Archives For Cartoons with a Message

What We Worship

February 1, 2018 — 10 Comments

worshipping squirrel

It’s curious to consider the varieties of deities worshipped throughout history and around the globe. And it is important that we understand the god we choose to follow, as well as the nature of “faith” allows us.

This picture came from a nearby garden. The squirrel effects the pose of a worshipper, but it’s motivated by the nuts the gardener has rested in the Buddha’s lap. It’s not intended to be irreverent, and one assumes that Siddhārtha Gautama would not be offended.

The image is provocative. If you were to put yourself in the squirrel’s place, it would be of no surprise that you would be devoted to the “Provider of Nuts,” especially if you did not make the connection between the gentleman who filled and the statue that actually offers them to you.

Whether we are adherents of one of the so-called monotheistic religions, or pantheists who see the presence of god in all of universal nature, our “religion” directly affects our worldview and life choices.

And then there are the “no religious preferences,” who embrace or reject labels like “agnostic.” Some of them long to believe, but demand proof, where God calls for faith. Others opt for lives of hedonism, gambling that their notion there is no Creator is right. Many of these individuals actively hope that there is no God, and not a few of them have a nagging fear that he may just exist, and call them to account one day for their selfish lives.

C.S. Lewis was in the latter category. Before he became a Christian, Lewis entertained no desire to seek Christ out. “Amiable agnostics,” he wrote, “will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God.’ To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat” (Surprised by Joy).

About the Nature of Faith

God chooses to call us into a restored relationship with himself through the mechanism of faith. If that word troubles you, think of it as “trust.” Faith is necessary, for an obvious reason. In the New Testament, we read, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

That faith is necessary may sound intimidating. However, the good news is that what God demands, he himself provides . . . even to the most reluctant of converts such as Saul of Tarsus or C.S. Lewis of Oxford.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis discusses the nature of faith at great length. He provides a number of helpful images. In the book he clearly distinguishes between faith (trust) and feelings or moods. I enjoy the way that the final sentence of this passage is evocative of the worshipping squirrel which inspired these reflections.

Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience.

Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway.

That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.

Dithering to and fro, indeed.

A Surrealistic Postscript

I had been thinking about writing on this subject ever since I saw the photo, some months ago. I was spurred to compose it now, by a fact that recently appeared in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. It speaks for itself.

A Brazilian grandmother believed she was praying to a figurine of Saint Anthony for years, only to discover that it was an action figure of the Elf Lord Elrond from the “Lord of the Rings” films!

Dislike emoticonEmoticons. Some people love them. Others find them irritating. I’m in the latter camp. That’s why I enjoyed a comic in the paper this week.* A fifty-something husband and wife are talking as she’s typing on her desktop.

Jeannie: I wish I was a little more computer-literate.

Charlie: I don’t really care for that term.

Jeannie: Why not?

Charlie: I don’t like ascribing literacy to people who think emoticons are a part of speech.

I am forced to respond with a wholehearted “ditto!”

I find the evolution of alphabets fascinating. Primitive pictographs amaze me. Emoticons, not so much.

I have to admit that I occasionally use the primitive :) to indicate that something is intended to be humorous, rather than serious. It has served as useful shorthand for written speech, conveying what would be evident in the intonations of oral communication.

However, this nouveau-punctuation has mutated into an abomination. Today there are innumerable graphic variations of that once modest “smile.” And some of them are truly bizarre.

Emoticons run amuck are an evidence of humanity’s demand for novelty. In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shows how an incessant demand for something new saps the joy out of the present moment. As the senior demonic tempter declares:

Now just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. . . . Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite, or unrhythmical, change kept up. This demand is valuable in various ways. In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire.

I realize it’s a bit of a stretch to apply this passage to the subject at hand, but the principle remains the same. When is enough enough? When it comes to emoticons, apparently, that level has yet to be reached. 

I am not seriously suggesting that there is a conspiracy going on here, but one never knows.

Please forgive me if I have offended any Mere Inkling readers who may suffer from emoticonaddiction or some other disorder. It is not my desire to upset you. Feel free to continue your unbridled (ab)use of these tiny monstrosities.

