My New Comic Strip – FUNDAMENTALS

The scoop: every day in the month of February, I’m publishing a comic strip I’ve drawn!

I’ve never been much of an artist. I once decided to make a sketch everyday to improve my drawing skills – I think I made about three. However, I have made 28 drawings for this new project!

I reflect on my life just about every day. I think about my life, how I grew up, where I’m headed, all the things. This comic strip is a piece of reflection centered on the topic of gender roles, women in ministry, the way we read scripture, and set up our churches.

We all grew up somewhere. Even if you want to run from it, if you are immensely proud of it, or you don’t wish to remember it – we all come from somewhere. I am profoundly thankful for the people and the community I got to grow up in. My parents are about the kindest people I know. Kindness was a virtue my family required and instilled.

Where I was raised, it was really normal for people to spend their Saturday helping each other with significant projects like building a new house or replacing an old roof. In the place I live now, these aren’t really the kinds of things neighbors help each other with so much – they just hire companies.

In my church, everyone pretty much knew everyone. An older man in my church agreed to mentor me and maybe bought me enough breakfasts to equal my yearly salary at that point in my life. In the movie Ragamuffin movie, Rich Mullins says a line about how he learned the nuts and bolts of theology by being with those in his church, more than just sitting in church and listening. I really connect with that sentiment.

It is also true that any place where there are people, there is culture. The identity of that culture is defined by the agreements, the rules, the interpretations, the precedents, the arrangements, the status quo – the way we’ve decided we’re going to live together. My reflection, and my work in this comic strip is an attempt to examine more closely some of the arrangements in the evangelical church. To explore, to question, and where needed – to disrupt. It is a truth we must be willing to bear that we live in a place where there are arrangements which need to be acknowledged, examined, accounted for, and sometimes called to question. When what we find is less than good, true, and beautiful, there is work to be done. This work is for “us” and “we.”

I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips. God have mercy.

I am a man with blood on my hands, among a people with blood on their hands. God have mercy.

This comic strip, called FUNDAMENTALS, will be published every day of February 2022. It’s based around three characters and investigates ideas, tropes, and disagreements surrounding men’s and women’s roles within the conservative evangelical church space. By subscribing to my email updates (in the bar below), you can get the comic strip in your inbox everyday.

The Strip

Meet the FUNDAMENTALS Characters
  • Jimothy

The main character who appears in the first and third frame of every strip. Jimothy embodies the ideology of the fundamentalist. He is self righteous, utterly convinced of his self righteousness, and overbearing in his proclamations. Jimothy is an archetype, and in him I see some of the teachers and preachers I’ve sat under, people I’ve sat in church beside and heard across tables and in comment threads. But it isn’t that straightforward. Jimothy also represents me: misguided, somewhat arrogant, and almost totally clueless as to the the magnitude and complexity of the issues I was talking about so confidently.

  • Beth

Beth appears in the second frame of many strips. She is Jimothy’s antagonist. She asks the questions Jimothy either hasn’t considered or never bothered to care about. Her hands are always up in exasperation. As a woman, she sees Jimothy’s foolishness , but she isn’t in a position to do much about the ideas he spouts which set the cultural tone they both inhabit.

  • Tim

Tim listens. He is the wisest character in the strip, but he never opens his mouth. While Beth spars with Jimothy, Tim simply listens with his arms folded. He is a faithful presence and represents those in our lives who listen to us and hope someday we will truly hear ourselves talking and come around.

This comic strip is about a culture in which women aren’t valued the way men are, where they are second rate citizens. I’ve lived in or adjacent to this teaching for a long time. And while I’ve been convinced change is needed for some time, I’ve mostly just read books, prayed, and had one on one conversations. I hope this comic strip is a small agent. I hope to illuminate some of the latent ideas and embedded commandments which keep things the way they are and so resist the change I believe God wants to see us make. This change would be toward recognizing his image more fully in both men and women. I’m also linking the paper I wrote called “Gender Roles in the Church: Some Reflections” which you can read by clicking the image below. (it is now free to read where before it was $2).

I think it’s time for something else, for us.

Published by javenbear

Javen Bear is 25 years old and lives with his beautiful wife Aleisha in Phoenix, Arizona. He's a graduate student in a mental health counseling program at Grand Canyon University where he also works as an admissions representative. Javen’s super-power, if he had one, would be the ability to press pause on the world and catch up on reading. He enjoys talking walks with his wife, playing guitar, and always uses Oxford commas.

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