Jewish Journal


June 2, 2009

Doonesbury angers Jews and their ‘crabby and snarky’ old God



I didn’t know anyone still reads the Sunday comics, but apparently Doonesbury still has its fair share of followers. And quite of few of them are ripe pissed about a strip Sunday, which, according to JTA’s Ron Kampeas, “which manages to raise two classical anti-Jewish tropes in just six panels (most papers drop the first two panels): The ‘Old Testament’ God is vengeful, as opposed to the loving New Testament God; and the bad guys, the truly hateful villains, are the moneylenders.”

Click here to see the comic strip. It shows a young girl, pictured, reacting to a church sermon by the Rev. Sloan.

“Well, whenever you read from the Old Testament, God is always crabby and snarky to everyone,” the girl says. “But the New Testament isn’t about anger at all—it’s about love.”

I’ve never read Doonesbury, so I don’t know if it’s creator, Garry Trudeau, is usually that preachy. But the girl goes on to say that Jesus was a pacifist—“he wouldn’t harm a flea”—except for when he had to deal with those awful moneychangers.

Now you can see why Jews might have been offended by the comic strip. Trudeau’s comic drew him a letter yesterday from Rabbi David Saperstein and another from the Anti-Defamation League. Here’s what the ADL had to say:

We agree with the numerous people who are contacting us that Sunday’s Doonesbury misquotes the Bible, maligns Judaism, and promotes a Christian heresy, all within eight panels. It reinforces age-old stereotypes about Judaism that have been the cause of much suffering and pain over the centuries, and which have been rejected by a variety of Christian denominations over the last decades.

Jesus’ concern in the Gospels is with money-changers, not money-lenders. The money-changers converted the coins of the Roman Empire into the currency accepted by the Jerusalem Temple, as money-changers today convert dollars into Euros. To speak of money-lenders harkens back the stereotype of Shylock, when Jews were forced by Christians to engage in usury.

Christian teaching is clear: the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New Testament. Doonesbury’s Reverend Sloan is guilty of promoting anti-Jewish stereotypes and biblical illiteracy. He owes both Jews and Christians an apology.

Trudeau has never been accused of being an anti-Semite. Rather, he’s accused of having a sharp pen and being a keen observer. But his exegetical ability appears to be a bit weaker. Ben Weiner, a New York-based rabbi, has a good analysis at Religion Dispatches.

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