The Offended Ones Have A "Hart" Attack!
By Bonnie Chernin Rogoff
Founder, Jews For Life
April 20, 2001
Now we know what B.C. stands for. Banish Christianity.
Of course, until this week, those two initials were simply the fictional name of my number one favorite comic strip appearing in the daily paper. The cartoon creator is an arguably brilliant born-again Christian man named Johnny Hart. I always loved B.C. because unlike silly comics, you need a brain to understand Hart. My brain always told me that Hart's message…one of faith and belief in God was a message that needed to be told.
This week, however, B.C. has become the object of contention among the offended ones, who believe the Easter strip is insulting to the Jews. That's too bad. I'm Jewish, I've seen it, and I beg to differ. Most important, Johnny Hart begs to differ, although he was attacked without being consulted first.
After 33 years of publication, B.C. is being permanently discontinued in the Los Angeles Times. A Times spokeswoman had this to say: "We made this decision a few weeks ago. It was a broad decision based on a lot of factors."
The Times has every right to drop the strip; it is their newspaper. However, Johnny Hart has been on the defensive ever since he began writing about his Christian faith. That is the real problem here, and not the "offensive" strip.
What I see in the Easter strip is a literal representation of Hart's faith. There is a depiction of a Menorah that changes into a Cross. However, I don't see the images insulting Judaism or replacing it, simply as one man's pictorial representation of the New Testament account of the crucifixion. Hart used the Menorah images to represent Jesus because Jesus was Jewish. Christianity is the majority religion in this country and is based upon Judaism (is it not called "Judeo-Christianity?") Is it insensitive? Maybe. If you choose to see inflammatory symbolism in the cartoon (the Cross replaces the Menorah, therefore, Judaism is a dead religion) then I guess you can. But if you do that, you'd better destroy every Christian theological treatise on Earth.
B.C. is a comic strip, a cartoon work of art, and a symbol of something other than what it appears to project. This is not the first time specific symbols have been held in contempt. In the past, those who have waged war against the real B.C. found what it symbolized too offensive. And, in many current textbooks and scholarly works throughout our land, the offended ones have conquered. Thus, the real B.C. (Before Christ) has become an anachronism, slowly interred and replaced by the innocuous and meaningless B.C.E. (Before Common Era). The same for A.D. (After Death), which is rarely used today. Though I don't accept him as my savior, I know who Jesus was. If anyone can tell me what a common era is, I will give them my house.
However, I do know what common people are in 2001. They are not reasonable folks who understand freedom of religion as founded in our Constitution. Rather, they are a troublesome lot who want to supplant religious expression anywhere with secularism everywhere. Don't be fooled into believing it is only "prayer in school" that disturbs the secular police. Having succeeded in banishing the real B.C. from historical texts, the deeply offended are going after the fictional one, the one that appears in the funny pages. It would be funny, if it weren't so sad.
Those who seek anything evil in the faithful will find anything evil, even intentions that don't exist. That's why it is so important to know a person's intentions before you misconstrue. I read Johnny Hart's statement regarding his Easter B.C. strip, and it makes perfect sense from the perspective of a religious fundamentalist Christian. He writes, in part: "I regret if some people misunderstood the strip, and it hurt their feelings. I abhor the so-called "Replacement Theology." This is a holy week for both Christians and Jews, and my intent, as always, was to pay tribute to both." I suggest before anyone attack the intentions behind Mr. Hart's symbols, they check out the strip, and read Johnny Hart's explanation at the following link: http://www.creators.com/comics/JHStatement.php4.
The offended ones annoy me considerably. They can be any one or any group that seeks out broken down fragments and bits of assumed insensitivity or hate. They are irksome not because they attack Hart, but because they are very selective in their assessment of art. Not all 'art' gets under their skin. For example, a desecrated Madonna, a homosexual Jesus, a crucifix in urine, these are the paradigms of creativity, all acceptable examples of freedom of expression. The anti-Christian creators of these works of "art" were not required to explain themselves. Worse, many of the objects were funded by taxpayers, remain on display in museums, and the fact that Christians are deeply offended does not upset the defenders of such filth.
That's why, rather than explaining the hypocrisy, the offended ones turn a blind eye and continue to target God fearing people. In our "enlightened" age, those of the Christian faith are most vulnerable. By examining words, scrutinizing thoughts, and investigating the motives of believers, the offended ones scurry to uncover hidden prejudice, but all they convey is their own fixed ideas. They search for evil lurking in other people's hearts, or in this case, what is in Johnny Hart's heart. No matter if the bigotry is false, true, or fairly assessed. Though they come up blind, the offended ones always see. They have much in common with the followers of the Roswell incident. Without proof, their truth is out there.
I am the Founder of a Jewish organization dedicated to promoting the protection of life, born and unborn, and the faith of Judaism. However, there's a crucial principle ever-present without which life and religion are caught in ambiguities. Truth. To a believing Jew, God's Torah is the truth; it is His word. Everything else is open to interpretation. Even comic strips by Johnny Hart.
The offended ones have a different view. The Bible may be debased freely, whereas rational humanism is an indisputable god. They may call themselves religious, but they know no truth; they feign conviction, they are a soulless wonder.
It is the end of my essay, and I still do not know what a common era is. In every era, there are usual events, and extraordinary ones. At this time in history, secular philosophy is flourishing. With it comes distortion of events, art, and the intentions of good people. Those misrepresentations tend to misguide people in their judgment of what constitutes religious intolerance. There is real prejudice against the Jewish people. There are desecrated synagogues. There was a real Holocaust. There are real neo-Nazi groups and books like "The Turner Diaries" with real messages of hatred directed against the Jews. There are real pogroms, such as the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn that resulted in the murder of Chassidic scholar Yankel Rosenbaum. And yes, there are even cartoons that really do insult Jews by depicting them in horrible ways. B.C. is not one of them.
People should concern themselves with real riots and real bigotry, and stop making a riot out of religious expression.
Copyright 2001 by Bonnie Chernin Rogoff. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.