Evolution and the profit motive behind evangelical tribalism, in 8 panels

Sometimes people think I’m overstating the case when I describe American evangelicalism as primarily driven by culture-war tribalism in service of partisan politics.

Or when I criticize that tribalism as a tool cynically employed by hucksters seeking to cash in on the tribal market niche.

Or when I suggest that those hucksters are the lackeys and servants of wealthy plutocrats.

But I don’t think I’m overstating any of that.

That’s from the 1975 Spire Christian Comics publication “Archie’s Parables.” (And yes, Spire was published by the Fleming H. Revell Company, why do you ask?)

In 1975, abortion and homosexuality were still many years away from being anything American evangelicals were concerned about, so this comic had to make do with evolution and school prayer. Otherwise, though, plus ça change.

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  • EnopoletusHarding

    If there is a better short statement of modern socially conservative Republicanism, I have yet to see it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Well, they left out the part where, as repayment for the banker’s assistance in opening the Christian bookstore, the Sheriff and his deputies went around arresting the filthy hippies at that stupid “Occupy Riverdale” protest.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanWithCupcake Ryan

    Does anyone know how Archie Comics went from this to introducing openly gay Kevin Keller and giving him his own comic book?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    These technically aren’t from Archie Comics; they’re Spire Comics. The artist, Al Harley,  worked for Archie Comics and got permission from the president of that company to lease the characters for the Spire Comics line.  Archie Comics did that a lot, actually.

    I do think that this guy probably wouldn’t gotten permission to do this kind of thing today though. 1975 wasn’t that long ago, but it was long ago enough.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What Charity Brighton said. I remember being an Archie comics collector and I noticed these Archies at some Doukhobor colony (?) in BC one time back in like 1985. Needless to say the religious themed message was a little jarring considering the generally secular theme of the Archie comics, but at the time I was not that troubled. I distinctly recall seeing the Spire emblem in one corner of the cover of the comic, as well.

  • Michael Pullmann

     Did Betty just get back from a visit to Stepford in that last panel?

    Also, why are they in the Old West? And could White Injun Jughead possibly be any more offensive?

  • Tricksterson

    Yeah, i last read Archie Comics about the time that strip came out but I remember her being feistier than that, except of course when it came to Archue,

    Because setting it it modern times might have been considered too provacative?  Alternately because the people behind it felt more comforable in the 1870s

    No.  And did anyonelse get the feeling that Indian Jughead was stoned?

  • Steve Morrison


    Also, why are they in
    the Old West? And could White Injun Jughead possibly be any more

    The same issue (you can download it at
    the Spire Comics link Fred gave) also has a story where the Archie
    characters are WWII soldiers, a story where they are medieval
    characters in a dragon-slaying romance, etc. — even a Jonathan
    Livingston Seagull parody (hey, it was the 1970s, when you
    encountered that book everywhere). As to whether Jughead could
    possibly be any more offensive, I’d guess the panels I summarized
    answer that; now aren’t you sorry you asked?

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    What’s with native guy?  His three appearances are:
    1 Looking smug for no reason, interacting with no one
    2 Unloading the books.
    3 Looking smug for no reason, interacting with no one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    I’m pretty sure that’s this comic’s version of Jughead, who – so far as I recall – has a habit of looking kind of smug for no reason normally.

  • reynard61

    “What’s with the native guy?”

    This particular comic may or may not be a loose (*very* loose!) tie-in with the Saturday morning cartoon The U.S. of Archie, which was playing at around the time it came out.

  • Steve Morrison


    What’s with native guy?

    There were several previous panels which Fred omitted. After an opening in which Archie successfully copes with a bully in a saloon, Jughead rushes in frantically shouting “Sheriff… Sheriff”. Archie says, “Ah.. here’s Pronto… my faithful Indian companion!” Jughead says, “The school marm needs you right away! They’ve got heap big trouble at the school! They’ve had their hands full ever since they started to bus students across the prairie!” (There is a covered wagon in the foreground labeled “School Bus”). By this point Archie and Jughead are rushing on horseback to the school, and the next panel is the one Fred started with.

  • JonathanPelikan

    References to busing students? Really? Considering what was mentioned earlier in the thread, I’d call it unfortunate implications but that would imply that wasn’t exactly what the fuckers what wrote and drew that comic intended.

  • ReverendRef

    What this is about is protecting the institution at all costs.  We’ve seen it with the RCC in their attempt to protect predatory priests and further attack victims.  We’ve seen it at PSU where the crimes of Jerry Sandusky were pushed under the rug in order to protect the almighty football program.  And we’re seeing it with the fundagelicals who want to protect their institution of church that’s based on their own holiness codes.  It’s a win-at-all-costs game plan.  Unfortunately, win-at-all-costs is not a strategy endorsed by the bible.

    What’s required is justice and mercy and care for the less fortunate, alien and other.

