The ordinary courage of Charlie Brown

charles Schulz

Charles Schulz. Roger Higgins, Library of Congress.

Faith takes courage. Sometimes that courage rises to the level of the heroic, but other times — most of the time, really — it’s the little displays that make the difference.

When Peanuts creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz was given the opportunity to create his now-famous A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, he decided to include a brief scene in which Linus explains the meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown by reciting the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke.

The backstory on this moment is that CBS, which would air the production, was unhappy about the scene’s inclusion. Animator Bill Melendez was also less than jazzed.

“Sparky, this is religion,” he said. “It just doesn’t go in a cartoon.”

“Bill,” Schulz reportedly answered, very seriously, “if we don’t do it, who will? We can do it.” And they did:

This was the first Charlie Brown TV special. It could have been the last. It would have been very easy, even understandable, for Schulz to pull the scene to keep CBS and his own team happy. But he decided it was crucial to the story, and so it stayed in despite weighty and valid concerns from important people.

Thank goodness. Not only is A Charlie Brown Christmas one of the most popular holiday specials ever, winning at the time both an Emmy and a Peabody, but little Linus has now preached the gospel on national TV every year since, thanks to the extraordinarily ordinary courage of a newspaper cartoonist.

In light of his example, the question now is what ordinary display of courage does God desire from me?

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.


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