Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Doonesbury Does the Bible (But Not Very Well)
This past Sunday's Doonesbury strip comparing the Old and New Testaments has some Jewish leaders demanding an apology. Trudeau's take is oversimplified at best, offensive at worst, but to play devil's advocate: the 17-year-old in the comic strip isn't supposed to be a Biblical scholar. She certainly sounds like a real teenage kid, earnest and uninformed, talking about religion. The problem, as I see it, is that this is a Sunday strip, meaning that it's not in the context of story. There's no "before" and "after." Trudeau opens up a can of worms and tries to toss it off with a chuckle -- disappointing for a satirist with an admirable history of tackling cultural issues head-on.
Benjamin Weiner at Religion Dispatches suggests using this as a "teachable moment":
Christians, if you haven’t already, please take some time to recognize that the division of your scriptures into “old” and “new”, with a panting demiurge presiding over the first and a Guevarist lovegod community-organizing his way through the second is a false dichotomy, and a dangerous and frustrating one, at that, when it is used as a thumbnail sketch of Jewish-Christian difference. Your “old testament”, what we call the Tanakh, portrays a God of manifold characteristics—from the friend and confidant of Abraham and, yes, the ferocious goader of the wilderness, to the ironic moral conscience of Jonah and the mystical whirlwind of Job—that have served as the basis for kaleidoscopic articulations of Jewish theology.