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Cartoons and the Bible

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Cartoons can be a great way to bring across the message of the Scriptures. This it does through a rereading of the Biblical message and present it to a “visual” generation in an attractive way. But there is also a price to be paid, since “rereadings” can distort rather than enhance. “The Flying House” is a cartoon series intended to bring the Bible closer to a generation that is attracted to cartoons. In this particular sequence on the Temptation of Eve, Genesis 3:1-24 is rendered into a cartoon with Tim Curry playing the role of the Snake.

The presentation fills in some gaps in the biblical narrative which is terse and lacking in details (since it is characteristic of biblical narration to allow the audience to exercise the imagination). For example, the cartoon sequence makes us understand that Eve has been gathering fruits that day when she met the Snake. Second, it was not until she met the Snake that Eve recognizes the “forbidden fruit.” Later, Adam will realize he had eaten from the fruit already indicated as “verboten” by God because of the lightning that occurs after he bites on it. The darkening of the skies and the lightning becomes an indication that something wrong has occured. Third, Adam was out working tending the olives, says Eve, when the Serpent asks her about him. The absence of Adam in the Temptation of Eve is a notable absence but in the cartoon rendering it becomes excusable. In the Genesis account, it is precisely this absence that makes him guilty of “sin”. By not doing his job as “shomer” — protector of his garden — Eve — from the wiles of the crafty “Enemy”, he contributed to their fall from grace. His eating from the fruit only confirmed a “sin” that was yet to become revealed. Fourth, the phrase “forbidden fruit” does not appear in the Genesis narrative, but it has become popular culture’s way of squeezing in just a few words a reference to “the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” By that appellation, it becomes easier to remember an important detail in the narrative; at the same time the appellation also distorts the overall intended effect of the story. In the story from Genesis, the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge (read “experience”) of good and evil, ushered into human history all that was ambiguous. Where there was only life before, now there is both life and death; where there was only truth before, now there is both truth and falsity; where there was happiness alone, now there is both happiness and suffering. The ambiguity of existence now becomes patent because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

In the cartoon sequence itself there are a few elements that misinforms. For example, there is a short sequence that somehow tells the audience that the Snake in the Genesis account should not be identified with the snakes that we see around us. The same sequence, however, can become misinformation when it becomes an occassion for trivializing the biblical symbol of the Enemy. Second, there is misinformation in the explanation that Adam made coverings for himself and his wife. In the Genesis account, the coverings were made my God, symbol of his continuing care and affection for the two persons who have banished themselves from the Garden of Life. This self-banishment became effective when they chose ambiguity and ambivalence over the one desire of God. Finally, a third source of misinformation: the protoevangelion is rendered as if “the Seed” of the woman is in the plural: God was made to say to the snake that its children will be at enmity with the woman’s children. This contemporary rendering does make the phrase “Seed” understandable to children but it limits to a high degree an understanding of it that is meant to allow connections with other passages about “the Seed” throughout the Scriptures themselves: e.g. with the oracle about the Immanuel, Revelations 12, Jesus’s saying about the grain of wheat in John 12 and Paul’s interpretation of Abraham’s seed in Galatians.

In short, while the episode from “Flying House” is a good way of attracting the attention of a cartoon-crowd and familiarize them with the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve, it can also become a source of misinformation. It is the duty of catechists and teachers of the faith to notice these possible pitfalls and deepen the understanding gained through popular culture.

Originally posted 2009-05-18 18:33:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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