    Deuteronomy 16:18-20:

    You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in
    all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall
    render just decisions for the people.  You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you
    must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and
    subverts the cause of those who are in the right.   Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
    And that’s just a start.  This is why I work hard for “no strings attached” giving to the parish.  Because the minute you start allowing people to dictate how their money gets used, you’ve limited your ability to be the church.  And there’s probably a better, more nuanced way to say that, but Sundays after two services, two coffee hours and an education class are really not my best time for creative, nuanced thinking.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Wait, so their solution was to…stop complaining about secular schools & open a bookstore?  Would that we were still fighting THIS culture war.  Dudes!  Open up all the bookstores you want!  Just stop trying to legislate inequalty, & we’ll be cool!

  • WingedBeast

    “They’re acting like they came from monkeys!  They’re becoming doctors, enviromental engineers, they’re studying microbiology and neurobiology!  They’re making the advances that make our lives longer and healthier! ”

    People talk about how, if children believe we came from animals, they’ll act like animals or how gang violence is because there’s no bible in public schools.  Can someone please fill in that crucial Underpants Gnome Step that leads from Point A to Point C?

  • Random Lurker

    The “???” step is the old ideology that human beings are sinful by nature, and only adherence to God’s commandments makes them civilized.  Add in the “evolution rejects the bible” claptrap and it’s a short step from there to acting like animals.

    The fact that all the steps involve are demonstrably not true, and have been throughout history, obviously isn’t important.

  • Tempus Vernum


    People talk about how, if children believe we came from animals, they’ll
    act like animals or how gang violence is because there’s no bible in
    public schools.

    So another extension of the “If there ain’t no rule against X then of course everybody will do X” fallacy… If everyone’s related to animals then of course everyone will act like animals.

    I hope Mr Fleming isn’t part my family tree. Maybe I should ask one of the genealogy inclined relatives….

  • jordin

    Ain’t no rule says a dog can’t play basketball!

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    another extension of the “If there ain’t no rule against X then of course everybody will do X” fallacy. 

    I’m just waiting for them to decriminalize bestiality so I can finally marry that box turtle!

  • SkyknightXi

    Regarding that fallacy…That makes it sound like everyone will do everything that ISN’T interdicted. Sounds a bit like the ant hive in “The Book of Merlyn”–“everything not forbidden is compulsory”, just more reactive than mandated. Such a viewpoint doesn’t seem to understand a place for free will in the human psyche, and I don’t mean in Sam Harris’s understanding.

  • Rissa

    I have a mainstream Archie comic book somewhere in storage that has an actively anti-feminist story in it. A new teacher comes to Riverdale and the existing male faculty suspect her of trying to stir up the women against them; they eavesdrop on a meeting and catch snippets of speeches that seem to support this conclusion. In the end, though, it turns out the women all agreed not to join the women’s lib movement, and all the men were so terrified they would that they kept offering to carry their parcels and complimenting them on their appearances.

    I was just little when I read it, maybe nine or ten (so, mid-nineties), and I had bought it second hand so who knows how old it really was. But the punchline of the story is engraved on my psyche for all time:

    “Talk about being equal with men is silly! Why would we want to go back to that?”

    Now I am betting the fella responsible for the above strip was probably responsible for this one, too. 

  • JonathanPelikan

    “Talk about being equal with men is silly! Why would we want to go back to that?”
    Oh gods, that hurts. Hurts bad.

    The only coherent thing I can think of is I stopped talking politics with That One Roommate in college after, talking about all sorts of subjects, we got around to feminist issues and his first shot across the bow was, “Women are already equal, what  else do they want?” Sure as hell shut me up, mostly because I was so dead-stunned into complete silence.

    (Yes, this guy showed his girlfriend a PDF scan of a 1950s thing about how to be a good housewife and make Sandwiches and Babies for the hard-working man, only half-jokingly, if that; why do you ask?)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    But did it tell her to clean her naughty bits with lysol?

  • EllieMurasaki

     You’re joking, right? Please tell me you’re joking. *Google* oh holy shit you’re not joking. OW.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

     That was my reaction…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    First time I saw that seriously presented as a viable “female hygiene” method somewhere I think I just stared at the screen and “B-but it’s a floor cleaner…!”

  • Jared Bascomb

    It’s a floor cleaner and a female hygiene product and a dessert topping!

  • ChristianPinko

     Hmm, guess I should have read all the comments first.

  • ChristianPinko

     No, it’s a dessert topping!

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Sandwiches I get, but I don’t believe men even in the 1950s could eat an entire baby themselves; it must have been a roast for the whole family to share. 

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Oh, 1950s, won’t you ever go away?

    Good idea: European Commission wants more women in science.
    Bad idea: The ad they came up with   

     The film, published by the European Commission, describes science as a “girl thing”, and combines generic pictures of beakers and words like “hydrogen” with pictures of skinny models wearing designer sunglasses.”

    And if you think that sounds bad, the reality is much worse.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     What the hell was that?

    I mean I guess that they were trying to suggest that not only can you be female and a scientist but that you can be feminine and be a scientist. When you mix that with the general complete failure of bureaucracy to understand how to communicate with the young you get this sort of misaimed trainwreck.

