Tag Archives: gospel

Marked

Fast-paced, terrifying… this graphic re-imagination of the gospel of Mark in a contemporary fictional setting is clever and deep. The people are blinded and demon-possessed. Jesus can change them, but they don’t, for the most part, have the eyes to see.

It could almost be real life (ironic, eh?). And therein lies the skill with which Ross retells the gospel story, albeit in a way you might not, at first, recognise.

The preface cautions that pictures often denude a text. If you have the opposite problem when it comes to the Bible, finding it hard to get a sense of the power and the challenge of the person of Jesus from traditional translations, or if you need reminding about what it must have been like to have him burst into the first century cultural setting, then this might just be a good place for you to start.

Loved it.

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Bono & God

bonoThe spirituality of U2 in general and Bono in particular has hit the news a few times. If you regularly fill a pew somewhere, it’s quite likely that you heard about it in church, but if you don’t do church it’s quite possible you haven’t heard that Bono has a “God thing” going on.

Why is that? Maybe people simply aren’t interested in whether celebrities believes in God. But I don’t think so. You only have to look as far as Jade Goody to find tabloid media interest in a celebrity’s faith journey. Instead, I think it’s just that we’re happy to read cliched, non-threatening accounts of belief, but we don’t want to be challenged. Many of us had childhood experiences that led to us thinking of religion as boring and untrue. Maybe you remember them too: old, cold churches half empty and devoid of the young; sermons delivering a tired message and  dirge-like music from another century.

As adults, we like to have recourse to some sort of comfort in hard times, so we’re vaguely encouraged by stories like Jade’s that God was there for her. Often we tolerate “traditional” church events and expressions of belief – christenings, weddings, funerals –  as part of the furniture of our lives. We’re used to them; they wash over us; and we take comfort in their familiarity whilst ignoring the irrelevancies.

Bono doesn’t fit that mould, though. We can’t write off his beliefs as a “crutch” in the way we might have been tempted to for Jade Goody, or as a matter of habit. It’s not obvious why Bono would need God. He seems already to have it made based on modern society’s criteria for success and happiness. And yet he has a faith. If you doubt it, have a look at this:

I first heard that about Bono when I was pretty anti-God. I started to read about it a little. I couldn’t understand how I’d missed the theme in U2’s lyrics. More than that, I couldn’t understand how this guy, whose language was as bad (ok, maybe not quite) as mine, and who had a hugely successful, mainstream, rock’n’roll career, could possibly conform to my image of “nice, good, christian”. I thought it was interesting that he didn’t have the hugely annoying smugness I so often identified in christians. There was an authenticity about him. It was a massive challenge.

More than that, it had motivated him to do things.

To me, Jesus was a fairy story. He was a man with beard, long flowing hair, white robe, standing in the sun with a lamb clutched under his arm. Yet here was one of the worlds biggest rock stars, ill shaven, intermittently ill-behaved and with nothing to prove to anyone taking on the world’s superpowers to campaign for the eradication of third world debt. And he did it all with reference to  a God who was in amongst, and who loved the dirty and the broken. Who wanted justice and transformation for them. How could my preconceptions of God and my judgment of christians stand up to a God described like this:

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”. – Bono, Annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, Feb 2006

Last Sunday, Bono wrote a piece in the New York Times. You can read it  here. The jury seems to be out on whether he’s any good as a columnist, but I liked it. I think it’s good that we have someone who can capture the public’s attention and who’s outside the traditional religious mould commenting on things. It’s a shame he was writing in the US rather than the UK. There’s so little coverage in the mainstream press of the radical, positive teaching the bible has for us. Bono, or any other modern, radically minded christian writer, would be a happy addition to the Sunday papers.

Manga Messiah

 

Manga Messiah

The gospel was never intended to be dry words on a page. The whole point of the message is to engage, captivate and communicate with us

In the early days the gospel wasn’t a book. It was conversation. Joe Bloggs couldn’t  read and write, so information spread by word of mouth; stories passed from person to person, village to village. Accuracy was checked and preserved by elders and teachers. 

Folks who met Jesus told their friends. They in turn told theirs. The story spread. People heard it, responded and were changed. It captured their attention and they were hungry for more. They related to it because it made sense of their own circumstances. In short, it was culturally relevant.

Now, in 2009, there’s loads of potential for us to find the bible – even the biographies of Jesus in the gospels, kinda hard going. That’s  no surprise in an era where we want everything bite-size and online. But the gospel doesn’t have to be dull. It shouldn’t be. Through the ages, God’s story has been re-presented in forms that restate its message in contemporary ways.

Manga Messiah invites you to take your suspicion that the bible’s only ever going to be dull and irrelevant and park it for a couple of hours. Instead, open a beer, grab some crisps, settle in and kick back.  Get stuck into a fiercly paced story. Lose yourself in a biography packed with life, death, murder, intrigue, supernatural powers. And let a question lurk in the back of your mind as you do it: might it actually be true?

I gave a couple of teenage guys a copy this weekend. It was night time and they were hanging out under a streetlamp, hoodies up, smoking. If I’d sauntered up and offered them a copy of a gospel, I’m guessing I might just’ve spent the night in hospital. Instead, as I left them to it, one of them was leafing through it, no face lost with his mates. Can’t be bad.

You can check out excerpts of Manga Messiah here: http://tiny.cc/7Oi99