Comic strip sparks protest among Jews

Clash: A `B.C.' strip is deemed anti-Semitic.

April 13, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Jewish leaders across the country are calling on newspapers to pull a "B.C." comic strip scheduled for Easter Sunday publication that they say promotes the superiority of Christianity and denigrates Judaism.

The comic drawn by Johnny Hart, an outspoken evangelical Christian, shows a seven-branch menorah, a Jewish sacred symbol. Each panel features one of the Last Seven Words of Jesus - a popular Good Friday devotion for Christians that commemorates his crucifixion - as succeeding candles on the menorah are snuffed out. The strip concludes with the menorah transformed into a cross.

Hart has used religious themes in several strips in the past, particularly on Easter. Today's strip also has a Christian theme. The Sun publishes "B.C." during the week, but not on Sunday.

Several Jewish groups fired off protests in anticipation of Sunday's comic strip.

"The Easter Sunday comic strip, which conveys the message that Christianity has replaced Judaism, is insensitive and offensive," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The American Jewish Congress noted that the idea that Christianity has replaced Judaism, known by the theological term of supercessionism, "has been repudiated by many leading Catholic and Protestant theologians."

"Appearing in newspapers on the last day of Passover and Easter Sunday makes this form of religious exploitation all the more shameful," the AJC statement said.

Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he received several calls yesterday from area Jews.

"In terms of a comic strip that's attempting to convey humor, it is the most offensive piece I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot over the years," Abramson said.

In a statement, Hart said he abhors supercessionism. He said he chose to depict a Jewish symbol in his strip as a tribute to Passover, which marks the account in the Book of Exodus in which the Hebrews were spared from the angel of death as a prelude to escaping slavery in Egypt.

"I regret if some people misunderstood the strip, and it hurt their feelings," Hart said. "This is a holy week for both Christians and Jews, and my intent, as always, was to pay tribute to both."

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