheists with a particular resentment of the church and religion, but I wouldn't consider it "hostility" that motivates Christians (and others) to consider the Greek, Norse, and Egyptian pantheons mythological, or consider Wicca and Islam and Atheism to be wrong, while their own beliefs are right. Some escalate that to the point of hostility (particularly with the latter three), but everyone is generally dismissive of faiths other than their own, even when they do treat them with respect. Everyone's an atheist with most religions and mystical philosophies, atheists just take an extra step. To an atheist, Christianity and other religions are just fictional stories full of magic and mythical creatures, much like fairy tales.

    Heck, the very term "fairy tale," with its dismissive, pejorative tone, is atheistic regarding the various religions and faiths and superstitions which revolved around fairies. Calling that "hostility," when it is practiced by nearly every faith regarding nearly every other, is really a misnomer.

    I'd like to see more atheists in this vain instead of "cool, superlogical nihilist".)
    I'd like to see a few of these "cool, superlogical nihilists" (though I hesitate linking atheism with nihilism, and I wonder what nihilistic comic characters there are at all), as opposed to the usual depiction I see of atheists, which is "blind/fool who just needs the right emotional impetus to find faith/can't see what's right in front of his eyes." Whether it's Mr. Terrific's 'conversion' after his experience with ghosts and whatnot (which thankfully seems to have been conveniently forgotten) or Crispus Allen's denial of God even as he acts as His messenger, linking atheism to "denial of the obvious," it seems that atheists fare little better than these complaints suggest of their theistic companions.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 6:20 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    To the above I can only add a big "me too!" in the direction of Tom Foss, who said everything I would have wanted to say, only more cogently than I could have managed.

    Except to add that both Christianity and to some extent Judaism both have motifs of unrelenting persecution and oppression deeply coded in their fundamental "origin stories." Being shunned and reviled and ultimately martyred is the central theme of both religions -- even more so than being spiritually elect or experiencing divine intervention, which Judeo-Christianity presents as a sort of consolation prize for its followers having such a rough time of it on Earth. This tradition isn't about encouraging its adherents to experience union with the Godhead or achieve Nirvana, but to endure the suffering of life through faith that the big prize is coming in the future: ultimate salvation or the Promised Land or the Rapture are always on the horizon, continually out of reach.

    Feeling persecuted and misunderstood is the basic modality of Christianity and Judaism, and people who invest so much in seeing themselves as oppressed simply can't afford to not feel that way.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 7:48 PM, Anonymous david brothers said…

    Being shunned and reviled and ultimately martyred is the central theme of both religions -- even more so than being spiritually elect or experiencing divine intervention, which Judeo-Christianity presents as a sort of consolation prize for its followers having such a rough time of it on Earth.

    This is wrong.

    Mathew 22:36-40:
    36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    38 This is the first and great commandment.
    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."


    The central theme isn't being shunned, or persecuted, or being weepy, or reviled, or being a victim, or whatever. That's a recent invention. Yes, people were martyed, and yes, that was seen as a good thing in the long run in that they stood by their faith... but if you think that Christianity is about being a weeping, whaaaaambulance-needing victim, you're dead wrong.

    The central theme of Christianity is to love God and then love your "neighbors," aka your fellow man. Full stop. Anything else is misrepresenting the faith. A lot of my fellow Christians are guilty of misrepresenting the faith. "God is love," therefore anything that is not love is not of God. It's right there, clear as day.

    Kalinara: My problem with the treatment of Christianity in comics is that, like another commenter said, the heroes who are Christians, with the exceptions like Daredevil, Huntress, etc, are rarely shown having anything to do with Christianity beyond saying "Oh my God."

    The loud "Christians," the obvious ones, they tend to be screaming hellfire and brimstone corrupt bigots. Chuck Austen's kind of hilariously poorly thought-out exploding communion wafer Nightcrawler as anti-pope story comes to mind, as does Ennis's Preacher (which I did enjoy) and William Stryker.

    It gets old seeing that the loudest and most visible representatives of my religion in fiction are idiots in general. I get enough of that in real life.

    I liked the church scene in Infinite Crisis in part because it was a change from the norm. It wasn't handled as "HEY LOOK GUYS A CHURCH CHECK IT OUT RELIGION HEY HEY." It was more real than that. While Nightcrawler's time as a priest always felt gimmicky, I always liked that he was a Catholic. Wolfsbane was another good one. I had high hopes for American Virgin, but it's turned out kind of mediocre and the coffin-humping put me off it completely.

