29.12.15

Punk Rock Jesus

In the afterword to the book, Sean Murphy tells the story of how he lost his faith. He was a "devoted Catholic" when starting the script for Punk Rock Jesus, but a road trip with an atheist friend made him consider beliefs "based on science and not on dogma". There's a little bit of the born-again secularist to the story, including nods to Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris (as well as Bad Brains, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and so on). But Murphy is not interested in propaganda, no matter how much these thinkers may have influenced him. At one point, his punker protagonist is criticised for "being overly preachy" and not taking a "softer approach". Rock and roll confrontation only stirs up more sectarianism. The slash and burn attitude gets the better of him in the end. In an act of poetic justice, Murphy has him killed shortly after he suggests that "religious freedom is impeding any progress".

Some of the energy of fast angry guitar music is channeled into the book, which is blunt, pacy and adolescent. Murphy is an extraordinary artist, but his characters are drawn into edgy, easily defined icons, and the attempts to add nuance is often clumsy and wordy. But even if it isn't technically flawless, I still like its ballsy honesty and good intentions. Garth Ennis has covered similar territory in a much bleaker and funnier fashion, but he's less interested in what makes believers tick, and has less sympathy for those still clinging on to faith. Murphy's approach is "softer" (he's been through it after all), and perhaps more affecting – and effective.

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