    A better ad series would simply show a diverse bunch of female scientists about their daily business and in their off-duty lives to emphasise that all kinds of women not only can be scientists but already are scientists and that science is a rewarding career choice regardless of gender.

    As a young teen I remember being extremely impressed by the fact that some big tunnel was designed a female civil engineer and for a while I wanted to be one. I also wanted to be a vulcanologist/geophysicist after seeing some crazy woman bouncing around on top of an active volcano on a documentary (actually she was collecting lava and gas samples). The one certainity in my teenage ambitions was that science would be involved (well that or writing). It would have been as well but for the chaos in my personal life intevening and preventing me completing Uni. One day – when I’m fully out of debt – I’m going to study for a science degree with the OU – it’s a bit late in life to start a career given that’ll it’ll probably be the best part of a decade before I have a degree and I’m 40 now but yeah. (The writing I’m already working on making money from.)

    Anyway the point of the previous paragraph is that my personal anecdata suggests that introducing girls to role models they wish to emulate works better than whatever the hell that was.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    A better ad series would simply show a diverse bunch of female scientists about their daily business and in their off-duty lives to emphasise that all kinds of women not only can be scientists but already are scientists and that science is a rewarding career choice regardless of gender.

    That’s exactly what all the other videos in the series do. This is the “teaser trailer”, and the most popular theory is some victim of the Peter Principle in marketing thought it was too boring and needed to be more exciting to draw anyone in.

  • christopher_young

    I don’t particularly want to be fair to the people who perpetrated that European Commission ad, but they have pulled it in response to the outcry, whereas some organisations I can think of would have doubled down.

  • Jessica_R

    And there’s absolutely no race baiting at all with the “act like monkeys” line and the White Evangelical backlash to school desegregation sprinkled in, no sir. 

  • EllieMurasaki

     Only liberals can be race-baiters, didn’t you know?

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    I remember reading Christian Archie back in the mid- or late- 80s.  But, gosh, what’s up with Tonto Jughead?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Wish I knew! I don’t recall the Native Indian version of Jughead showing up in the one Spire-based Archie comic I did read.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Hartley  did a lot of work for Spire.  He even collaborated with Hal Lindsey:  There’s a New World Coming

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    I was assuming that Tonto Jughead was smug because he had finally accepted his place as an inferior menial servant, since all he did was silently obey Archie’s commands.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    This reminded me that we’re about to get Tonto Johnny Depp in a major Hollywood movie. Blech.

    Betty is thinking, “how long am I going to have to stand here smiling brainlessly? This corset is squashing my liver. My agent is so fired.”

  • Fade Manley

    I went into a Christian bookstore the other day, and they couldn’t offer me a single version of the New Testament that included the original Greek. At all. Not a damn one. But they could offer me Christian-branded knock-offs of My Little Pony…


  • Tricksterson

    What, noone told them Luna and Celestia are heathen idols?

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    That would be a GREAT religion!

  • Tricksterson

    We already have someone here who swears by Luna and Celestia.  Since I sincerely revere Bugs Bunny as a modern incarnation of Trickster I have no problem with  the idea of L & C as incarnations of the Moon and Sun respectively.

  • arcseconds

    What gets me about the comic posted is the dripping sentimentality. Students only misbehave because of books about evolution! What they need, is some good stirring chicken soup for the soul glurge  (the Bible’s a nice upstanding moral book!)  then they’ll act like proper upstanding citizens.

    I’m starting to  suspect this sentimentality is emblematic of the religious right and conservativism more generally.    The standard for what counts as true seems to be more ‘how do I feel about the moral of the story?’  rather than ‘what is the quality of evidence that leads us to believe this?’

    (Not all right-wing groups are sentimental, necessarily.   I wouldn’t say free marketeers are generally sentimental.  They are often very romantic, though — Captains of Industry bravely charting the choppy seas of competition, hampered always by Government Regulation and envy of the masses, bringing efficiency and bounteous goods to All!)

  • Vermic

    Two decades later Archie would team up with the Punisher, so I guess the moralization of Riverdale didn’t go as well as hoped.

  • Tricksterson

    Yeah, I’d really like t know who’s idea that was and what they were on at the time.

  • hapax

     @Vermic:  Archie Meets The Punisher was comic-book GOLD, and you’d have to pry my copy out of my cold dead fingers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I found that on the Internet a while back and I was actually surprised by how well that worked. From what I gather, the Punisher’s main shtick is that he’s basically a serial killer who mostly targets mobsters. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you could include in a PG 13 rated comic, but somehow they managed to pull it off…

  • Tonio

     My favorite part was when Archie began keeping a war journal just like the Punisher’s.

  • Vermic

    Why is Archie opposed to Riverdale’s liberal permissiveness, anyway?  Where else does he think he’d be allowed to wear those chaps?

  • Jared Bascomb

    Why is Archie opposed to Riverdale’s liberal permissiveness, anyway?  Where else does he think he’d be allowed to wear those chaps?
    And I wonder about the big bold all-caps “LIFT” in the final panel.