    I've seen the Adherents site, and I think it's a great thing. A lot of it, though, is conjecture, and a lot of that conjecture is telling. Most of the usenet posts tend to start "What religion is X" or "I never really thought that X character had religion..." Most people don't realize that these characters have fleshed out backstories that include religion because it's never mentioned. If you were to suggest that Superman were Methodist or Batman anything but atheist/agnostic (I lean toward the latter more than the former) to the average comics fan, they'd laugh at you. But, for every Wolfsbane or Ben Grimm we have that does show their religion, we've got a Stryker, a crazy Austen nun, or whatever.

    I was doing some googling while writing this comment and I came across this, an interview with Terry Moore from the TCJ and he basically agrees that there aren't a lot of recognizable (good guy) Christians in comics. He felt that it was going against the grain to show a Christian who wasn't a crazy nutball bigot!

    I don't think that I'm coming at this from a victimized point of view. Christianity in comics is something I only think about when it's brought up by someone else. If I don't like a portrayal, I put it down and leave the book alone instead of getting all up in the internet's face about it. I do believe that there is a lack of balance shown in presenting good-guy Christians, such as Wally West etc, and the bad-guy Christians, however. I don't even mean that we need to see these guys in church every Sunday or preaching. Some kind of sign would be nice, be it a whispered prayer before going up against Darkseid or just a nervous fingering of a cross during a tense scene.

    Don't get me wrong, I do agree with a lot of what you say here, but I don't agree with your idea that if you are part of a majority in some way, you have no right to complain or feel bad when something mean-spirited is aimed your way. Wrong is wrong, no matter which direction it is aimed in, and I think that we have a basic human right (responsibility?) to address those wrongs.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 8:17 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    Christianity started as an iconoclastic religion of the people. Most religions of the time (and even today) were hierarchical and exclusivist. The only way you could become a member of those religions was by being born into them, or by being conquered. They tended to give a divine rational for societal hierarchy. The King/Pharaoh/Emperor led because he was chosen by the gods to do so, as the positions of all people are mandated by some divine right.

    Christianity went against the flow. You could convert to Christianity. Willingly, even! And ideas like "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" were heretical. Instead of saying "the rich and powerful are special in the gods' eyes," it said "blessed are the poor and meek."

    And that's one of the major reasons that Christians were persecuted in those days. Christianity was a religion of social change. It revolved around the empowerment of the common people (and peace and love, as David Brothers reminds us). Many of today's Christians have caught onto this in precisely the wrong way, elevating persecution rather than elevating those who are most likely to be persecuted.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 8:21 PM, Anonymous david brothers said…

    Christianity went against the flow. [snip] And ideas like "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" were heretical. Instead of saying "the rich and powerful are special in the gods' eyes," it said "blessed are the poor and meek."

    Yeah, this is a good point. There's a Bible verse that says something to the effect of "In God there is no male nor female, master nor slave, Jew nor Greek." In other words, we're all the same, all equal... and that went directly against the hierarchy (and patriarchy, if I am using that word properly) of the time. Honestly, it's still a pretty revolutionary thought, even today. Not enough people live by it.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 8:30 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
    --Galatians 3:28


    That might be my favorite verse out of the whole book. When my Lutheran college was plagued by a rash of homophobic incidents, they released an Affirmation of Welcome, centered around that line, and officially stating that everyone, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexuality, was welcome at the school and deserved to have the same opportunities and options as everyone else.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 9:47 PM, Anonymous Maria said…

    I wasn't going to comment, because I completely agreed with you the first time I read this post, but I reread it just now, and I have a comment after all.

    I most definitely agree with the bulk of your post - and personally, I find those "I am so persecuted" Christians to be about as anti-Christian as possible.

    However, you say "Even if it were true that Christianity is unfairly portrayed in this one area, you still hold dominion over every other aspect of our lives!"

    And I do find that I have an issue with that. I'm literally just getting back into reading comics, largely thanks to your site, so I have no real idea whether or not Christianity is portrayed fairly or not. But I do have a problem with unfair portrayals of any group - even the dominant ones.

    If the only Christians consistently noted as Christians in comics are the evil-preacher types, does the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in Western cultures really make such a portrayal acceptable?

    Maybe it's just a quirk of mine (or my innate cluelessness showing), but I don't automatically assume a character is Christian if it's not stated - I don't tend to assume much of anything about a character if it's not stated. The bottom line, to me, is that all portrayals of everyone, dominant group or not, need to be fair - not that there can be no evil Christians, or evil Satanists, or somesuch in the stories, but it'd be nice to see those balanced by explicit portrayals of good Christians or good Satanists or whatnot.

