Sunday, April 8, 2007

Johnny Hart (1931-2007)

One of the best cartoonists in the business died Saturday while working at his storyboard. Johnny Hart, creator of the comic strip B.C., died at the age of 76. Michelle has details and a lot of background on Hart. His characters were always among my favorites, and it seems like I had been reading his stuff ever since I can remember. He'll be missed.


Re: Amazing Grace

A student of mine, Eric, replies to our recent post on the movie Amazing Grace with this very thoughtful and insightful essay:

I was also moved and inspired after seeing the movie. After reading an article or two and talking with one of my professors, I appreciate and respect Wilberforce all the more. Reading a few snippets from his book, Real Christianity, I was even further impressed and challenged. With Wilberforce as an example, I wonder how effectively most Christians (myself included) are living their convictions. It seems that the majority of evangelicals (especially in America) should be at least a bit more existential than they presently are.

What I have in mind, particularly, is how the existentialist, because of his conviction, is compelled toward authenticity. For Wilberforce to attempt to portray "real" Christianity is just another way of stressing the importance of "authentic" Christianity, a Christianity that is so ingrained in an individual that it makes a difference in one's life and world.

It seems that, like the existentialist, the Christian should be compelled to live out his or her beliefs. How can this be done? I think that again we should turn to existentialism. The existentialist is affected and molded and driven to action by his or her worldview precisely because the individual has faced honestly what he or she perceives to be the reality of the situation: be it meaninglessness or something else. There has been no attempt to makes things prettier.

Just like the existentialist, the Christian needs to realize the ugliness of the situation of existence (though it may be for different or additional reasons than the existentialist acknowledges). But in the end, the predicament is the same. The Christian and the existentialist (or, for that matter, the Christian existentialist) both see something, or many things, that disturbs their consciences. They are disturbed because the situation does not match how "things are supposed to be."

For the existentialist, he or she knows that the better part of the world's people do not recognize their responsibility to create meaning for themselves. People live blindly in ignorance and perpetual meaninglessness. For the Christian also, the world is not as it should be. It continues, for the most part, outside the recognition and experience of a loving and personal God who desires relationship with the beings created in his imago dei. The result, among other things, is a failure to participate in loving relationship with God and a failure to then extend that [love] to our fellow human beings. Likewise, the result of this is prevalent and intentional evil done by humans against humans.

How is all of this related to Wilberforce and an authentic Christianity? Wilberforce lived his faith, he faced the problems straight on. He saw the evil mankind does to itself (in his case, slavery) and the failure of the bulk of the Christian community to respond authentically according to their convictions. Then he did something about it. He didn't let twenty years of failing to get his bill passed stop him.

And this is how he was authentic. Those twenty years were not true failure because, while he was unable to affect change in British society, he continued to live an authentic Christianity. Such an individual is an inspiration to me, and I hope, to many other Christians as well. Wilberforce recognized the horror of the real situation before him, that things were not the way they should be, and he confronted it with authentic conviction. And that's what we should all be compelled to do.