It was a weird roller coaster of faith coming into San Diego Comic-Con for the first time on Thursday. Even before entering the convention center, most people had to pass by the aspiring Westboro Baptist Church picketers holding up signs that threaten all Con attendees “Damned to Hell”– unless we repented.
The rhetoric is not as antagonistic as “God Hates Fags”, but it’s still implied that He is, at the very least, not cool with geeks. Of course these mercenaries of Christ are most likely accusing the SDCC folk of worshiping false idols and not God himself…
After easily dismissing these disciples of living a life where you can only really be into one thing — because their God is not unlike any attention-starved eighth grader — walking into the Con truly felt like Sodom & Gomorrah cosplaying as Marvel and D.C.
It wasn’t exactly ungodly, but it wasn’t hard to spot someone dressed up as a childhood idol.
This particular apostle was ready to begin the first day of my first visit to the geek-mecca that is SDCC without further thoughts about the God who apparently, truly does hate geeks (or dislikes them enough to send picketers to annoy everyone getting into the convention).
However, being a writer at GHG, it was hard not to notice the God is Disappointed in You panel in Room 32AB. Also, seeing names like Shannon Wheeler (cartoonist for The New Yorker and The Onion) and James Urbaniak (voice of Dr. Venture in Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros) listed in the description only fueled my curiosity. I expected a light panel with a few good jokes about the absurdity of the bible, but this “Brother” was surprised to hear an honest, albeit hilarious, labor of love that easily sparked one of the more interesting Q&A sessions Thursday at the Con.
In God is Disappointed in You, author Mark Russell (The Heretic’s Bible) condenses the entire Bible, book by book, into layman’s terms through the lens of Russell’s heavily-researched historical context and a sharp satirical tongue. It also took 3-years to make, as Russell read the Bible cover-to cover three times– along with dozens of other books from Biblical scholars and other academics.
The panel began with Russell giving the audience a funny, 10-minute PowerPoint presentation that told the entire story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations complete with cartoons from Wheeler supplemented with various images from the internet. In the discussion portion of the panel, Wheeler and Russell talked more about the inception of the book’s concept and their collaborative process; but had the most interest in informing us about the deep cuts of The Good Book and some of the crazier Old Testament stories along with the understated historical context around the authors.
Then, many laughs were had when they played the audio version of the book, read by Urbaniak.
What made that particular panel really light up was the Q&A session. Wheeler gave an anecdote about taking pictures with some of the WBC-light Christian picketers outside of the con, and how that at least one of them was interesting to talk to.
Several us actually learned something, too, when Russell was asked if he looked into the Gnostic Gospels, and the other omitted books of The Bible and he proceeded to give the audience a history lesson. Most notably, Russell talked about the research he found about passages of Youthful Jesus (ages 12-30)– a time in His life that isn’t discussed in the canon-New Testament. Russell had read stories through his research on Jesus being, well, pretty much like we all were from those ages: Little shits.
And God is disappointed in us?
What solidified the uniqueness of the panel, which reflects on the work done with the book itself, was the final question. Wheeler called out a man who had been raising his hand patiently throughout the entirety of the Q&A session. The moderator offered this patient man a free copy of the book, but the man had said he already owns one and has read it. That man was a Baptist minister, and he really didn’t have a question.
Instead, he wanted to apologize for all the criticism and hate that Russell had received from any other Christian leader, since this particular minister loved the book. He told Russell that God is Disappointed in You is honest and creates some much needed dialogue within the Christian community.
The man also went on to describe what all the like-minded people in Room 32AB were thinking by the end of the panel: Interpreting the Word of God too literally, or even to conform to your own dogma and ideals, can be just as silly as telling stories about men and women who fly around in capes.