Punk Rock Jesus

One day I will be on track… In the meantime, here’s a post about Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus! This isn’t for the easily offended, containing weighty opinions on consumerism, capitalism, politics, and religion. If you’re into punk, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like the book, considering the punk elements really only become a part of it in the second half of the series. I think folks looking for a more real world Preacher would like this book though.

Plot: A company clones Jesus in order to make a reality tv show, raising religious doubts.

Initial thoughts: This has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but I’m really glad I did that post on Kev and The Authority because knowing about the IRA and RUC made things so much easier to understand. But alright, thoughts: the trade paper back collects #1-6, which is the complete series, and has some extra materials, including an alternate page one drawn in ink washes. It’s a good thing Murphy ultimately decided on thin, gritty lines with high contrast because it just fits right with the story. What’s more punk rock than that indie feel? Even so, the story is published by DC and falls into the same conundrum that J2’s Slate finds himself in. Is it punk? Is it corporate? Is it punk to be corporate? More than religion, I think the idea of consumerism is at the heart of this story.

This book is something in the making, if Murphy’s postscript is to be trusted. He began the project before 2003, when he was a practicing Christian, and lost his faith and in effect found solace in doubt. This certainly resonates in Punk Rock Jesus, which the head of the New American Christians is a fat, indecisive housewife. These caricatures are supposed to be unsympathetic, leading me to question where Murphy is leading his audience. It’s easy to accept what he offers, but being critical of the book is important too, and I say that as an atheist.

While most of the referenced religious organizations in the book are real, especially those pertaining to Irish religion and politics, the New American Christians (NAC) are a fictional organization. I find this creation to be a little cowardly, considering how ballsy Murphy is about attacking every other religion. I also think there’s a simplification of Christian politics in the book, since we only see the NAC representing Christianity when in reality there are a wide variety of Christian denominations, including some that purposefully uplift people of color and queer people. The different reactions between Protestants and Catholics isn’t explored as much as I think it could be. Even as an attack on Christianity, it is set up as Science vs The Bible, when it is more nuanced than that. Basic arguments among Christianity, like whether or not the apocrypha should be included in the Old Testament, are not explored at all, which would be important if there was a Clone Jesus.

Perhaps the best part of the book is the ending, which I will not spoil, suggesting that perhaps Jesus might appear in different ways than we expect.

Itty Bitty Research: As I just said, there’s a lot within Christian politics that was not explored in the book, but one neat thing was the reference to the Shroud of Turin. I actually studied abroad in Torino in 2010 and got to witness the Shroud myself, even though I had no idea what it was at the time and was extremely disappointed when I saw it. It’s been on display this year for the first time since then, though apparently you have to book an appointment to see it. The Shroud is a 53-square-feet piece of linen that Jesus supposedly wrapped Jesus after his crucifixion, hence rumored to be the only source of Jesus’ DNA and likeness of his image.

But the Shroud of Turin is not the only existing artifact that boasts proximity to Jesus’ death. As The Face of Christ website points out, there’s “The sudarium of Oviedo [in Spain], the holy coif of Cahors [in France], the shroud of Turin, the napkin of Kornelimuenster [in Germany],” among others. But unlike these artifacts, the Shroud continues to baffle skeptics and endorsers alike. In fact, in the story, it’s questioned whether DNA could be lifted from a 2000-year-old artifact, let alone if it is legitimately Jesus’ DNA or not. Besides its fame and skepticism, the Shroud is an apt artifact to include in Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus because it has also fostered a consumerist culture around its notoriety. The Sinedone di Torino (Italian for “Shroud of Italy”) reports that almost 1.5 million people visited the Shroud in 2010 by its fifth week of viewing – and that’s only counting those who booked a reservation.

Whether the Shroud is legitimate or not, that really isn’t the point in Murphy’s book. Blind, radical faith plays a big role in creating religious beliefs. Reality is not as important as belief: it is the belief that makes Chris Jesus Christ rather than him innately being Jesus Christ which spurs belief. The same could be said, I think, for the Shroud.

Rating: 3/5

References: Murphy, Sean. Punk Rock Jesus. New York: DC Comics, 2013. Print.

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