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IN GOD WE TRUST (GN review)

Review by Lily Fierro
In God We Trust
Written and Illustrated by Winshluss
Published by Knockabout Comics
ISBN 9780861662357
Cover Price: £17.99/ $27.95
Publication Date: February 15, 2015
Format: 104 pages, full colour, gold-blocked HC

These past few years have been interesting for Christianity.

As more disdain for the Church gathers with the protests against many socio-political topics such as contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage by evangelicals, criticisms of Christianity meander further and further away from the core beliefs and the actual practice of the faith and focus more on the non-representative actions of its on Earth institutions.

Consequently, today’s general public is the fastest in history to critique Christianity (and most religions in general), creating a more than ever engaged audience for cultural works which pick apart religions.

Today, with a more exposing media, we are more acutely aware of the foibles of religious institutions, and given instantaneous and free electronic resources, we can read more about the foundations and the scriptures of religion side by side with how they have been misinterpreted.

With this combined, parallel knowledge from a vast array of resources, we can make more astute observations on religion and draw more insights on concepts of faith in society.

In turn, the cultural works which approach the criticism of Christianity must be more nuanced and intelligent than ever.

Although it features some moments of excellent artwork and a couple of laughs, In God We Trust by Winshluss distills down to a reader’s digest of all of the familiar problems of Catholicism and Christianity at large, ones that are not new to anyone who has lived in the Western world for the past two or three decades.

In adapting stories from the Bible into short parodies, Winshluss delivers some interesting visual ideas, but he merely regurgitates every anti-Catholic/Christian sentiment seen and heard in most media and relies on shock and vulgarity to try to breathe vitality into his new work.

Despite all efforts, the vulgarity used to parody Catholicism and Christianity in In God We Trust is not new. Not too long ago, Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis used his signature outlandish, offbeat, and occasionally disconcerting illustration style to shed light on the absurdity and the mythical nature of the stories in the original Book of Genesis.

In order to convey his opinion, Crumb’s adaptation focuses on illustrating the direct text from the Bible, and in discussions, he even speaks about the translations he used for his adaptation. He meticulously read and analyzed the material he intended to critique.

Winshluss did not seem to have the same level of rigorousness or commitment to adapt the stories in his similar effort.

In his visual and narrative representations of selected biblical stories, he combines the human-fallibility of deities originating from Greek mythology and even the myopia and absurdity of some modern superheroes with the core principles of the biblical tales, which could lead to some interesting ideas about the relevance of centuries old text and tenants in modern culture, but he focuses far too much on trying to stun the audience by wrapping his non-original critiques of Christianity with secular characters, outrageousness, and childish defiance.

And after the third fake advertisement meant to appall the reader with its insolence, In God We Trust becomes a tiring collection of many propaganda-esque cartoons meant to stir up the sentiments of modern groupthink against Christianity.

And unlike Crumb, Winshluss fails to explain the source of his stories.

In order to adequately critique the Bible, it should be clear which version was used to formulate the argument. We know which modern events, groups, and institutions led to the cartoons collected in In God We Trust, but we have no sense of the Bible used to adapt the stories. This failure to discuss the Bible used reveals the fundamental problem about In God We Trust; the adaptation and modernization of the core biblical stories feel as if they come from second or third hand digestions of the core scripture.

Consequently, it is not an adaptation of biblical stories as it advertises in its opening; it is merely an opportunity to unabashedly criticize and mock a religion using modern events, mishaps, and misleadership to contort the selected biblical stories into shallow jests.

It’s a shame that Winshluss did not do more with In God We Trust. He uses visually inventive and sometimes beautiful arrows to hit some very easy and low hanging targets when he could have gone for ones that were more difficult and more impressive to aim for.

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