Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
I recently visited WORLD’s Editorial Cartoon page after reading some praise about it and was struck with how similar their cartoons were to those of other publications. They featured caricatures of politicians with grotesque features that dehumanized them and mocked their competence. They reduced complex political issues into absurd and simple scenarios. They were editorial cartoons, and that is what editorial cartoons do: make fun of politicians. But while there is a long history of belittling politicians in editorial cartoons, what bothered me was that WORLD Magazine, the largest Christian news magazine, seemed to stoop to the same level of dismissive and mocking political discourse as secular news outlets. One editorial cartoon stood out among the others as an example of an uncharitable, inappropriate, and manipulative political statement. It showed Barack Obama sending Rosa Parks to the back of a bus.
This cartoon, drawn by Michael Ramirez, alludes to the three-day, Midwest bus tour Obama took last week to discuss job creation. Apparently, by going on this tour instead of working to help US business, Obama was sending businesses to the back of the bus. Using our SAT analogy skills we can say that in this cartoon, Obama : US Business = White, State-Sanctioned Racism : Rosa Parks. Even if we ignore the not-so-subtle racist implications of putting Obama in the place of white, southern racists, this cartoon is offensive. Rosa Parks stood up against a society that worked to dehumanize and control Black people. She did this peacefully and courageously, and helped to start the civil rights movement. US business is… not growing very rapidly? Abused by regulations?
This comparison is nonsense and rather vile. Even if you believe the Obama administration is systematically working against US businesses, that is not even remotely close to the inhumane treatment of African-Americans in the 1950s. The very comparison belittles what Rosa Parks did.
What is interesting is that Ramirez understands that Rosa Parks deserves to be treated with dignity, so he drew her quite realistically and based the cartoon off of one of the most famous photographs of her. Obama, on the other hand, is drawn with grotesque features and a haughty look as he (apparently) reenacts the abuses of Civil Rights era America by sending her to the back.
My point in all this is not to call out Michael Ramirez or WORLD Magazine, although I think it would be good for both parties to pull the cartoon and issue an apology. Rather, my concern is that Christian culture feels so comfortable adopting the uncharitable and unloving rhetoric of the world in its cartoons. Whether it is WORLD, or Ray Comfort’s blog, or freelance cartoonists, Christians are all too comfortable mocking atheists, evolutionists, Democrats, and presidents, through cartoons. I would like to encourage all of us to resist the urge to mock and belittle those who disagree with us, because as citizens of heaven we have an obligation to represent our Lord through our words and our images.