January 28, 2005
The response has been immediate and passionate. Abby took my sketch of "Jesus Out West" home and her mother was "slightly offended" but her father and grandmother were not. They are from Iowa and are devout Christians. Abby is not saying it, but in spite of her parent's approval, I sense she is very nervous and uncomfortable with what I might do with Jesus on the cover of True West.
She is not alone. The majority of the women in the office are very concerned about Jesus as a cover subject. Sue Lambert told me bluntly, she feels it is a "big mistake." Meanwhile, Kathy feels like it could be a major business blunder and suggests using instead our Navajo rug with the cross design in it (dates from about 1905 and hangs in our living room). I asked Abby to design a mock cover with that as the image, to see how it plays. Personally, I believe it's the wimpy way out.
Meanwhile, here's some of the reaction among my opinionated compadres:
"Listen to me boy—DO NOT and I mean DO NOT—put Jesus in a cowboy hat (or in anything else) on your cover. Don't make me come over there! No Jesus! For Christ's sake what the hell are you thinking?"
—Your deeply spiritual pal, Paul Hutton
"I think your original idea without the crown of thorns is wonderful and would work. I like that concept better than Jesus on a horse. It's the 'mocking' of the crucifixion you need to watch out for. I'm not saying you're mocking it, but I think that is what people would counter with. I'm anxious to see it when done."
"Ah, Boze...Boze...Boze...So now you're galloping blindly into the place where angels fear to tread--the mystery, murk and deep doo-doo of religion in the Old West. Can you be saved? From yourself, of course...I don't know what the article covers--Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, Indian (Native American), or the worship of Zoraster, so it's hard to get too specific in my reaction. But I do know this: somebody, somewhere, is going to burn you at the stake. They are going to stick pins in a doll. They'll bury you alive, along with your servants, attendants, horses and canvasses. You will be crucified. You can't win this one. The only question is what level of Hell you'll be consigned to."
—Mark Boardman, president of Western Outlaws & Lawmen Association
"I suppose the cover is not to be humorous but literal, i.e., Jesus was out West. It is an artistic interpretation of a defining period. Could the same be shown with a Circuit Rider and some Indians or perhaps a mass annual wedding, like took place each year in nearby Anson? I don't know. I get what you are trying to do, but as a Christian I think the thorns should be gone—they would really only make sense if you had him on a crucifix anyway. Maybe the Saguaro in the background could be shaped like a cross? I don't know, but you definitely get an A+ for creativity. God and Texas!"
—Alan Huffines, author and history consultant on Disney’s The Alamo
"I think Jesus would have been more the mountain man type, but I applaud the concept wholeheartedly."
—Marcus Huff, former editor of True West
"Does the name, 'Maplethorp' ring a bell? After a tough day of trying to figure out how to make True West more profitable, do you really want to do something that might cost you subscribers? There is a fine line between controversy and alienation. And remember, you'll never win arguing religion or politics."
—Jeff Hildebrandt, Westerns Channel
"If you run that on your cover, you have a secret death wish for your magazine . . . plain and simple. It's one thing to piss off readers, another to piss off advertisers. Such a cover will do both."
—Charlie Waters, publisher of the Fresno Bee
Here's a sneak peek at the opening paragraph of our cover story on Religion in the West:
"Jesus Christ immigrated to the West too, but you could read a hundred history books and never know that. It’s impossible to talk honestly about the settlement of the West without taking about religion, but historians sure have tried."
I'm doing more sketches today and I'll post them as they move along. In the meantime, I wonder if the subject of our discussion has anything to add?
"A man without a vision shall perish."
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