Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Toon 5/25/05 Revised

Here's both a revision and a color version of the cartoon posted on Monday.
I should have a completed and color version of the weekly Catholic cartoon posted this evening at Ann's Catacombers site.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Toons 5/24/05

I'm in the process of reworking and coloring the 'Howard Dean' cartoon.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Welcome, H.H. Patriarch Mar Anthony

I'd like to welcome to our affiliate list H. H. Patriarch Mar Anthony of the Catholic Coptic Church, who has placed the faithmouse cartoon on his personal blog. I've learned that the Patriarch is actually a long time fan of the cartoon, which is quite an honor.

I've working on two (three?) new cartoons. One is about the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, first bishop of Smyrna (one of my favorite early church fathers) the second is a new Gaybear cartoon. The third has something to do with Howard Dean and donkeys. I've also been banging my head against the wall trying to create a better RSS feed for the cartoon, at the request of Ann of the catacombers site, and also a new subscribable newsletter featuring the best cartoons of the month. As I'm a self-taught computer hack, progress is darn slow on these projects and steals time away from actually drawing cartoons. These are the things you need to do when you're a media empire of one.

I'd also like to thank fellow Minnesotan Wayne Moran of Questions and Answers who provided gentlemanly answers to a few of my possibly impertinent questions.

Lance Cpl. Forsythe USMC of Listening to 11.975 MHz recently had these kind words to extend to the cartoon-

Dan Lacey over at Faithmouse gave me a nice plug last week. a lot of military chaplains, I happen to enjoy reading Dan's comic. If you read through his archives, you'll find that not only does Faithmouse contain a clean, tolerant, and non-violent message, there's a few instances of abstract creativity that pretty much defy what a standard comic should be. If you've been reading 11.975MHz since its inception a few years ago, you'll know that I love that kind of stuff.
I've said this before, but the negative reactions Faithmouse receives are both staggering and hilarious. How can anyone possibly get so upset over such a harmless, happy cartoon?

Well, I sure get upset over it, Ethan, because I can rarely get it to do what I want. It frustrates the heck out of me more than anyone else, and I know what my real name is.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Toon HR 235 and commentary

Bill HR 235 Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act,replealing the IRS Johnson Act of 1952

The cartoon above was inspired by an article by Steven Voigt posted earlier this month at Renew America. Steve's article reminded me that I owed Bill HR 235 (along with a myriad of other procastinated subjects) a cartoon. In addition to being a lawyer and conservative commentator, Mr. Voigt is also the executive director of Foundations Of Law PAC, the primary goal of which is to 'promote candidates for office who will appoint strict constructionist judges, pass tort reform and hold true to the original intent of our founding fathers and documents.'
I posted the 'in progress' version of the toon yesterday, and received this email from Vincent Newstead, a longtime and respected critic/fan of the cartoon.

Come on, Dan... you know churches are free to endorse any political candidate they wish if they simply choose to pay their taxes. I volunteered at a tax-exempt public radio station as a DJ for four years and was permitted to say practically anything I wanted to on the air as long as I wasn't endorsing or opposing a particular political candidate (Social and political issues were fair topics for discussion, however). If the station ever really felt it was that important to advocate for a favorite political candidate we could always have canceled our tax-exempt status. The option was there. Those were the rules; I agreed with them and I followed them.

The restriction is fair and limits only the tiniest fraction of speech, far less than obscenity laws do. None of the restricted speech is religious in nature. Even if the restrictions were unfair there's simply no reason I can think of that the government should show favoritism to churches among tax-exempt non-profits by allowing them to advocate, oppose or campaign for favored political candidates. Even if the bill were passed and the Baptist church down the street were allowed to campaign for Jeb Bush, then Amnesty International should get to campaign for his opponent. On this, if nothing else, we should be in agreement.

On the bright side, tax-exempt churches are not restricted by the IRS from speaking out and/or taking sides on relevent political issues or even "excommunicating" Democratic-voting members. Let freedom ring.

Cheers, Vincent

I asked Mr. Voigt if he might offer a response to this commentary. To my delight he sent this very elegant reply-

Restoring the free exchange of ideas in sermons and in bible study is a step forward for liberty.

In today's hectic world of TV dinners, traffic jams and long work weeks, where is one place that communities come together, for a simple moment to breathe? The answer is church. Church!

We must be allowed to come together as communities and decide the important moral issues of our day with calm heads, handshakes and reasoned consideration. This is the foundation of our society and moreover, it is the basis of any free thinking democratic republic. It is also part of our history. As an example, in 1638, only months before Connecticut legislators drafted and adopted the original Connecticut constitution, Thomas Hooker delivered a famous sermon to many of those statesmen. Hooker's ideas inspired these men so much that they penned his ideas into the constitution.

