Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free Comic Book Day - Halloween

Free Comic Book Day - Halloween Fest

Free Comic Book Day - Halloween Fest

Pretty Weird Art spent our Saturday doing mini sketches for a bunch of little kids that came through Punk Monkey Comic's shop over the weekend. I thought I'd share a couple snap shots of the drawings we did for the kids. Most of our sketches has to be done in 15 minutes, which must have seemed like an eternity in kid minutes.

Churchology Poster: Genesis

I’m reading through the Bible book by book, with a specific focus on how the Bible describes God. It’s easy to make knee-jerk assumptions about God when reading selected passages of the Bible. I’m curious to see what a total package, cover-to-cover view of God looks like. I want to see all of his attributes combined into one big fat list. What I’m going to do is read each book and summarize God’s actions throughout it. Once I’ve completed that, I’ll go back and write up my thoughts, questions, insights on how the content of each book add up to a total picture of the Bible’s God.

The Biblical narrative starts off with God making the cosmos. God methodically creates everything with the end results being a “good” world populated by “good” creatures. When God gets to man, he creates the human race differently from everything else. Man is symbolically formed in “God’s image” and is set apart as being more important than the rest of creation. God makes other symbolic gestures in the creative process. Genesis says that God rested on the 7th day as an example for man to follow—a six day work week with a seventh day of rest. God’s formation of Eve out of Adam’s rib is also symbolic of the marriage relationship that God later establishes.

Once creation is completed, God explicitly communicates to humanity in the primordial world. He instructs Adam and Eve to rule the world, to name the animal kingdom, to tend the garden in which they live, and to have lots of children. God then presents humanity with a loyalty test. He has mankind purposefully choose to either obey or disobey him through the use of free will. God warns that if man chooses to know good and evil, death will enter the world. Adam and Eve eventually chose to disobey. God judges them for their actions. He curses the animal kingdom, childbirth, and the growing of crops. He then kills an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. It doesn’t spell it out in scripture, but from that point on, God apparently instructed Adam to practice animal sacrifice during the act of worship. God also symbolically states that a “snake-bit” descendent of Adam’s will crush the head of the snake that bit him, i.e. one of Adam’s descendant’s will overcome sin’s curse of death in the future.

Cain and Able
Following this, we get an account of God responding to sacrificial offerings from Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel. Abel offers a sacrifice that is accepted by God and Cain offers one that isn’t accepted. It looks like Cain’s sacrifice is rejected because it doesn’t follow God’s instructions. God’s sacrificial system was meant to teach man that we can only be forgiven of our sins through the substitutionary death of an innocent being. Cain’s sacrifice usurped the sacrificial symbol with a works based symbol, which is anathema to God. God confronts Cain and Cain murders Able out of anger. God confronts Cain a second time and punishes him by removing his ability to successfully grow crops. Because of this, Cain is forced to become a nomad for the rest of his life. Cain complains that God’s punishment is too drastic and also states his fear that he’ll be murdered out of revenge.  God places a protective mark on Cain and pronounces a curse on anyone who attempts to physically harm him.

The prodigy of Adam then populate the world and grow more and more “wicked” in the eyes of God.  God allows this to continue until every “imagination of mankind becomes only evil continually". At this point, God has had enough of humanity’s evil and decides to hit the reset button. He preserves Noah and his family, who are the only god-fearing people left in a corrupt civilization, and destroys the world in a global cataclysm. Afterwards, God makes a legal covenant with Noah that he will never again destroy the world with a global flood. He tells Noah to repopulate the world, to practice capital punishment for murder, and (oddly enough) to abstain from eating bloody meat. God also says that he’s going to limit the lifespan of human beings because “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”.

Civilization rebuilds. This time, civilization doesn’t spread out; it stays unified in a single people group. God sees this as a bad thing. I’m not entirely sure why, possibly because a unified world would lead to people becoming corrupt faster and to greater extremes. My assumption is that if mankind remained unified, the world would rapidly fall into total depravity like it did before the flood. God says that if mankind remains unified, the race will be limitless. God creates a language barrier that causes civilization to disband and migrate. 

After Babel  God sets out to build the family line that will eventually become the nation of Israel. He chooses a god-fearing man named Abram to be the progenitor of the Jewish nation. God tells Abram to leave his hometown and to travel to a geographic location that will one day become the home of the Israel. During Abram's travels, God enters into a legally binding agreement (i.e. covenant) with Abram. God has Abram act out a legal procedure practiced by the people of that time period which places God under the penalty of death if he doesn’t fulfill his part of the agreement. God says that he will bless Abram with wealth, land ownership, and a massive brood of children (one of whom will bless the entire world). God makes it explicitly clear that Abram will have a naturally-birthed child with his wife Sarah that will kick off his family lineage. God changes Abram's name to Abraham to signify that he'll be the father of an expansive nation. God also reveals that the Abraham’s offspring will be enslaved in Egypt in the future, but that they will eventually be freed, be blessed with wealth, and will be returned to the land once “the iniquity of the Amorites is full”. God also pronounces a blessing and a curse. Whoever will show kindness to Abraham and the Jews will be blessed by God, but whoever antagonizes the Jews will be antagonized by God.  

