Paul Buhle, editor; Sabrina Jones, Gary Dumm, Nick Thorkelson, Artists, (Herald Press, 2013)
This fast paced graphic novel, no, graphic history book, reminded me of the comic book Bible (I think it was Nelson’s) my children devoured about 30 years ago, except that this gospel story only constitutes the first of the three sections: Radical Gospel, Radical History, and Radical Resistance. Those who are familiar with this genre will recognize the names of the well respected graphic artists.
Each of the three sections has its own purposeful colour scheme; black and white for the gospels, brown tones that are reminiscent of illuminated texts from the middle ages, and full colour for the modern stories of resistance. I wondered about the purpose for the Gospel presentation in black and white, and decided a reader could dwell in it and make it their own by colouring that section.
The selections of Jesus’ ministry are well chosen, and divided into sections on teaching, warning, entering Jerusalem, and Passion. Even though the format is graphic, Jesus’ crucifixion is depicted without resorting to graphic violence.
The Radical History section includes the stories of the 14th C. Lollards, and then a major section on the16th C. radical reformation and the Anabaptists, including the unfamiliar story of early Hutterites who were condemned to serving as galley slaves, the stories of Dirk Willems who saved his captor, the Anabaptist couple who offered hospitality to the thieves who were stealing the thatch from their roof, American pioneers who refuse to shoot at attacking Indians, and finally the story of John Woolman and the Society of Friends, including their respectful engagement and treaty making with the Delaware and the great peace they enjoyed.
I found the selection of stories curious, and was sorry they had not selected stories of some of the gutsy women who enlivened the radical reformation. I expect genre restrictions made hard choices necessary and am grateful that they included a good blend of more and less familiar stories from a variety of Peace Churches.
The section on radical resistance must have been most challenging in terms of selection, and the introductory story on Faith based movements in modern times does a fine job of presenting a global view before focusing in on stories from the USA about abolitionism and black freedom, the American civil rights movement, war resistance, accompanying the poor & organizing community, peacemaker teams & conscientious objectors. I was sorry about the lack of any story from a Canadian context.
This book is interesting and fast paced enough that it could effectively introduce text resistant and other youth to the radical message of Jesus. It has the potential to captivate their hearts and minds and move them from violence and passivity toward lives of radical discipleship. It definitely belongs on many Christmas lists.