Monday, August 20, 2007

Calvin and Hobbes

I am a pretty big fan of Calvin and Hobbes. Growing up as a kid I always identified with Calvin Hobbes individually in different ways. And getting older, I can still read it and enjoy it because of its thoughtfulness and wit.

I enjoyed this article that speaks to a lesson learned from the comic. The article comments on how this comic can teach as about the medium and the message.

The article explains how Bill Watterson, the author, never would allow merchandise to be made, even to the point of rejecting millions of dollars. He says:
Calvin and Hobbes isn’t a gag strip. It has a punchline, but the strip is about more than that. The humor is situational, and often episodic. It relies on conversation, and the development of per­sonalities and relationships. These aren’t concerns you can wrap up neatly in a clever little saying for people to send each other or to hang up on their walls. To explore character, you need lots of time and space.
I have no aversion to obscene wealth, but that’s not my motivation either. I think to license Calvin and Hobbes would ruin the most precious qualities of my strip and, once that happens, you can’t buy those qualities back.
The article goes on to relate this bit of exploitative marketing to how Christianity is marketed a lot of the time with bumper stickers and t-shirts. Keith Green once said this about the issue:
It pains me to see the beautiful truths of Scripture being plastered about like beer advertisements. Many think it is wise to “get the word out” in this way but, believe that we are really just inoculating the world with bits and pieces of truth - giving them their “gospel shots.” (And we’re making it hard for them to “catch” the real thing!) People become numb to the truth when we splash our gaudy sayings in their eyes at every opportunity. Do you really think this is “opening them up to the Gospel”? Or is it really just another way for us to get smiles, waves, and approval from others in the “born-again club” out in the supermarket parking lot, who blow their horns with glee when they see your “Honk if you love Jesus!” bumper sticker?
The article continues by saying:
It’s possible that too many ineffective Jesus reminders all over the place might have a degrading effect on our ability to read Jesus where he really is. The only way to know if that’s the case is to know our message as well as Watterson knew his. Watterson could spot a deviation from the integrity and fullness of the Calvin and Hobbes mystique in an instant. Do modern Christians have senses so well trained, or a grasp of the gospel message so acute, that we can spot such deviations?
Basically the point of the article is to point out that the medium of our message as Christians should mainly be through our lives, not simply by what we preach.

(Thanks to Justin Taylor for the link)


  1. I've wondered if the Jesus symbols, t-shirts and signs are people's attempt to share the Gospel without actually having to talk about...hmmm

  2. Is this the Calvin you were talking about recently with the question "where did all these Calvinist come from?"
    I think its clear all the Calvinist came from people that like the comic.

    - actually I enjoyed the post.