Charlie Brown and God
Posted on May 3, 2016 at 3:53 pm
The Atlantic has a fascinating article about “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz and the way he expressed his religious doubts and beliefs through his classic comic strip.
Charles Schulz was widely applauded for a long list of achievements. The creator of the Peanuts comic strip was a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and his comics earned him an Emmy, Peabody, and Congressional Gold Medal. Sixteen years after his death in 2000, Schulz is still the third top-earning deceased celebrity, trailing only Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. He even changed the way Americans talk, inserting phrases like “Good grief!” and “security blanket” into the national vocabulary.
But Schulz also revolutionized his industry by using his strip to subtly raise religious questions about the Bible, prayer, the nature of God, and the end of the world. Schulz was a devoted Christian; unshell the Peanuts and you’ll find the fingerprints of his faith. By mixing Snoopy with spirituality, he made his readers laugh while inviting them into a depth of conversation uncommon to the funny pages….More than 560 of Schulz’s nearly 17,800 Peanuts newspaper strips contain a religious, spiritual, or theological reference. To put this into perspective, Schulz only produced 61 strips featuring the famous scene where Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick it. Particularly later in his career, the religious references came so frequently that pastors and religious publications regularly requested permission to reprint Peanuts strips, which Schulz almost always granted.
The beloved “Charlie Brown Christmas” is notable not just for its pathetic little tree and evocative Vince Guaraldi score but also for the clear, sweet voice of Linus reciting a passage from the Gospel of Luke, a rare reminder in the world of advertising-driven commercial television that Christmas is about the birth of Christ.
The article quotes Stephen J. Lind, author of A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz.
“When readers come to the end of the panel, there is a gap not only between two rectangles, but also the action contained in each and the reader must then fill in what happened, creating a sense of mental ‘closure’ so that the episode makes sense,” Lind writes. “As the reader fills in this narrative leap, they begin to connect with the scene, for they helped create it.”