Despite God’s covenant, Abraham remains childless for decades. His childlessness causes him to doubt Gods promise, but God constantly reaffirms his promise to Abraham.  On several occasions, God even has to circumvent situations that Abraham puts himself into that threaten the fulfillment of God’s promise. Eventually, after it seems utterly impossible for Abram's wife to have a natural childbirth, God gives them a son named Issac. After Issac’s birth, Abraham's family grows rapidly. 

God then tests Abraham’s faith again, this time by telling him to do the unspeakable, sacrifice his son. Abraham attempts to obey, but God stays his hand and says that since he was willing to give up his son, God will extend his promises of material blessing from Abraham to Issac. God commands that Abraham and his family practice male circumcision as an outward display of their participation in God’s covenant with Abraham.

Issac and Jacob
Once Abraham passes from the scene, God tells Issac he will bless him because of Abraham’s obedience and faith. Issac has two sons, Jacob and Essau. Of the two sons, Jacob is chosen by God to receive the family blessing and to continue the family bloodline, while Essau rejects the family faith and is excluded from the line. During Jacob’s life, God appears to him in both dreams and in physical manifestations, each time reiterating his covenant with Abraham and extending it to Jacob. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel (and gives him a wrestling war-wound) to signify his participation in God’s divine blessing. Jacob’s sons become the foundation of what will become the twelve tribes of Israel.

Joseph and Egypt
Once Jacob’s twelve sons have matured, God communicates to Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph. Joseph experiences prophetic visions that he shares with his brothers. Joseph’s descriptions of his visions are so obnoxious, that his brothers sell him into slavery to shut him up. Joseph’s heavenly visions continue even when he gets condemned to prison on trumpted-up rape charges. Eventually, his circumstances improve when he is dragged from jail to appear before Egypt’s Pharaoh. Pharaoh is plagued by dreams which warn of a coming famine that will devastate all the countries surrounding Egypt. Pharaoh makes Joseph his second in command to prepare the country for the coming famine. Joseph prepares Egypt so well, that Egypt becomes the Middle East’s Famine Relief Center. Joseph is eventually reunited with his family and he relocates his relatives to Egypt, where they are treated like royalty due to their association with Joseph.

After the Israelites relocate to Egypt,  Joseph’s father gives a death-bed prophecy. God gives Jacob prophetic knowledge of what will happen to his children and their tribes after his death. Some of their tribes are punished for sins their father’s committed. The family of Judah is specifically singled out as being the family line that will birth kings.

The book ends with the Jewish people living in prosperity in Egypt where they will grow in such numbers that they threaten to overtake the indigenous Egyptian population. In the book of Exodus, their growth will be so massive, that the political leaders take drastic measures to curb their expansion.

Death Elf and Woose Daily Comic 1

Churchology Comic Essay: Growing up in Church

I grew up in the Baptist Church.

I spent most of my youth attending independent Baptist churches with my mother. Our entire lives were steeped in church culture. You would think that such an environment would turn me into a squeaky clean Baptist Choirboy, but it didn’t.
From an early age, I understood that I was a depraved person that needed to be saved from my sinful self. The Baptist Church’s response was for me to pray “the sinner’s prayer”. I was instructed that if I prayed the sinner’s prayer with “all my heart” that I’d be saved from Hellfire and become a Christian. The sinner’s prayer goes something like this, “Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner and there’s nothing I can do to get to heaven by my own works. I believe that Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for my sins, and was raised from the Dead. Please forgive me of my sins and make me a Christian. Amen.”

I prayed that prayer for the first time as a five year old. I was a happy go-lucky Christian for a few spiritually inconsequential years, but then I began to see my own sinfulness again. As puberty set in, my religious upbringing clashed with my hormones. I thought that being a Christian meant that you were supposed to steadily become more and more holy in your actions, that being sinless would become easier and easier as life progressed. I’d constantly hear church people proudly proclaim in church services that the instant they trusted God, He freed them from their vices.
As a teenager, I slowly saw more and more vices creeping into my life that weren’t going away, despite my best efforts. I became paranoid that I was still going to hell. I’d hear church people speak about “talking with God”. Their vocabulary made it sound like once you became a believer, an audible voice from God communicated to you in your head. Reading the Old Testament really made it look like God communicated to his followers in an audio/visual manner. I didn’t have an audible God-voice in my head. That freaked me out. 
I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I did the same things other church-goers were doing. I’d stay up all night praying the sinner’s prayer over and over again thinking that I must not have prayed it right. I’d read books on the assurance of salvation. I made dozens of public professions of faith and spoke to numerous youth leaders about my fears. Everyone said it came down to faith, but my faith didn’t seem to be working. The more I studied the Bible, the more I felt cut off from other believers. I felt the full weight of the passages that spoke of God’s anger and wrath and saw myself excluded from the verses that talked of his love and grace.
At the apex of these thoughts, my mother and I moved to an independent Baptist church that added even more fuel to my doubtful fire. Our new pastor used the fear of Hell and God’s displeasure as the motivating factor for Christian living. He and other evangelists would say that if you didn’t accept God during a specific church service, that God would take away the offer of salvation. They made it sound like God’s salvation from hell was something dangled on a string that God lowered just into your reach once in a lifetime, and if you didn’t jump for it, he yanked it away. This teaching made me lose all hope. It made me self-destructive and angry at a vindictive God, a God who promised me salvation but who held me at arm’s length to prevent me from grasping his promises.

