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ADL: Doonesbury strip "crosses a line"

We went to the website of the Anti-Defamation League to look for comment on this afternoon's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. What we found was criticism of a recent Doonesbury comic strip.

In a letter to strip creator Garry Trudeau, the ADL says the installment of May 31 "misquotes the Bible, maligns Judaism, and promotes a Christian heresy, all within eight panels."

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At issue in the Sunday strip is an exchange between longtime characters Boopsie, her daughter, Samantha, and the Rev. Scot Sloan, about "the money lenders," whom Samantha describes as the only group against whom Jesus "really snaps."

"What is it about money lenders?" Boopsie asks.

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"They do seem to set people off, don't they?" responds a smiling Sloan.

To the ADL, the reference to "money lenders" recalls the stereotype of Shylock, the enduringly controversial character from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. As the ADL notes, it was the money-changers, not money lenders, against whom Jesus rails in the Gospel accounts.

"Doonesbury's Reverend Sloan is guilty of promoting anti-Jewish stereotypes and biblical illiteracy," the ADL says. "He owes both Jews and Christians an apology."

It's interesting that the ADL says it's the character, and not Trudeau, who owes the apology. It may be that the organization detects an inadvertance to what, to many, could be a slur.

If the generally liberal creator of the 40-year-old strip has ever been accused of anti-Semitism, I'm unaware of it. The Sloan character, who dates to the earliest days of Doonesbury, is based partly on the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., the former Yale chaplain who championed interfaith relations and other progressive causes; in the strip, Trudeau has deployed him as a representative of liberal mainline Protestantism.


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