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  • Godwin Cotter

We are publishing two comic pages this week, to keep up with Sam Mercier's faster pace of art production. For those who worry about which way the plot is going (including myself) rest assured it will advance the sensible cliché of the tragedy of freedom; we all know that freedom is a dangerous thing. Like us, the comic book character is free to order, purchase and have delivered to his doorstep, a shiny new pair of NROP glasses. The company that manufactures and distributes said item is likewise free to use the infrastructure of the free market and the free world to promote their goods and make a tidy profit. In spite of all this freedom, the customer ends up getting enslaved; he is less free than previously. Like so many modern conveniences, purchasable items and purchasable lifestyles, it amounts to a freedom that isn't freeing. The NROP glasses control him, not the other way round.

In the "Aliens-try-to-conquer-the-Earth" movie genre there is this familiar trope: a new substance, gadget or curiosity suddenly appears, often seemingly harmless, perhaps even beneficial. Perhaps you are wondering if this comic book aligns with this genre, and are now speculating that the face-adhering NROP glasses are being controlled from some alien mothership parked a few planets over. They will replicate and wreak havoc until Will Smith (or some similar hero) lays a smack-down on the extraterrestrials the way he did with Chris Rock during the Oscars. Alien butt will be kicked and the universe will be saved!

But alas, if only it was that easy. This isn't some mere unbelievably advanced alien planet, or an all powerful Klingon confederacy, or an Evil Empire with massive armies of cloned storm troopers and battle droids. That would be so much easier. We are fighting ourselves! We are the enemy!. (audible gasp)

We even find the archetypal conflict in the Bible. David has taken out the Darth Vader of his day, knocked out and decapitated the giant Goliath, saved his nation from the Philistines, and made it look like child's play. Round one, David. Round two goes differently. His spoiled and incorrigible inner child takes him down.

"It was the time that kings go to war" and David, the king who now is puttering around the palace doing nothing, happens to get up after an afternoon nap and from that point on, things cascade downward faster than a cryptocurrency portfolio. From his high vantage point he spies a woman bathing, stalks her, commits adultery with her, and has her husband killed all the while leading his nation and army in corruption. But it starts with the extra freedoms he has allotted himself from the war that Israel is fighting.

As a culture we have become awash with these questionable freedoms; pot, porn, gambling, assisted suicide, etc. But how do you tell whether the next freedom we grasp will lead in the direction of the promised land or to dystopia? While these aren't exactly on warning labels, there are some things to look out for. One is that the freedom usually means at least a mini-departure from God or the church. There also is an attitude of disregard for our obligations (often unwritten) to others and our community. We adopt a me-first-and-forget-who-is-next attitude. Our churches, institutions, communities and neighbors all have their flaws but we shouldn't use our awareness of those flaws to pave a highway for our own. Like the Pharaoh of Exodus we soften our hearts to ourselves while hardening our hearts to God and our people. Our theme song becomes "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." Christianity is a like a contract with morality clauses but we often treat it like one that is chock full of morality exemptions for yours-truly. That's what gets us in trouble.

But the Bible is ultimately a story of redemption. In the interests of shortening this post and ending on a redemptive note, I wanted to showcase some more of Sam Mercier's art. The first is an image that has been made into a wall hanging with an accompanying Pope Francis quote. The second is a crowd scene in the stands at a Winnipeg Blue bomber stadium, and the third is a poster expressing love for books, a quality you often find with book authors like Sam.

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