At the height of my spiritual frustration, I graduated high school and decided to attend a staunchly conservative liberal arts Bible College. I hoped to find answers to my spiritual questions. I hoped to find the answer to why I didn’t experience the same things that the other Christians seemed to be experiencing.
Bible College was a mixed bag. The basic undergraduate Bible classes weren’t geared towards people searching and asking questions about the Bible, they were built on the idea that you already knew about the Bible, had sound Biblical understanding, and just needed a refresher course on it’s contents. The classes I participated in didn’t answer my questions about where the Bible came from, how it was canonized, or call into question the seeming disparity between God’s love and wrath. The daily chapel services and Bible conferences fascinated me because they offered the depth of Biblical understanding that I was trying to dive into, but they didn’t answer all of my questions. I thought that being in an environment that was saturated and obsessed with the Bible would be the catalyst to transform me into the sinless Christian that everyone else seemed to be. Bible College didn’t transform me like I hoped it would. It instead pointed a magnifying glass at my sins. The harder I tried to live like a Christian, the more I realized that I was doing everything out of fear. My efforts to tell other people about the Bible were based off my fear of damnation. My “good works” were all done in the hope that they would legitimize my faith in God. 
The hopelessness of my situation made me flirt with thoughts of suicide. How can you live life when you’re obsessed with the thought that you’re going to hell and there’s nothing you can do about it? My spiritually-minded mother freaked out and turned me into the Dean of Men at my Bible College. She showed up at my workplace, marched me over to the Dean of Men, and presented him with an itemized list of all my problems. I was slack jawed. If kissing a girl is grounds for expulsion from Bible College, how fast would they expel me with an itemized list of all my spiritual faults headed by the title, “My son’s bat-crap crazy”?
The Dean of Men looked at the list briefly, then put it to the side and talked with me. As best I could, I tried to explain to him the depth of despair that I was in. His response was jaw-dropping. He didn’t expel me. He didn’t look down at me. He said that all believers are sinners, regardless of how their portray themselves. The shiny exteriors we try to present to the public are our attempts to hide the fact that we all fall short of God’s standard of perfection. He pushed me to study the Bible with a focus on the character of God. How does the Bible portray him? He crumpled up the list from my mother and dropped it into the wastebasket. We talked a little bit more and then he let me leave his office unexpelled.
Shortly after that, I left my mother’s church and began attending a community church of my own choosing.  The ministerial staff at my new church openly acknowledged that they were sinful, flawed people. There was no pretense to perfection. They taught the congregation to read the Bible in context, which flew in the face of the “proof scripture passages”, that so many Baptist churches relied on to teach moralism. They pointed to the Christian’s need to utterly rely on Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to save us from ourselves. They didn’t point to praying a prayer, living a spotless life, or having a certain amount of faith to save ourselves. Learning to read the Bible in context and to rely on Christ as opposed to outward morals was groundbreaking for me. Learning to relate to God out of love rather than fear of punishment was massively liberating. The church I attended tried to strip away all the church traditions that had overshadowed my understanding and interpreting of scripture.

A few years later, I stumbled over YouTube videos produced by an organization called the White Horse Inn. Many of the men that contributed to the White Horse Inn had also contributed to the Bible studies that my community church had used in its services. Finding their resources online was a godsend.

In all honesty, I’m still nowhere close to being the man that I would like to be or feel that I should be. I fall so short of the standard that Christ set while on earth. The days that I set out to be the most Christ-like, often end up in moral failure. If I based my spiritual life off of my emotions or formula-based moral living, I’d be an utter basket case. What I base my spiritual life off of is the Bible’s testimony of Christ and his teachings. We in and of ourselves can’t earn God’s favor. We can’t work our way into his good graces and we will always fall short of the bench water mark of perfection. What we rely on is Christ himself. He provided the perfect life that we could never live. He provided the sinless death that we could never die. He provided the resurrection from the dead that we could never perform. When we place our trust in Christ, we are no longer evaluated off of our deeds; we are evaluated by Christ’s.
Some of my favorite Bible passages relate to how God blots out our sins because of Christ. Read Colossians chapter 2. There’s a beautiful passage which states that the record of our evil earthly deeds was nailed to Christ’s cross. When he died, his blood seeped over those pages and blotted them out completely.