A book review of Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith

November 18, 2014

Radical Jesus cover

Here’s a book you might be interested in getting. It is a comic book called Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith. This book surprised me with its ability to inspire and encourage through the medium of graphic art in a classic comic book style. The book is unapologetically tilted towards a radical Christianity in the spirit of Jesus’ own life and teaching.

Edited by Paul Buhle, this Herald Press resource strings a series of stories together that once you’ve finished, it has challenged you as a reader to recalibrate your own faith along the lines of the radical witness testified about within its pages. There is a really cool progression to the artwork as you progress through history. It begins with the gospel story in black and white, but by the time you are up to the present era at the end, you are in vibrant colors. The artwork itself is also thought provoking, providing stimulating images to go along with the commentary. As an example, the Jesus story, in black and white, has a unique way of blending Jesus’ life with contemporary issues, forcing the readers to connect dots between Jesus’ teachings and the societal realities that are present in our own time.

The movements of the book reflect a spirit of radical reformation and resistance. As stated already, it begins with the gospel story through a vivid retelling of Jesus’ life and teachings, remaining faithful to the actual biblical witness. Then it reorients the readers towards the spirit of radical reformation as it depicts the Lollards, the Anabaptists, the Hutterites, the Amish, and the Quakers. In each case, the story follows specific characters that bring the larger context alive. Finally, the book moves towards radical resistance, as it portrays a range of people inspired by Jesus to resist injustice and violence in their society. I was particularly glad to see Sojourner Truth’s story having a significant role, along with other folks like Fred Shuttlesworth, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ella Baker. It also touched on the Christian Peacemakers Teams that have sought to “get in the way” of violence and injustice as well.

I imagine that if it were being redone right now, it would also include the courageous Christians that have come alongside those protesting in Ferguson and beyond, that have straightened their backs up and defiantly called for an end to police brutality in black and brown communities. This is a book for those that are seeking to embody the radical witness of Jesus for their own time, recalibrating their own lives in light of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ example of solidarity with the oppressed. If you, or anyone you know, is looking to be inspired by both the past and present witness of Jesus in the world, and if you would appreciate it communicated through creative and beautiful artwork testifying to God’s Church making visible the Kingdom of God, then Radical Jesus is for you! Remembering (or learning for the first time) these people that embodied the peace and justice of God will surely inspire you to want to follow Jesus more radically yourself.

You can go here to purchase one for yourself or to gift it for someone else.