Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor of clinical psychology who wrote the best-selling 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has created renewed interest in the Bible, filling large auditoriums for his biblical lecture series. In his wake, fellow Canadian Orthodox woodcarver Jonathan Pageau has risen to prominence on YouTube with his Symbolic World. Now, he has launched an illustrated book (also known as a graphic novel) on Indiegogo called God’s Dog, featuring the strange story of the dog-headed St. Christopher. It reached its funding goal in record time and is set to become something rare: a Christian culture success. Could this be a new way of reaching people with the message of Christianity and perhaps even spark a Christian cultural comeback?
The Subtraction Story
After the scientific revolution of the 17th century, an increasing number of people embraced scientific explanations rather than relying on the Bible. Even among those who remained Christians, the natural world was seen more and more as the domain of science. As the world advanced technologically and economically, Christianity retreated into an ever-smaller space. This retreat became known as the subtraction story. Secularism won the culture war on every front.
The Zombie Apocalypse
However, as Christianity was dying in the West, a crisis of “meaning” emerged. People were more depressed than ever and searched for meaning in everything from environmentalism to new sexual identities. Peterson was one of the first to bring this understanding to a broad audience. Since then, others, like Pageau, have given a voice to the problem and provided a new path forward for Christianity.
Pageau grew to prominence in the Orthodox community with his Pentecost for the Zombie Apocalypse speech at the 40th annual conference for the Diocese of the South in the Orthodox Church of America. In it, he outlined the strange role of monsters in mythology, including the story of the dog-headed Saint Christopher.
He noted that the West has given rise to only one new mythological story trope: the zombie apocalypse. A zombie is a perfect symbol for materialism: a body without a soul, a walking dead. He points out that this new mythology reflects a yearning for something beyond materialism, recognizing the stale nature of a worldview with no room for the spiritual.
A New Story
With his vivid symbolism, deeply rooted in the biblical texts, Pageau has managed to create an alternative storyverse to the ever-more hollow productions of Hollywood. His efforts are hitting a cultural nerve. When he launched the Indiegogo campaign for the first book in the graphic novel God’s Dog co-written with his brother Matthieu, the funding goal was reached in days. Originally the project was written as a screenplay. The talented artist Cord Nielson has adapted it into a comic book format called a graphic novel, with drawn illustrations.
Pageau’s storyverse differs significantly from the mythological writing styles of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Unlike these masters of the 20th century, Pageau dares to tell Christian stories unapologetically. If his fundraising campaign turns out to be financially successful, it may be the most unlikely resurrection of traditional Christian art and storytelling.
People may be busy with practical and political matters, but history teaches us that these are downstream from culture. The future is the product of today’s cultural undercurrents. Might this effort by Pageau give birth to a renewed interest in Christian teachings?
~ Read more from Caroline Adana.