How Christians Ruin Christianity

Bloggified by Jake on Thursday, June 15, 2006

As a kid growing up in the Netherlands during Nazi occupation, Anne van der Bijl, better known as "Brother Andrew," dreamed of adventure. As an adult, he found it, but not in any way he would have imagined in his youth.

Brother Andrew risked his freedom and even his life defying the state-mandated atheism of communism, delivering bibles to Eastern European Christians. He chronicled his tale in the novel "God's Smuggler," which has sold over ten million copies in English alone. The story was also adapted to comic book form by Al Hartley at Spire Christian Comics, the same creative force behind "The Cross and the Switchblade."

Brother Andrew is revered among Christians. The Amazon reviews of his book refer to him as "one of the greatest heroes of modern time." He also happens to embody everything bad about Christians.

Well, maybe not everything. That would be Jack Chick. Brother Andrew never specifically condemns homosexuals or people who believe in evolution or Dungeons and Dragons players, though I kind of doubt he'd come out in support of them either. Let's just say Brother Andrew embodies several of the key bad points of Christians, chief among them ignorance, stubborness, and condescension.

Oh, the condescension...

The story opens in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, where young Brother Andrew finds amusment throwing firecrakers at Nazi soldiers patrolling the streets. When he grows up, he joins the army in search of adventure and is shipped off to Indonesia "to take back the colonies for the queen." Quickly, he learns war is not the adventure he'd imagined and becomes so bitter about the madness of it all that he can't even find happiness in the bottom of a beer mug nor the arms of a Jakarta prostitute.

His attitude gets even worse after he's shot in an ambush and told he'll never again walk without the use of a cane. He's shipped off to a veteran's hospital where he reflects that he'd rather have died and gone out in a blaze of glory than be crippled.

Then a beautiful nurse enters his life and changes everything when she offers to read to him."It's all true? Every word? Even the words that contradict the other words? Even the words about the geriatric man with no previous shipbuilding experience built a 450 foot long wooden boat with one 18-inch window for ventilation that was capable of carrying two of every animal in the world and remaining afloat for forty days and nights despite the fact the largest wooden boats in recorded history were only about 300 feet long and required iron supports to hold them together and were leaky and unseaworthy despite being designed and built by master shipbuilders? Even the words about how the Messiah will be a warrior king named Emmanuel? Even the words that say the penalty for raping a woman is paying her father fifty pieces of silver and marrying her?"

The way he so quickly jumps into the whole Christian thing "lock, stock, and adventure" makes me think he was just grasping for something and the bible is what came along. If she'd read him Moby Dick, he would have become a whaling captain. "Wow, my leg doesn't work right... Captain Ahab got his leg bitten off... I can feel his love pouring into my life!"

Very quickly, he goes from "guy who found inspiration" to "annoying bible thumping jackass."This is one of those trademark panels that tells you you're reading a Christian comic. Andrew's friend is making a legitimate point, but the story plays it off like he's a complete idiot (and bound for hell) for suspecting that a doctor in 1948 might have misdiagnosed the severity of the leg injury when it's so clear that God healed Andrew because the depth of Andrew's faith made all things possible.

Another point that should be acknowledged is that even if God did heal Andrew's leg to reward his faith, that doesn't not make Andrew a religious fanatic.

Andrew enrolls in the seminary and, while there, is offered a chance to attend the World Youth Festival in Prague. Behind the Iron Curtain, he is shocked to find most kids don't want to read his "God's Love" pamphlets or talk about Jesus. He cannot buy a bible in the bookstores and learns that preachers must be licensed (which actually seems like a good idea since many often serve as therapists). He is most upset to learn that children are encourage and rewarded for questioning the "superstitions of their parents."Let's be clear. "Ice is cold" is a fact. The temperature of ice can be measured and recorded, proving it is cold. "Jesus is God" is dogma. Facts cannot be questioned; articles of faith, no matter how strong the faith, can.

Andrew is so upset when he sees thousands of young people taking to the streets, happy despite the absence of God in their lives, he decides he must do something to stop it. Seriously, the guy sees empowered youth taking responsibility for their own lives and shakes his fist angrily while gritting his teeth, pleading with God not to let them win.

When he gets home, Andrew tries to devise a plan to show the happy non-Christians how unhappy they are by bringing them Christianity. The sexy nurse once again shows him the way by introducing him to what would become his trademark: condescendingly answering questions with religious doggerel."Okay, bitch, so if God's going to do everything, I suppose I can just get on with my life, huh?" Of course not. Andrew writes some articles and gives some speeches and people start sending him money to buy bibles to smuggle into Eastern Europe. His first trip is to Yugoslavia, where he meets a pastor and immediately puts his new found powers of condescension to work.Oh, snap! Were you bald before Brother Andrew came to visit or was your hair scorched from your scalp by that wicked burn?

Andrew continues to venture behind the Iron Curtain with hundreds of bibles each time, talking down to non-Christian hotel clerks and finding time between trips to marry the sexy nurse. She gets pregnant, but encourages him to continue his smuggling operation because a running theme in these comics seems to be husbands leaving their pregnant wives to deliver alone because the Lord's work is more important.

Andrew is also blessed with a new assistant in Hans, who is really just Moose from Archie donning a Dutch Boy haircut. The semi-retarded manchild becomes a regular target of Andrew's condescending comments.In this case, Andrew might actually be saying, "There's no real point in explaining anything to you since you're about as smart as a box of rocks and you're just going to ask me to explain it again in twenty minutes anyway."

Once inside Russia, they realize they have no idea who they should find to distribute their more than one hundred bibles. As with everything, they decide to just wait for God to do it for them.Unfortunately, that guy is then picked up by the secret police and shipped off to Siberia. No, I'm serious. The guy is sent to the Gulag and probably killed, but Andrew stresses they all have to be willing to take risks. Instead of feeling the slightest twinge of remorse for the man or his family, Andrew instead demands that someone else take the bibles, browbeating a man who has already served time in prison for his faith.

On the way back home, Brother Andrew comes up with a plan to print pocket bibles in Russian so they can carry more copies on subsequent trips, but such a venture is not cheap.Ha ha, bitch, how do you like it when I turn that shit around on you?!?

They put the house up for sale, but mysteriously no one wants to buy it. The implication is that God was at work, keeping people away, but I think it might have had more to do with the two religious fanatics who tried to convert anyone who came to the front door and guilt them into contributing money to give away bibles to communists. In a small Dutch town, how long do you think it takes for everyone who is looking for a house to be told, "But don't go up to the van der Bijl house! Those people are batshit crazy!"

Sure enough, God comes through again, helping set up the capital for the printing venture by sending a wealthy capitalist to fund the whole thing. And how do you think Brother Andrew reacts? With gratitude or condescension?"... you fat fuck!" Andrew goes on for another half a page with a lecture about the importance of devotion to Jesus and how it's greater than devotion to humanity. Despite this dressing down for saying he wanted to help, the rich guy gives Andrew the money anyway, allowing God's Smuggler to expand his operations. He visit China and Cuba, where the majority of people he meets think "religion is for the helpless," "missionaries are all spies," and "priests and ministers are non-productive members of society." Of course, they are all wrong and deserve to be talked down to and Andrew is just the person to do it.

But it doesn't end there. Brother Andrew can't roll his eyes at everyone who doesn't pray fifty times a day or who thinks things through instead of just asking God to solve all their problems. The last page becomes an appeal to readers to take bibles with them whenever they travel and leave them on tables.

It should be noted that after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew has since turned his attention to the Middle East, which would explain the attitude many Muslims have toward Western Christians.

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