December 16, 2014

After the End

Four months ago, I found myself caught between several freelance projects leftover from the summer and a tidal wave of new homework: the beginning of my final year at school. One of those lingering projects was also one of the most satisfying: a comic for Geez magazine's apocalypse-themed winter issue. That issue is now on newsstands and I'm thrilled to be among so many strong and vital voices. I've been following Geez off and on since its inception (I actually remember buying the first issue). I've occasionally thought about contributing, but the timing was never right. I'm glad it finally worked out, even if I was pressed for time. Geez consistently pushes itself in worthwhile directions, and the writing in this issue in particular manages to be severely critical yet unabashedly hopeful. Just the dialectical imbalance I look for in a quasi-religious publication.

My own contribution is an odd one. When I first heard of the theme, I knew immediately that my comic would take aim at liberal suburbia, where the average church member's biggest discomfort on a Sunday morning revolves around the church parking lot. There is something apocalyptic even in this, something revelatory about a place that, despite some good intentions, is so often out of touch with what really matters, unaware of its role in safeguarding structures of oppression.

When I finally started working on my comic, I came to recognize that for many mainstream Christian groups obsessed with the End Times, there's an omnipresent, hermeneutical interplay between inside and outside. A claim to clarity and revelation–being able to read and interpret the "signs of the times" for what they really are–is perhaps what makes most apocalyptic fixations so densely ideological. Concern for the salvation of the world and, by extension, belief in an external, mysterious, universal and ultimately unthinkable Event should, in theory, put such groups in positions of vulnerability. The end of the world is a terrifying, humbling possibility to consider. But precisely the opposite happens. Our belief in the End becomes an article of knowledge: an expectation, a judgment and, most importantly, a possession to which one clings, a locus of power and authority. Such knowledge demarcates the boundaries of the elect and signals a turn inward. If one has a conscience, despair sets in: "Why won't they turn away from their wickedness and join us?" World events, environmental catastrophe; these crises seem to point to something that only an apocalyptic hermeneutic can organize and decipher.

If my comic is at all successful, it pokes fun at how modern obsessions with the end of the world often give way to this kind of insularity, how such fixations define our readings of current events and how our conceptions of the End perpetuate privileged forms of representation. 

The educated white male sitting in the church basement isn't only the most outspoken person in the room–he's also the loudest, and he loves to play devil's advocate. 

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