All the Christian Martyrs — I Mean Mothers

All the Christian Martyrs — I Mean Mothers August 5, 2019

I’m sure you’re all already familiar with Jon McNaughton. You remember, he’s the guy who created the picture of Jesus giving the Constitution to the founding fathers, surrounded by a motley collection of modern individuals representing things like the evils of Roe v. Wade or liberal college professors. You may also have seen photos that envision American soldiers as angels, providing them with wings and gracing their images with Bible verses.

Well, it seems these examples are only one part of a larger genre. This tweet, which I came across last week, brought my attention to Kevin Carden Photography.

Yeah, I know. The guy has a thing about cell phones.

Some of his photos are simply whimsy, and they’re gorgeous. But many (if not most) also have distinctly Christian themes, including ones like this:

Yeah, I know—that last one bears some discussion. Why can’t the girl talk to God herself? And why is there a gulf between her and her father? Also, should I be worried about her? I wouldn’t let my kids walk quite that close to a cliff. Where is the guy’s can coming from? Wouldn’t some sort of rescue line—maybe a helicopter—be more useful?

Some of Carden’s images have political messages:

And some are just … odd.

Why is there a bathtub?

But these examples aren’t the reason I want to draw attention to Carden’s work. The tweet that initially alerted me to Carden’s images reads as follows:

Text of tweet:

Hey, remember that evangelical pic with the mom taking arrows in her back for her kid?

So, my wife found the ‘father’ versions…

Noticing any differences?

Before we go on—and trust me, we will go on—let me give you a closer view of the two images included in the tweet:

Cool, huh? Each photo shows a father protecting a child—young daughters, in both cases—from fiery darts, ostensibly fired by the wicked one. The shields each father is holding are presumably shields of faith. (This is all drawn from Ephesians 6:16.)

At this point, though, you’re probably wondering about the mentioned image where the mom is taking arrows in her back. What is that about?! Good question!

I was able to find a link, and it’s, um, kind of graphic. For some reason, the only place I could find the image online capable of being embedded was as part of a screenshot of a facebook post, which is how it was originally shared on twitter (to much comment).


Once again, there is a shield of faith—but why isn’t that enough to protect her?! Girl needed a bigger shield. I mean, the guys had shields as big as they were. “Seems like someone’s husband dropped his ‘umbrella of protection,'” read one reply on twitter. (As it was accompanied by an eyeball emoji, I’m assuming it was sarcasm.)

While Carden probably didn’t consciously think through the differences between the images when he made them, I don’t actually think these differences are accidental. In evangelical circles, fathers are expected to be involved with their children and are considered critical to their children’s spiritual formation. Mothers, though, are expected to engage in self-sacrifice vis a vis their children on a level fathers aren’t.

Notice that the mother has set her shield down to show the Bible to her toddler. Mothers are expected to teach and instruct their children in spiritual matters to a far greater extent than are fathers (who can be more hands off without being seen as bad fathers). This mother got hit by arrows because she wasn’t just standing by her child, she was actively teaching and instructing him. Did that make her let her guard down?

Scroll back up at the two fatherhood images. Note that both involve daughters (men attain their greatest protecting powers when in proximity to daughters) and that both include flowers (since receiving flowers from daddy is clearly girls’ favorite thing to do). Why in the heck weren’t either of the fathers expected to multitask?

Maybe that was it. It was the multitasking that got her.

I just. I can’t with these. They’re awful.

Wait. I get it now. That mom got hit because she wasn’t wearing skirts. If she’d been wearing skirts and holding an apple pie, her shield would have been bigger. Yep, that’s right. I don’t have the energy to handle that bullshit image without resorting to dark sarcasm. We’ve reached that point.

One last thing before I close. This image confuses me:

Did Carden not receive the mandatory evangelical reading list as a child? Did he skip the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? The number one rule of evangelical childhood is that lions are good. 

My first reaction to this image was to wonder why is the sword guy in the Bible was angry at Aslan. Then I thought for a moment that maybe the guy in the picture was holding an iPad, not a Bible, and that an iPad demon was fighting Aslan, but the colors don’t work.

Do your homework, Carden! Lions are good!

There. I gave you some levity. You’re welcome.

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