We have lived through the shock and horror of September 11, the gracious coming together of September 12, the “new normal” of September 13…. Where do we go from here? Let’s see what a comic lens on scripture might suggest….Read More
Let’s face it. Soldiers dressed in garb that looks distinctively “unsoldiery” is funny!
There are whole web sites devoted to this sort of thing.
Of course, after a bit of snickering, those of us with at least some experience in studying history know that there was some good reason these outfits were terrifying in their time.
Funny soldier costumes aren’t limited to those actually used in service. They also are found on fictional characters whose authors want to make a statement about their (the character’s and character’s uniform’s) undeniable ineffectiveness for combat.
One of the most famous is Don Quixote and his garb. I will say right off the bat I have not read Cervantes comic masterpiece (and the world’s first novel!), but from articles I have read on the subject he is a delightfully if woefully mentally challenged old man, having read too many chivalrous romances he enters into that world to battle dragons and save damsels in distress. What we see is an old man in even older armor - his great grandfather’s that “had been for ages lying forgotten in a corner eaten with rust and covered with mildew that…he scoured and polished it as best he could.” In it he battling windmills he’s sure are monsters in order to rescue his lady love, Dulcinea, a woman who to Quixote surpasses godessness even though she is but a “sturdy farm girl” who he hardly knows and who never shows up in the story. Don Quixote - and his outfit - say many good things to us, but military victory against the enemy is not one of them.
The Comic Lens would suggest we add another most-goofy-looking soldier to the discussion. The one described in Ephesians 6.
While depictions of this popular text usually look something like this...
...such deceptions don't seem to accurately represent what Paul is proclaiming. Nor does it reflect well Jesus' wry observation that God favored - and, hence, we witness as ultimately victorious - the peacemakers in our midst.
So let's put on our Comic Lenses for a closer look at what the Christian should be wearing to defeat the Powers of Evil! (And no, no pantsuit is involved; nevertheless, we encourage you to proceed....)
First we are told to wear the belt of truth. And it’s usually depicted as the foundation of what makes us stand bold and firm. Intimidating in our fitness for battle.
But, if we put on our Comic Lenses and look deep inside as we ask ourselves “what is truly true” and the answer so often is is…the beyond-opposite of what actually is. Which can be so ironic it’s funny. I think about Jesus’ famous warning
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matt. 7:3
Or, in contemporary parlance:
"Why do you glare at your wife loosening her belt one notch instead of your own gut which blocks your view of your feet?"
If a belt is really reflecting the way of truth, it should be elastic and/or easy to loosen. For bodies like this one. The real kind!
Then there’s the breastplate of righteousness. Is a Christian breastplate smooth and shiny and powerfully unassailable? Or might it look pretty beaten-up? And not because of enemy attack but from beating upon it oneself?
And the shoes that proclaim the gospel of peace - they would be either very worn down, since Jesus told his disciples to go out in two’s, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and they were to bring/wear but one pair on the journey, or they’d be ridiculously incongruous, for, as we know, the best way to develop compassion, the kind that leads to a just and lasting peace, is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
The shield of faith. A large and as beautifully marked as something typically seen on an Errol Flynn sound stage?
Or something more the size of a mustard seed? The "size of faith" Jesus says is all we need?
The helmet of salvation. What would that be??
There’s a funny encounter in Chapter XXI of Don Quixote where our hero sees a man on a mule wearing something glittering on his head, which turns out to be a basin that the mule man wears to protect his head from the rain. DQ is quite sure it’s the mythic Mambrino’s helmet and vows to win it and wear it to better enable his heroic pursuits.
While I don’t find a parallel in the biblical text, it does bring to mind another ridiculous misappropriation, and that’s where Paul reminds the Corinthian Church that Christ followers are the world’s “offscouring” - referring to the disgusting old gunk that sticks to the bottom of a frying pan. While we may think the salvation Christ brings makes us look nobly intimidating, it couldn’t be further from the truth. As the Comic Lens as noted many times, the notion that God would come to earth to die and rise from a cross was so inappropriately shocking only a fool would make such a claim.
Finally, there’s the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Which and and of itself leads to some wacky imaginings, like this:
Wearing our Comic Lenses, we also see that God's Word is funny! So the sword protruding from the Christian soldier's mouth should look something more like...
Unfortunately I’m no graphic artist nor do I photoshop (the only technology I really have a good handle on is my Hi-Tech dental floss). So we have to imagine how absolutely ridiculous Paul's rendering of a soldier overcoming the principalities and powers of darkness, the present world rulers as well as the spiritual hosts of wickedness.
The best I can do here is mush it all of Paul's mock military imagery, literally, altogether!
Sure, it's crazy. Maybe even offensive. But isn't it true - and wouldn't both Paul and Jesus remind us that the key to undoing evil is not defeating it as much as dissolving it with humility, awareness, repentance, faith, a flat head (so an old pan will well fit on top!) and, last but never least, plenty of humor.
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When searching for a metaphor to understand and embrace “Church” for today’s time and place, may I suggest a “love laboratory”? A place and community of experimenters who embrace the sacred journey of trial and error and discovery….and discovery and trial and error…and….Read More