Have you read the comics lately? They're not your father's funny pages, anymore. The superheroes and silly creatures of old have taken a back seat to more politically correct characters -- such as single working women ("Cathy" and "Maxine"), gay teens ("For Better or For Worse"), and racially charged smart alecks ("Boondocks").
There's nothing wrong with the modernization and diversification of a newspaper's comics section. But as is typically the case with the liberal media's narrow concept of "diversity," some kinds of differences don't count. Like spiritual diversity.
"B.C.," by Johnny Hart, the most widely read cartoonist in the world, is under fire for being too overtly Christian. Hart's unique blend of gentle caveman humor and serious messages of faith have won him millions of lifelong readers worldwide. But after carrying Hart's strip for 33 years, the Los Angeles Times dropped "B.C." last week. The paper, like several in Denver, Chicago and Washington, D.C., refused to run many religious-themed "B.C." installments. (The strip is sold by Creators Syndicate, which also syndicates this column.) The Times' cancellation came on the heels of a hysterical protest by left-wing Jewish groups who called on newspapers nationwide to censor Hart's Easter weekend strip.
In the cartoon, Hart drew seven panels containing Biblical passages of Jesus' last words. In each panel, a seven-branched candelabra light goes out until the shape of a cross remains. The last panel evokes the resurrection of Christ, with a trail of blood running from the cross into an empty tomb. One fringe group, the Jewish Defense League, complained that the strip was "an affront to the Jewish people. It is telling Christians to destroy our religion in the name of Jesus." Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League carped that Hart's work was "insensitive and offensive." They demanded the comic strip be censored.
Many of the purported guardians of free speech and open debate complied. Catherine Barnett, executive editor of The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., explained: "Although a newspaper serves as a marketplace of ideas, there are certain boundaries, and this (cartoon) nears the line that divides debate from denigration."
If you want to complain about blatant denigration, consider "Boondocks'" creator Aaron McGruder's openly hateful shot at minority conservatives. In an infamous 1999 "Boondocks" cartoon, a character proposed writing a book about black conservatives called "Ward Connerly Should Be Beaten by Reakwon the Chef with a Spiked Bat." Connerly is the California civil rights activist who opposes racially-discriminatory affirmative action programs; Reakwon the Chef is a member of the angry hip-hop band, Wu-Tang Clan.
There was no outrage over McGruder's ugly insensitivity and intolerance. No call for censorship, no hand-wringing from editors. "Boondocks," you see, is the "right" kind of diversity. But in radically secularized newsrooms, where most references to Christ come laced with profanity, powerful expressions of faith such as Hart's cause editors to reach for the panic button and the Pepto Bismol. They're comfortable covering the candy-coated festivities and shopping sprees that accompany religious holidays. Just don't mention the religious stuff -- or at least not too fervently.
The N.Y.-based Hart, a devout evangelical Christian, says he in no way intended to denigrate the Jewish faith. At least one courageous and common-sensical Jew agrees, and he castigated Hart's censorious critics. Binyamin Jolkovsky, editor of JewishWorldReview.com, said last week that "A comic strip in honor of a holy season that is not my own doesn't send a chill down my spine, nor make my blood boil, even if it includes Jewish symbols." He continued: "As a Sabbath-observant Jew, rabbinical school alumnus and publisher of the most-accessed Jewish Web site, I see absolutely nothing wrong with Hart's message."
The real danger, Jolkovsky warns, is the increasing attack on public displays of all faiths. For Christians and Jews alike, the slow and steady snuffing out of religious expression in the mainstream marketplace of ideas is no laughing matter.
Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.