A recent article published in The Atlantic explains how Charles Schulz’s faith inspired his work
Stephen Lind, the author of A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz, affirms that, even though we all know Schulz’s work well enough, very few of us would think on him as “a Christian Pioneer, a leader in American media for the power and frequency of his religious references.”
Lind has done the math: more than 560 of the almost 17,800 comic strips from Peanuts ever printed have an either spiritual, religious or theological reference. To put it into perspective, Jonathan Merritt (the author of the Atlantic article) invites you to think on this: there are only 61 strips featuring the scene in which Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie when he’s about to kick it. Actually, religious references in his work were the reason pastors and religious magazines and newspapers asked him for permission to reprint his comic strips. And he almost always granted it.
Maybe the most evident – and best remembered — of all of Charlie Brown’s religious references is, quite obviously, that of the dear holiday special The True Meaning of Christmas. As Charlie realizes Christmas has been secularized to the point in which the meaning of the holiday has been almost completely stripped out of the celebration, Linus recites Luke’s Gospel’s account of the birth of Jesus. To be even more accurate, he’s quoting the King James’ edition.
Here’s some more math to blow your mind: when Charlie Brown’s holiday special went on TV, fewer than 9 percent of all Christmas episodes contained any religious references.
Shulz himself once admitted he was indeed preaching: “I preach in these cartoons, and I reserve the same rights to say what I want to say as the minister in the pulpit.” But his preaching was not that of a fundamentalist pastor, nor that of an apologist, or even that of a proselytizer. What kind of preaching is then to be found in Peanuts?
“I’m interested in doing a strip,” Schulz once said, “that says something and makes some comment on the important things in life.”
Schulz became a Christian as he came back to the states after being deployed in Europe during World War II. According to his own testimony, being in war sparked his love for sacred literature. His personal Bible was filled with handwritten notes in the margins, he was a Sunday school teacher for a long time and he even founded an Old Testament study group.
“Little things we say and do in Christ’s name are like pebbles thrown into water,” Schulz once said, according to The Atlantic. “The ripples spread out in circles, and influence people we may know only slightly and sometimes not at all.”
Some of those small pebbles Schulz once threw are just, literally, biblical quotes included in his comic strips, just like that one in which Linus asks Snoopy, “Does it bother you that the Bible doesn’t speak very highly of dogs?”
The beagle replied, “Sure it bothers me, but I just turn the other muzzle.”