    And you're right - there are plenty of "Christians" who seem to think they're living in Nero's Rome. I just don't think we can have a fair society if we bash on anyone, majority or minority. Then again, like I mentioned, I'm pretty clueless, so I could be way off base. Sorry for the long, random comment.

     
  • At October 15, 2006 10:03 PM, Anonymous David Horenstein said…

    I'm sorry, but Superman is clearly Jewish. Several people have done detailed explanations as to why he is Jewish and his creators were Jews and based most of Superman's beliefs and personality on themselves (including having a crush on a girl that didn't know he existed).

    Any reference to him being otherwise is false. :P

     
  • At October 15, 2006 11:32 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    David: Superman has never explicitly been given a religious affiliation. Yes, Siegel and Shuster were Jewish, and Superman was based on the stories of Moses and Samson as well as Flash Gordon and Hercules. But the religion of the creator certainly does not necessarily translate to the religion of the creation. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were both Jewish, yet the only explicitly Jewish character to come out of their many collaborations was Ben Grimm.

    Indeed, it's the nature of serial storytelling to privilege the creators' intent over those who have worked on the property since then, but much of what we consider the "Superman" story was developed by others, of varying faiths, even while Siegel and Shuster had some measure of control over the property. Many people have left a lasting mark, and major contributions, to the Superman mythos, regardless of their faith orientations, and I imagine quite a lot of them had their own ideas about what Superman's belief system was. Elliot S! Maggin, with whom I often do not agree on Superman interpretation, nonetheless contributed a great deal to the character, and while he's Jewish and well-versed in the character's history, he's the one who suggested (out of continuity, of course) that Superman was Methodist.

    The matter of Superman's religious beliefs is up to interpretation; any blanket statements as to the truth or falsehood of Superman's belief system is unfounded. There's a good case for Superman being Jewish, but there's an equally good case for him being pretty much any other religion (and while I've seen him celebrate Christmas, I've never seen him in the moral quandary of needing to save people on the Sabbath). The fact is that Superman's beliefs weren't addressed by Siegel and Shuster, and while they indeed based the Man of Steel on their own lives, they based him also on the pulp heroes of the time, and the mythological and classical heroes that predate him. The subject of Superman's faith is certainly not set in stone.

     
  • At October 16, 2006 12:26 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Wow! I'd like to thank everyone for replying! This is a really great discussion.

    I've a few things that I'd like to add.

    I know the Adherents list does have shaky qualifications sometimes, but I link it because unlike most other sites, it actually lists reasoning and evidence where applicable. Shaky as the evidence is sometimes. :-)

    I would like to directly respond to david as well:

    Don't get me wrong, I do agree with a lot of what you say here, but I don't agree with your idea that if you are part of a majority in some way, you have no right to complain or feel bad when something mean-spirited is aimed your way. Wrong is wrong, no matter which direction it is aimed in, and I think that we have a basic human right (responsibility?) to address those wrongs.

    I wasn't trying to argue that you shouldn't complain when something is bad or mean-spirited. This is why I linked my own Catholicism rant. Catholicism is the global majority religion. I rant too, no question about that. :-)

    The thing is, there's a difference between going "Come on, guys, a few more overt, non-idiotic Christians would be nice" (the majority of such rants, which I have no problem with) and "OMG! I'm being Oppressed!"

    The latter is considerably rarer (and caricature-ized by me) but it's the real target of my rant. :-)

    And Maria: You're right of course. Unfair portrayals are unfair and indeed worthy of complaint.

    However, and I'm not saying this is the case HERE of course, but...

    When you're the minority in a democracy, it's not always so very different from a dictatorship. And in that sense, sometimes caricatured portrayals and satire is the only way to be able to express some of this frustration.

    I don't believe this is the case in comics, where the majority of current creators appear to be Christian (of some sect or denomination), but if it were...

    Basically, I tend to feel that the majority can afford to be a little magnanimous in some of those cases.

     
  • At October 16, 2006 12:48 AM, Anonymous David Horenstein said…

    Tom, I liked it when Superman prayed to the Kryptonian god Ra. This way, like almost everything else about him, it left his religion open to interpretation.