Simply include me (and C.S. Lewis) alongside Charlie in saying, “I don’t like ascribing literacy to people who think emoticons are a part of speech.”

Postscript: I must confess to finding one set of emoticons rather amusing. If you are familiar with Spock from Star Trek, you too may enjoy these Vulcan emoticons that exhibit the full range of Vulcan expression.

vulcan

_____

* You can see the strip I am referring to here.

 

Another Creative Outburst

March 11, 2012 — 1 Comment

…well, maybe not quite an “outburst.” Anyway, creating that “poster” for my last column proved a little too fun, and I had to revisit the website to invest a few more playful minutes. It took less time to draft the images below than it did to find the right graphics for each. Enjoy.

If you work in an “institutional” or office setting, you may be acquainted with the ubiquitous motivational posters that adorn offices from sea to shining sea. (I can’t speak for other countries, but here in the United States, these encouraging slogans can be found in government and private businesses across the land.)

They are so common, in fact, that they have been parodied by a company that offers “The Demotivator’s Collection.” They sell entertaining posters such as:

1. [Image of a sinking ship]

MISTAKES

It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

2. [Image of a salmon leaping up a raging river directly into the mouth of a waiting bear]

AMBITION

The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly.

3. [Image of a fast food carton of french fries]

POTENTIAL

Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up.

Humor is powerful. I image that many of these demotivational posters adorn the walls of companies that recognize this fact. (You know, the ones with young, dynamic, iconoclastic leaders.)

Here’s one I might even have tempted to hang up in a couple offices where I used to work:

4. [Image of five hands linked together.]

COMMITTEES

Just like teamwork. Only without the work.

I agree with C.S. Lewis about the vital role humor plays in the lives of healthy people. As he wrote in Reflections on the Psalms: “A little comic relief in a discussion does no harm, however serious the topic may be. (In my own experience the funniest things have occurred in the gravest and most sincere conversations.)”

If you feel inspired by the concept of creating thoughtful—or witty—phrases to elaborate on a specific word or brief phrase, you can manufacture these graphics online yourself. Using this free application, you can craft your own (de)motivational posters—just as I did the one displayed above. Yes, that’s my handiwork.

The images you make are yours to download for free. The company needs to turn a profit though, so they offer high quality digital files or posters, for a price. (The free versions are only suitable for smaller applications, like blogs or other websites.)

How’s that for a great way to express your creativity? And it only requires a couple of minutes!

Oh, and if you’re wondering whether my poster about INSPIRATION is a motivator or a demotivator . . . well, I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder.

Pets in Heaven?

February 6, 2012 — 15 Comments

One of my favorite features in the Wittenburg Door of the 1980s was a running account of “Dogs Who Know the Lord.” Having witnessed more Christlike traits in some pets than I’ve seen in many human lives, I considered the tongue in cheek title a definite possibility.

This week we bid farewell to a gentle and loving border collie who had been part of our family for more than a decade. She lived a long and full life, and like her our previous border collie, she enjoyed her family and the outdoors (both gifts of God) right up until the end. (Both had been “rescued” by us.) Then, when Tanner and Lady were each over 15 years old, simply remained on their blankets when the day arrived that they knew they had not the strength to rise.

There are two kinds of people. Pet lovers, and those whose hearts are desensitized to their affections. The latter group has already stopped reading this post. But pet lovers, yes you, can empathize with my family’s current grief. You understand our loss because you’ve suffered the same pain. And, some of you may even pause to say a short prayer for us.

As a pastor, I’ve had numerous conversations with people about the question of whether or not we’ll see our pets in heaven. It’s a provocative subject, and the fact that such questions persist is a tribute to the significance of these animals in our lives.

Contrary to what some would allege, posing questions about this matter does not trivialize faith; it reveals how our restored relationship with our Creator affects every dimension of our existence.

We cannot know, of course, the answer to the question. That’s something that those who respond with a snide “of course not!” should take care to realize.