To Christians with a worldview, and I believe it is an obligation of believers to live with a worldview, faith is not something that begins and ends on Sunday morning. Faith carries over into our lives – into every moment. It has implications in everything we do. How we interact with others. The way we spend our time. For whom we cast our votes.

The writer's cynical reference to "excommunicating" Democratic voters is precisely the fear tactic that Americans for Separation of Church and State and other radical, left wing groups employ. Before the 2004 election, Americans United sent letters to congregations all across the country, warning churches not to interfere with politics and implying that lawsuits would quickly follow against any church with the temerity to talk about political issues.

With regard to the writer's attempt to distinguish “issues” from endorsements of candidates, from the court decisions that I have studied, the line is hazy. Creative, agenda driven lawyers could quite easily manipulate these decisions to craft troublesome lawsuits against a cash-strapped churches. For example, if two candidates offer precisely the same platform yet one supports abortion and the other supports life, and if a church resolves this "issue" in the context of the upcoming election, activist courts could view this as an endorsement of one candidate. As a consequence, the church would be punished and lose its tax-exempt status or face other IRS sanctions.

Finally, government encroachment on the ability of churches to freely discuss issues violates the spirit, although perhaps not the letter, of the First Amendment. Of course, this is not the prevailing view in courts today. Sadly, courts employ the First Amendment in a manner never intended - as an offensive tool to craft left-wing social policy. Our founding fathers were deeply concerned with the very problem facing us today - a bloated government and a people stripped of their ability to govern on important social issues. This is the primary rationale that drove the passage of portions of the bill of rights.

In sum, free speech in church is not a partisan issue, although left-wingers will cast it that way for political benefit. Those who love liberty – on both sides of the aisle – should support free speech in churches.

I encourage everyone to contact their Congressmen and voice support for the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (HR 235)


Steven T. Voigt

Follow up comments from Mr. Voigt-

Last evening, as I was considering the writer's criticism of HR 235, it occurred to me that I missed one point in my initial response. Without question, it is Constitutionally proper to apply different standards to churches and to other tax-exempt entities. While naysayers argue that PBS and similar entities should be treated the same way as churches, comparing the two is comparing apples and oranges. One need go no further than the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to see that our founding fathers placed a special emphasis on keeping the government out of our churches.

And from Mr. Newstead-

One thing in particular I would like to respond to (and I would appreciate it if you could include this on your blog, thanks in advance) is that my comment about "excommunicating" Democratic voters from churches was a reference to East Waynesville Baptist Church in North Carolina who in early May "excommunicated" their Democratic voters. WLOS had the story... (no permanent link, sorry, but there's a video here:

East Waynesville Baptist asked nine members to leave. Now 40 more have left the church in protest. Former members say Pastor Chan Chandler gave them the ultimatum, saying if they didn’t support George Bush, they should resign or repent. The minister declined an interview with News 13. But he did say “the actions were not politically motivated.” There are questions about whether the bi-laws were followed when the members were thrown out.
Witnesses said that the congregation applauded as the heretics exited the auditorium. It turns out the pastor did in fact violate church bi-laws and as a result he's probably looking for a new job. But to the point, his actions were not in violation of the conditions of the church's tax exemption. So, aside from the nine Democrats that were humiliated in front of their congregation and cast out of the church, no Christians were persecuted. In any case, it was this that I was cynically referencing and not "left-wing scare tactics."
If you're still in contact with Voigt, I don't suppose you could you ask him to be more specific or to pass on some cases where courts did in fact rule against a church in a tax-exemption challenge where only political issues were discussed, inside or outside of an election context? For my own erudition. I'm curious just how serious the threat from activist judges is, in this case.
Thanks again, Vincent

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Toon 5/19/05

The cartoon above was meant to debut tomorrow, but it's progressed so quickly I've decided to go ahead and post the 'in progress' version. It refers to the recently introduced HR235, a bill which removes the 1952 IRS regulation repressing speech in churches. You can read more about this proposed legislation at Alan Keyes' Renew America.

I had in mind the very British editorial cartoonist Carl Giles when I started this cartoon, the 'very' being the primary reason his work is largely unknown in America, and in the secondary because the phrase 'out of sight, out of mind' applies particularly well to editorial cartoons. A few years ago I wrote a few words about the great Giles; you can read them here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Toon 5/18/05

This is a revised version of the cartoon posted this morning. The Pacific Justice Institute, one of our Religious Rights links on the faithmouse homepage, is representing the plaintiff.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mind and Media Review / The Jordan Tracks

Processing Plant
The Jordan Tracks, a novel by Steven W. Wise, 2005 Authorhouse
Reviewed by Daniel Lacey

The year is 1936, and twelve year old Ernie Bates accidentally kills his father with a kitchen knife while trying to protect his mother from a violent dinnertime beating. Fast forward to 1968, and unsaved Ernie has the position of ‘killer’ in a turkey processing plant, methodically slitting the throats of thousand of doomed birds a day. Here we join the stoic suffering of Ernie, a big quiet man who lives a small town life with small town friends and a very patient and prayerful Christian wife with whom he counts the days until the imminent return of their only and beloved son Aaron from service in Vietnam.

