man, like, what rough beast etcetera etcetera, you know?
In the world of American Evangelicalism, I’m of a generational cohort tending to abandon the fascination with schemes of the eschatological, surging in the decades immediately after WW2 and shaping our upbringings, and to go instead very sober and historical-minded (as we supposed) about our Christian faith and thinking — away from the know-nothing pietistical and enthusiastic, toward the ecclesiastically ‘confessional’ and the ‘orthodox.’ The LaHaye & Jenkins Left Behind publishing phenomenon, for instance, launched when I was in mid-twenties, I avoided altogether. I’m long in the habit of tuning out ‘end-times’ noise.
I have a certain tendency too, not coincidentally, somewhat to tune out liberal-Christian critics of Evangelicalism like James Tabor when the topic is examination of that modern American end-times obsession I was raised with. Their criticisms may be agreeable to me, but the whole business is a little tedious nevertheless. So though I’d been vaguely aware of a Bible prophecy series Tabor started on YouTube a few months ago, I’ve paid it no attention — until, that is, this week, as media concern with Evangelicals and Israel continues intensifying. (The biblical prophets themselves, it’s important to say, are by no means reducible to the various accounts of ‘last things’ the texts coming down to us offer, as a talk Tabor recorded well before beginning this series may help to show.)
The video series is linked below. Something I hardly anticipated, listening back through earlier items in the collection over the last few days, was to hear any mention of American-scene popular illustration and cartooning — let alone to be introduced to a cartoonist of great influence whose name I hadn’t previously really known. The cartoonist in question was, it happens, both a person highly placed throughout mature working life as a leader in Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, a church group Tabor also had involvement with as a young academic, and also a notable precursor to and source for such celebrated ‘comix’ figures as Crumb and Spiegelman: Basil Wolverton. Remarkable.
I’d have known about Wolverton if I were more inclined toward the Mad Magazine ideal or to gross-out humor, no doubt. But I never have much been so inclined. I have a good deal to learn here. (Further reflections in a longer post to come, maybe, if I can get to it.)
Turns out, by the way, that Basil Wolverton’s son Monte, my parents’ age (and Tabor’s), is likewise a career cartoonist — and though far from comparable to his father in reputation, he is curiously somebody whose name one might encounter in news and commentary around Israel-Palestine conflict just at the moment.