Something Bob

Okay, first, a WARNING: there are (should that be ‘there is?’) among my readers certain people (‘a certain person?’) that may be offended by content in this post.

If you are a person that might find imagery of a religious nature offensive, blasphemous, or just wrong, please do NOT click the more link.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to read an attempt at a Christian analysis of a Bob the Angry Flower cartoon, you should not click the more link either, as there will undoubtedly be some level of proselytizing going on.

Okay, with that out of the way, please take a look at this Bob the Angry Flower cartoon from a few weeks ago.

bornag.gifI find this particular BtAF intriguing (also amusing). Written by a non-Christian (though I forget whether Notley is an avowed atheist, or merely a skeptic), the punchline of the piece could easily be considered blasphemous by a large percentage of Christians (and likely would be decried as such were BtAF more than a moderately successful webcomic).

Setting aside the paternal question raised at the end (which, when viewed from a skeptical point of view, includes the question of who Jesus’ father was in the insult that Bob throws him), the piece calls into question several common Christian beliefs, while, interestingly enough, both cutting to the core of what a Christian should be and missing that point entirely (or not missing it and pointing out a secular misconception of what salvation is).

The cartoon questions the following Christian beliefs: a) that one can be wholly forgiven for sin with a mere statement of faith, b) that there is no punishment for sins committed prior to that statement of faith, and c) there is nothing else that a Christian needs to do.

Regarding the first point, it’s fascinating how hard this particular concept is to believe. As Eco notes in Foucault’s Pendulum, a secret known is hardly worth the knowing, and he uses the illustration of the ‘secret’ of salvation as an example. In our complex, post-rationalist, post-Enlightenment, post-modern world, the idea that a mere statement of faith – though, not to understate things, I will elaborate and add ‘with a genuine repentance for sins committed’ – is enough for a real reconciliation with the Creator of the universe would seem to be absurdity of the highest order. Why? Because it is far too easy. It’s ridiculously easy. Anything that easy can’t be true, or so the subtext of Bob’s statements seem to imply (which, I would suggest, are not that far from the current popular view).

The second point, then, is the concept that there is no punishment for sins once forgiven, or that one need not change once one repents. This ties into the third idea, that there is nothing that one needs to do once one has repented. If one takes the Bible literally, or at least the specific teachings presented in the New Testament, then one may note that there are numerous references to the idea that true repentance comes with true forgiveness of the “God casts the memory of your sins into the deepest part of the ocean/as far as the East is from the West/et al.” variety (I’m not getting into a metaphorical vs. literal interpretation of Genesis & Job argument right now, though I do maintain that the largest percentage of the Bible is intended to be taken literally, particularly the direct teachings of Jesus and His followers).

The thing often ignored is that while God forgives and will not punish a person once he/she has truly repented, there is nothing to say anyone else will do this. Ergo, while the penitent will not have a horrendous eternity after death, there is still the little matter of consequences in this lifetime. The Bible also says, “be sure your sins will find you out.”

I return to Paul in this situation, and his suggestion that ‘no, one does not need to change once one gains forgiveness but one changes if one truly repents.’

It is this point that the cartoon emphasizes, though it is, I suspect, from a mocking perspective.

Paul notes in Romans that the person in Christ is dead to the Law, i.e. that the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law given to the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai and transcribed in the Pentateuch no longer needs to be followed. He goes on to add that, for a Christian, even attempting to follow the Law is just backwards and stupid.

I am paraphrasing of course.

While this initially sounds remarkably liberating, Paul notes that for those that are in Christ – truly in Christ, repented, and Spirit-filled – the desire to sin will be replaced by the desire to do what is right. In other words, it is not the Christian trying to do good, it is the Christian doing good because that is what he or she should be doing. It is not a desire, it is what the Christian is and should be.

But Paul makes things extra difficult because he adds that if this isn’t happening, you’re not a Christian.

He does add that, as sinful creatures – humans – we will inevitably fail at times, and this is typical of the sinful nature. The point is that, even with these failings, the Christian, not the lipservice kind, but the one that truly lives in Christ, will know when he or she has sinned, and repentance will be swift and sincere.

What is interesting is how clearly this point is raised in the BtAF cartoon. Bob, believing that he has taken the easy way out, finds himself succumbing to the nature of what a Christian is supposed to be.

Naturally, being Bob, he is offended by this, as it goes against what he understood to be the extent of a deal he was making.

At the end, he rejects the idea of change in himself because it seems like an unfair addition to the idea of salvation. What he fails to realize is that a person called to repentance is not called to change and repent. Repentance in itself is the changing factor, or, as Mike Warnke (that long since discredited, nevertheless, often insightful Christian comedian) once put it:

“The boy asked me, ‘Do I need to quit smoking dope to accept Jesus?’

“I said, ‘No.’

“He said, ‘I don’t think you understand. Do I need to quit smoking marijuana to accept Jesus?’

“I said, ‘No.’

“He said, “You… you don’t understand. Do I need to quit smoking DOPE…’ And he pulled out the biggest doobie I had ever seen, the thing must have been rolled in a papertowel tube, and waved it in front of my face, ‘…to accept Jesus.’

“I said, ‘Read my lips: NO!’

“He said, ‘I don’t think I understand.’

“And I said, ‘Well, it’s like this, do you need to get cleaned up, to take a bath?‘”

And that’s the thing. We don’t need to get cleaned up for the bath, but the bath will clean you, whether you expect it or not. If you’re sincere in repentance, you will change.

But… and here’s the kicker, you still have a choice. You are still free to accept the change or to reject it, as Bob does.

That’s how I see things. That’s my interpretation of the cartoon. And I still find it funny.


~ by truth9 on February 14, 2007.

2 Responses to “Something Bob”

  1. No comments? Wow, hefty stuff I guess. I found it funny for those exact reasons, though my brain certainly didn’t feel a need to spell it out, that’s for sure. And now the law of God is written on the heart of an angry flower. But if the flower is truly repentant and truly has accepted salvation, will his anger be forgiven and rebuked? Or will it become a spiritual gift of righteous indignation, directed towards those who shun the poor or trod upon the weak and innocent?

    Maybe not.

  2. Thank you! I try to post something that might inspire conversation or debate, and I get nothing!

    Unfortunately, Bob is not sequential. Instead, it seems to be almost completely random. So the next week he was back to his old tricks.

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