This a novel about process; how God processes souls and how people contribute to the operation of His earthly plant, which is humankind. The title is an allusion to the Biblical Jordan, the ‘tracks’ is the journey traveled, and also the train tracks which run beside both the processing plant and the town cemetery. The ‘tracks’ are also the lives of the varied characters of the novel, who’s intersecting lives are portrayed by the author with a lively detailing which informs us exactly as to their progress on their various journeys towards God. It speaks well to Mr. Wise's attitude as a Baptist deacon that he portrays almost all of his characters on the positive track, although some with spiritual travels sidetracked or achingly slowed, and it is to the author’s greatest credit that he sets his positivism upon a sometimes very dark canvas, where the floor of the turkey plant is chalked red with blood and True Evil whispers thoughts of suicide to the town's most despondent citizen through his similarly beloved cottonwoods.

There is a lot of waiting in this novel (of people, time and spiritual realization) and much loving and poetic description. We wait for the return of son Aaron alongside father Ernie and mother Christa, with plant co-workers Harley and colorful turkey gripper Fudd, but we wait too long; the novel comes to a crawl one third of the way through, and then there is a great surprise and very good momentum to the end. Like all worthwhile tales the characters do not arrive at their expected destinations.

Spiritually minded readers will revel in Mr. Wise’s very realistic portrayal of small town spiritual life and his subtle though profound comparisons of that life to the observational power of the simplest and most globally insignificant Christian mind. The author with great fondness does both justice. The fact that an invisible spiritual wellspring supplies Harley with his everyday heroics would be enough to cause a Cheever or an Updike to consider his character nonsensical, or similarly to consider the delightful transformation of Fudd , who’s gregariousness and natural earthliness would already be the envy of any secular mind, unnecessary, if not outright flawed. That’s why secular readers may puzzle over the very purpose of this novel in the same way Touched By An Angel aficionados may wrestle with Pynchon; the nits and grits of personal salvation compromising the most uninteresting and alien of worldviews unless it culminates in a very showy massacre and thereby negates itself. This is the same gap philosophers encounter when they arrive at the border of what they refer to as ‘special revelation.’ They can travel so far into that land, and, rejecting it’s peculiar compass, no further.

Mr. Wise, always the deacon, seems to keep this anti-audience in mind, peppering his extremely patient and largely dialogue based storytelling with beautiful descriptions meant to illuminate the world of the skeptic who doesn't believe God is engaged in a personal battle for the soul of the commonest man. He does this best through allusions regarding the natural world, the current vicinity we all share. His most particular observations, in themselves isolated reflections of the encouraging personal salvation theme of The Jordan Tracks, reveal much about God the Forman’s supernatural methodology, as in this passage during one of Ernie‘s darkest travails-

‘Christa walked to the kitchen sink, looked out the window past the long shadowy form of her husband, and then skyward. Only tattered remnants of clouds floated past the frosty brilliance of the half moon as it cast a pale glow over the landscape. For Christa, the moon was the crown jewel of the heavens, not the mighty sun. The sun could not be viewed directly, for it’s power was too great for human eyes to behold. But the moon offered a brilliance which could light a path or illuminate a landscape, yet an earthbound admirer could look directly at it without being blinded. The moon took just enough light from the great sun and softened it and beamed it earthwards, so that frail humans could accept it and be one with it. The moon was like Christ, the woman believed-an intercessor for mankind to an almighty God who could not be directly beheld.’

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Toon 5/12/05

This image came to me immediately upon waking as have my last few cartoons, a byproduct I believe of nearly cutting off one's foot with a lawnmower. Thanks, Lord! This cartoon is meant to say something regarding how Christians feel about Christ's sacrifice. Every person giving their all for the benefit of others shares in His sacrifice as well, no matter whether they are a soldier defending freedom overseas or a volunteer at home. Thanks to you all.

