On this Ash Wednesday, I am happy to have the chance to blog about a book that is different, I think, from any other that I’ve reviewed. I was sent a review copy of the adult coloring book Coloring Lent. I confess that, while I have been aware of the growing popularity of this genre, I haven’t been participating in it. And so I was not sure what to expect.
Looking inside, I found the outlined artwork striking, and also the contents. My first browse through brought details to by attention such as the mention of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face. Other disorienting details included the references to God in some but not all places as “the Cloud.” This was natural in some of the early pages, which related to the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness. But the references to God as “the Cloud” are found much more widely. It is an intriguing way of referring to the divine, and one that is well suited to the context of Lent, with its exploration of the human experience of sorrow, repentance, and the hiddenness of God.
And so I did what an academic would do when disoriented by the features of a text: I turned to the footnotes and endnotes. Not that I expected a coloring book to have either footnotes or endnotes, never mind both. But there they were.
In them, I found references to James Cone and Thomas J. J. Altizer, to Slavoj Žižek and René Girard, to Ephrem the Syrian and Friederich Nietzsche.
Clearly this is like no other coloring book I have ever seen, and I would dare to guess that it is like no other coloring book that currently exists or has ever existed. Feel free to tell me if I am wrong about that.
The notes provide leads into very deep literature, the idea of the death of God, apocryphal traditions, as well as discussions of the choices that went into the coloring book – such as the question of whether or how to depict God. The “Cloud” can serve readily as a Biblical and a mystical symbol for God, but the inclusion thereof is still done in a highly thought-provoking manner.
I am still not sure whether I will spend Lent actually coloring the pages. This is new territory for me. The connection between this spiritual practice and the idea of encountering God in, through, and as part of that which can be touched and colored is new to me. If you observe Lent as part of your own church tradition, and/or already have a liking for adult coloring books, I’d encourage you to take a look at this one, and report back to me about your experience with it!