Archive for August, 2014


“… is Truth.”

I thought of that old saying last weekend, when the internet was aflame with horrified accusations that the Sunni militants of ISIS were decapitating children.

Now I do not doubt that the enraged Islamists are capable of the usual horrors that traumatized and angry men commit in times of war. They have, apparently, murdered prisoners of war, they have persecuted the ‘infidels’, they espouse the most inhuman attitudes toward women.

But beheading children? Really? Few humans are capable of such an act. Indeed, studies have shown that most humans, before the advent of desensitizing video war games (developed, ahem, by the military for that very purpose) are reluctant to kill even enemy combatants in battle, firing over their heads.

I know that Fr Dwight Longanecker, who for some reason has an audience, has speculated that the warriors of ISIS are possessed by ancient Assyrian Demons.

Yes, he actually said that.

That is classic wartime rhetoric, dehumanizing and demonizing one’s enemies. That has always led to atrocities, and the war fever of those who claim to follow Jesus has been in some ways more appalling than the crimes of war.

But my bullshitometer started squawking when I read these reports. I searched the internet in vain for someone who would investigate these claims, but only found pages and pages of fear mongering and unsubstantiated rumor.

But the inimitable Owen White found this, from a, to me, obscure Protestant missionary organization, which sought the sources for the story:

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More Calvin

Remember that these are only sketches for a future project. Like so many things I have little time now to devote to finishing anything…

bob i1003





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While I am horrified by reports of the atrocities committed by the radical Sunni insurgents of ISIS, I am also by nature wary of such reports, even though these seem well documented.

But do you remember being told that Iraqi soldiers were ripping Kuwaiti babies from incubators and throwing them out windows? Lies, complete lies, though they led to widespread enthusiasm for war. Not that I put anything past ISIS, which seems to incarnate the most extreme form of Islamic militancy, with no regard for human life or human anything.

But I am just as horrified by the American Christian response, invoking the crusades and calling for an aggressive response. I am not a total pacifist, though I am very close, and the idea of just taking the barbarians out is compelling, were it not for the fact that in my 61 years I have never seen American bombs do anything but make everything worse.

And I am appalled by the lack of historic context. I am pretty sure that if you interviewed the typical ISIS warrior you would find that before the US attacked his country he was selling his wares or driving his cab, maybe making it to Friday prayers, maybe not. These men were radicalized by the disruption of their society that the American invasion incurred, by the deaths of family members in the bombing campaigns, by the brutalization of friends by American troops, or, even more, by the private armies that accompanied the invasion.

I have no answers.

But I know that if we do not begin in the Love that Our Saviour commanded we are on the wrong path, have wandered far from the Way.


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Actually, I think I am going to call the strip ‘Calvin and Robert’. ‘Calvin and Bob’, while doing homage to the great Bill Watterson, is too close to the name of his comic for comfort. But I do have a couple more of these with the old title. And the quality of this scan is pretty dismal. Color scans do fine, but I only sometimes get the settings right for a sharp black and white scan:

bob i1001


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Here are some small – 5″ X 7″ to 8″ X 10″- paintings I have done this summer:

a painting0

a painting i

a painting0001

a painting0001001



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I do not know any Christians who describe themselves as dualists. They all would insist that they do not believe that Good and Evil are equal forces in the cosmos. They insist on the triumph of Good, on the eventual defeat of Evil.

But I would suggest that in fact even most who claim to follow Jesus are actually  practical dualists.

I mean, look at the iconography. The apocalyptic wars of Scripture appear to be nearly even matches. The iconography of the Last Judgement shows nearly even numbers of souls saved or damned, and even worse only a small circle of the elect, sitting smiling above the torment of the masses.

For what it is worth, the Orthodox  icon of the Ladder of Ascent shows far more souls, who appear to be all monks, ascending than falling, but still a large number are lost.

I would suggest that this idea of near symmetry is an illusion born of the human experience.

Also a ‘God’ Who loses half of the souls ‘created in His image’ is an abject failure, both as a Creator and as a Redeemer.

In this sort of practical dualism, the idea good and evil are nearly equivalent powers in the universe is a human illusion, based upon our personal experience as fallen creatures.

And I hasten to add that while we know hardly a thing about the nature of the cosmos in which we find ourselves, to our knowledge we are the only fallen creatures around. The trees and the rocks and the cardinals and the oceans and the snails, electrons, babies and falling rain and tadpoles and galaxies are not conflicted, even if they are bound in some mysterious way to Death. Within the confines of a wounded world, everything is in harmony.

What I mean is that if you take a walk on the beach or in the woods or in a desert, or wherever the touch of humanity is minimal YOU are the only creature that experiences inner conflict,  the only being estranged from itself .Not the oak trees or the cacti or the seashells.

Hence the cartoon staple of the guy with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.

And the icon of the evenly divided Last Judgement.

We ain’t right.

The rest of the very limited known universe appears to be fine, aside from dogs and lab rats and factory chickens and other creatures closely associated with humans, even if the world has little pockets of inexplicable evil. And those appear to be tiny. Nowhere that I know of, aside from where humans have altered the created world in orclike ways, does the tangible world appear to be evenly divided between the Beautiful and the Ugly, or Good and Evil. The cosmos is overwhelmingly beautiful, even if there are these occasional stinking flaws, the dead dog by the side of the road, the poisonous spider, the stinging nettle, the sociopath.

But nowhere does that dissonance approach equity with harmony and beauty.

We are projecting.

The cosmos is beautiful and intricate and amazing and occasionally confounding.

And no, I do not understand why You Know Who did not create a Perfect Universe. I would have, if I was ‘Him’.

By that measure, the Absolute, the Beauty we call ‘God’ has a lot to answer for.

But if you consider the ignorance of the questioners, well, I will take my chances on the assurance of the friends of God that ‘He’ is good and loves sinners.


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Calvin and Bob

I came up with the idea for a comic strip about the adventures of Jean Calvin and his reptilian companion, Bob, in the afterworld, a bleak and lifeless place where they only occasionally encounter other wandering souls. Once I got the characters down the dialogue began to write itself. Here is one early attempt:

bob i1

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