Speaking of soldiers; I received a nice email from Lance Cpl. Ethan Forsythe USMC, who draws the excellent Listening to 11.975 mhz. Ethan's very capable manga gives the reader the impression it can go anywhere, do anything, much like Deco on her broomstick. Lance Corporal Forsythe is engaged in a continuous storyline as of late, but his past cartoons (viewable at the link on his site) possess a similar sense of movement while incorporating a strong Dadaist vocabulary.
Readers wary of pop culture's all too common anti-Christian references shouldn't misinterpret Ethan's free use of similar references as evidence of eventual cartoon apostasy. The Star Wars saga, Lord of The Rings and The Wizard of Oz are all Christian-friendly tales sans crosses and crucifixes, but replenish with magic, witches, and intelligent creatures from other planets-also sans cross and crucifixes. We shouldn't judge too hastily, lest we are willing to surrender the most easily recognizable examples of Christ disguised.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Toon 5/11/05 In Progress

I nearly cut off my foot on Monday with my lawnmower, and my previous email address has succumbed to a torrent of viruses and spam. Otherwise, God is great.

My new email address is as follows-
faithmouse (at) yahoo (dotcom)

If you believe I've been ignoring you because I haven't replied to your numerous and frantic emails, you're probably right; however my current cyber disaster affords me the nifty equivalent of the I was out of town excuse. Please contact me once again just to confirm once and for all that I am indeed a cretin (or not.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Toon 5/6/5

Swoopy is the newest name of the new baby eagle character who premiered in Monday's cartoon, also seen here. Much better than the original 'eaglette,' which sounds like a fastener or a dental device.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Toon 5/04/05

I have a huge collection of People magazines, purloined from my wife and kept with the intent of using them as a photo resource when I launch into an extended Hollywood skewering. My finger has laid on that trigger for quite a long time now. I think the problem is a natural declination to dwell over people and situations which are unpleasant. Knowing that so many of these celebrities are smug vandals of the American family makes the thought of dedicating hours to capturing their likeness a repulsive task. I would rather blacktop my driveway at the height of mosquito season then spend another rotten afternoon staring at pictures of Bill Maher. The spiritual payoff is pretty much zero.
The current People magazine is the '50 Most Beautiful' issue, which today's cartoon uses as graphic inspiration. God and man's ideas of beauty are certainly in conflict with one another, although by way of sacrifice and selflessness and great cost many succeed in bridging that gap by dressing themselves fully in Christ.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Toon 5/2/05

This cartoon is a revision of a toon presented last November, which acknowledged the case of teacher Stephen Williams of the Cupertino School District in California who has been barred from using various historical documents in the classroom due to their religious references. These documents include the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's Journal, etc. Renew America, which has been kind enough to post a few of my recent cartoons, recently highlighted the World News Daily story about Mr. Williams' case progressing forward in the courts. Sufficient reason I thought to rework a cartoon with which I was never quite satisfied.
So, is this a better cartoon? Maybe not, but it did give me the opportunity to replace the bird in the bush in the original toon with this little guy.

I've tried to match faith with a companion creature for a number of years (B-fly and Flower Man were much earlier attempts) but this fellow seems to have some real spunk to contribute. I'll keep them paired up for a while and we'll see how it works out.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Operation Teddy Drop

I'm grateful that Mike LaSalle at Men's News Daily posted the tip I passed along to him yesterday as this headline, listed in the category of 'World and National News' -

Pictured in the photo is Randor aka Christpilot, our faithmouse correspondent in Iraq. Randor has been engaged with his fellow Blackhawk pilots for the past fifteen missions or so in dropping stuffed animals to Iraqi children.
'After a couple of months of receiving donations and making parachutes, we kicked off off Operation Teddy Drop. Instead of doing static drops, we decided to randomly drop Stuffed Animals throughout the countryside as we flew around. We primarily work the Baghdad and surrounding area, but on occasion we are able to get to other areas and share a Teddy Trooper or Para-Bear with the children in the outlying areas. We wait until we see a small group of children and then try to drop the same number of toys as there are children on the ground. It is truly amazing to watch the children hesitate for a split second to determine if they should run to, or from the object falling, but once the chute opens there is no doubt. The children will take off running as fast as their little legs will carry them, and some are even quick enough to catch the toys before they hit the ground. It is something to see and will bring a smile to anyone that is fortunate enough to see it.'
Photos and more at Christpilot's site at RMKonline.

Update 5/01/05-
Dear Dan,
WOW - That is great. We certainly do appreciate it. I tell you Dan, we are having a great time doing this. So far we have dropped over 500 Teddy Bears. Even the hardest heart cannot help put smile when they see kids running after the stuffed animals. I truly believe that we are getting more out of this operation than the kids we are dropping to - it is good for the soul.

Thanks for helping us get the word out. Without donations from the good people back in the States we cannot continue to do this. I know my kids stuffed animal collection has been depleted down to their favorite one or two because they wanted to help the kids here in Iraq. -Randy