    Even if he was a Jew raised by Methodists. ;)

     
  • At October 16, 2006 1:15 AM, Anonymous Maria said…

    Kalinara:

    Like I said, I haven't really read enough comics yet to get a grasp on their portrayal of Christianity. And, really, you're right - I myself follow a sort of hodgepodge semi-Wiccan faith, and dealing with some people's obsessive Christianity can be really annoying and harmful. (I've caricatured plenty of these "Christians" in my fiction.) I just get irritated if that's all we see.

     
  • At October 17, 2006 4:27 PM, Blogger The Dane said…

    Hey there Kal. Here's my take.

     
  • At October 17, 2006 9:10 PM, Blogger Filby said…

    Hi, I got to this weblog via Ragnell's... :)

    Forgive me for going off-topic, but...

    Even the atheists don't get very much lip-service, honestly. When they do, it's designed to contrast them as a minority against the rest of the DCU. That's hardly counting.

    I remember this issue of JSA by Geoff Johns where Mister Terrific's identity as an atheist is shaken by a run-in with the ghostly Spirit King, culminating in a near-death experience where he meets his late wife and unborn son in Heaven, and afterwards he decides to go to church with Doctor Mid-Nite. Reading it, I felt kind of insulted -- like my beliefs (I'm an atheist) were being trivialized, as though Johns was saying that you can't possibly be an atheist in the DCU.

    And then, about two years later, we have the church scene in Infinite Crisis, where Mister Terrific is talking to Ragman, and Ragman says something like, "How can you not have faith?" and Terrific responds with something like "I do have faith -- in myself, in my friends." That pretty much summed up all my feelings on faith, and made Mister Terrific one of my favorite characters, 'cause I could relate to him. (And oddly enough, it was also written by Geoff Johns.)

    One thing that bothered me about it though was how Terrific deigned not to rationalize the Spectre, despite the fact that it was Jim Corrigan who inspired him to be a hero in the first place. Obviously, the Spectre is just another extradimensional entity... a very large, opinionated extradimensional entity... ;)

     
  • At October 18, 2006 11:27 AM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Every religion has its fair share of stupid assholes who don't know when to shut up.

     
  • At October 18, 2006 5:40 PM, Anonymous Matt T. said…

    First off, this is a fascinating discussion from all points. Kudos to everyone involved.

    Now.

    That Adherents site is nifty, but there's some hinky aspects to it, particularly when it comes to the "atheist/agnostic" section. Especially Green Arrow, who is labeled a "Liberal Marxist atheist", primarily based on what others called Ollie in "The Dark Knight Returns". Unless I've missed something, GA is definately left-wing and quite probably has socialist leanings, but that isn't the same thing as being a "Marxist" or even a full-on communist. The site also gives Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) the label "feminist, Alcoholics Anonymous" and Animal Man (Buddy Baker) as "animal rights", none of which are religions (regardless of how occasionally heavy handed Morrison was with that whole bit). That's just...off to me, for some reason, like the site's owners didn't bother to do more research into the labels and just figured if they're passionate about a certain aspect of politics - feminism, animal rights, social justice - it's the same thing as being a Catholic or a Baptist. Just came off as lazy to me.

    Nor, for that matter, are socio-political philosophies like Objectivism (The Question, Layla Miller, Rorschach) religions in the classical sense. Again, I've met quite a few worshippers of Ayn Rand, but as the gentleman above said, every group has it's loons.

    Atheism and agnosticism are not, repeat NOT religions by definition. Of course, there are a number of self-identified atheists and agnostics who cling to the belief there is no deity with almost religious fervor, but both are characterized by a lack of belief more than anything else. Most media portrayal of atheism/agnostism/secular humanism or even your basic skepticism is pretty lazy and sloppy. It's that "poor, deluded fool" thing mentioned above, which I guess makes for easier story-telling and character development.

     
  • At October 20, 2006 4:28 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I just wanted to pop in and thank everyone for commenting/discussing. I'll speak up when I've something to add. (A little too frazzled right now to contribute intellectually. :-))

    I liked your post a lot, Dane!

     
  • At September 06, 2007 12:13 AM, Anonymous Dave Mitner said…

    Tom Foss, actually, as an aside, "Fairytales" aren't ahteisitc. If one does any sort of serious beliefs into fairy-lore, they discover that fairies are synonymous with fallen angels.

     
  • At September 06, 2007 12:14 AM, Anonymous Dave Mitner said…

    *atheistis

    Wow. I butchered the prvious spelling.

     
  • At September 06, 2007 12:15 AM, Anonymous Dave Mitner said…

    *atheistic

    Knew I'd get it eventually.

     

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