Over the years my own views on this have broadened, and far from seeing the deliverance (i.e. not “salvation”) of animals as something unlikely . . . I now consider it likely that we will be greeted by our beloved pets in the new creation. Here are some reasons I consider this a definite possibility:

  1. First, it is true that Jesus died to redeem (save) human beings (not animals).
  2. Animals are “innocent” sufferers of humanity’s disobedience and fall.
  3. Some animals are uniquely precious and beloved by God’s children.
  4. Their presence in heaven would enhance our joy.
  5. The same God who created them would have no difficulty re-creating or restoring them.
  6. If the lion and the lamb will lie together in harmony, why should there not be room for our much-loved pets to frolic alongside them?

And, lest you consider the words above merely the sentimental ramblings of a grieving man, I take comfort in the fact that C.S. Lewis too regarded this as a possibility. In a 1962 letter, he wrote:

. . . in The Problem of Pain I ventured the supposal—it could be nothing more—that as we are raised in Christ, so at least some animals are raised in us. Who knows, indeed, but that a great deal even of the inanimate creation is raised in the redeemed souls who have, during this life, taken its beauty into themselves? That may be the way in which the “new heaven and the new earth” are formed. Of course we can only guess and wonder. But these particular guesses arise in me, I trust, from taking seriously the resurrection of the body.

Replacing Exonyms

January 24, 2012 — 1 Comment

Scott Stantis has illustrated once again how educational some current comic strips can be. His current story arc takes place in Guam. (Guam’s a lovely United States Territory where my family and I lived for two wonderful years in the nineties.)

The story line involves a presidential candidate who has taken refuge there and was asked his opinion about formally changing the island’s name. (There is a movement seeking to replace “Guam” with “Guahon,” the island’s name in the Chamorro language.) You can follow the entire series at Prickly City.

As the panel shows, the (rabbit) senator is unaware that “Guam” is actually an exonym. As such, there is a valid reason to consider its replacement.

Kids today are growing up knowing prominent international cities by names that still seem “foreign” to many of us adults. Beijing has been around just long enough to sound right. But it will always be remembered as Peking to some. Mumbai, as a more recent adjustment, rings alien in the ears of those who still think of the most populous city in India as Bombay.

Still, it makes sense to attempt to refer to cities and nations as the residents of those locales do. For one thing, it is a sign of respect.

And this kind of transition is not an example of thoughtless or random “verbicide” which C.S. Lewis described in “Studies in Words.” There he wrote:

Verbicide, the murder of a word, happens in many ways. Inflation is one of the commonest; those who taught us to say awfully for “very,” tremendous for “great,” sadism for “cruelty,” and unthinkable for “undesirable,” were verbicides.

Replacing exonyms is meaningful to those it directly affects. And it is little more than an inconvenience to the rest of us. So, I’m in favor of it.

Just as I’m always in favor of comic strips that educate as well as entertain!

Military Helmets

January 16, 2012 — 3 Comments

War is deadly business. And, if a kingdom or nation hopes to emerge victorious, they are wise to equip their soldiers properly. That’s why this fact, included in today’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic, is so shocking.

It’s inconceivable that as the world marched to war in 1914, not a single one of the world powers equipped their troops with steel helmets. Elegant helms that looked superb on the parade ground . . . yes. Elaborate crests that exaggerated height to intimidate the foe . . . of course. Comfortable fabrics that kept the scorching sun off of the scalp . . . certainly.

But steel helmets that might actually spare men from bullet and shrapnel wounds . . . not those.

It’s not like the danger of ballistic wounds caught the Europeans off guard. Muskets had given way to deadly rifles long before. Artillery had advanced to the point where the Germans actually built not one, but two unique weapons: (1) Big Bertha, a huge howitzer that lobbed an eighteen hundred pound shell nearly eight miles, and (2) the Paris Gun, a siege cannon able to fire its shell eighty miles!

As soldiers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien rallied to the flag and fought the Huns, they would eventually be issued more protective equipment. But it didn’t exist at the war’s outset. And even with it, Lewis was severely wounded in combat. in 1939 he wrote, “My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years.”

The irony about metal helmets is that even ancient peoples recognized the importance of protecting the skulls of their warriors with the strongest materials available. In my office I have a replica Roman legionary helmet. Trust me, it was capable of saving lives.

Today’s combat helmets are highly advanced, and great effort is made to protect military members from head trauma. Sending them into battle with anything less than the best equipment available should be a crime.