The Holy Ghost and His Friends

A New Comic Book about a Little Blue Holy Ghost, by John Hendrix

Cali Yee / 6.10.22

If you were to search “Holy Spirit in Christian art” the infamous Google search engine and the whimsical land of Wikipedia would tell you that the Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove or a ball of fire. And while a dove carrying an olive branch fits with the descriptions in scripture, it’s still difficult to conceptualize this third part of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit really feels like the third wheel when it comes to the Father and Son power duo. Is the Spirit a what? A who? A who-ville?

The Holy Spirit is not some sparkling, glowing apparition that simply moves through time and space with no action or purpose. Nor is the Spirit some mystical force that permeates the cosmos (that’s Star Wars). We aren’t able to see the Spirit like the disciples were able to see Jesus. But the image of the invisible God has carved a path for divine activity one step removed from perception. That something is a person — one who lives within us and continually turns us back to the Father and Son. 

In John Hendrix’s delightful new comic book, the Holy Spirit is a Ghost. More specifically, an adorable sky blue (with a touch of cyan) ghost who hums hymn tunes and reflects on holy mysteries. However, Hendrix’s work is more than just doodles and wonderings. David Zahl described it as “Calvin and Hobbes but written by Flannery O’Connor.”

There is something thoughtful and intentional about the way Hendrix illustrates ideas of love, grace, and mercy. A simple interaction between a badger, squirrel, and a Holy Ghost can pack a powerful gut punch of truth and hold up a mirror to ourselves. The little blue ghost speaks with the animals as a friend, even giving a hug to the squirrel who questions God’s existence.

The blue ghost takes the discarded kids’ crafts from Sunday school (you know, the ones made with toilet paper rolls, way too much glue, and not nearly enough sparkles?) and saves them, saying, “God has a shelf for them in his living room … It is a big shelf.” On another page, the squirrel, reading the news of the day, angrily exclaims, “Ugh. Why would God make a broken world with all this evil?” The ghost, among the butterflies, simply says, “Ugh. Why would God make a broken world with all this beauty?” 

It is the emotion evoked by the little blue guy that really drives home Hendrix’s book. It isn’t just about the theological quandaries that are posed or only the crushing blows of humbling truth. Hendrix aims his comics squarely at the heart. And this well-up of emotions within us — evoked even by a simple blue specter —  is part of what makes Christianity so profound and relatable. As Francis Spufford writes in his book Unapologetic:

Emotions can certainly be misleading … But emotions are also our indispensable tool for navigating, for feeling our way through, the much larger domain of stuff that isn’t susceptible to proof or disproof, that isn’t checkable against the physical universe … The emotions that sustain religious belief are all, in fact, deeply ordinary and deeply recognizable to anybody who has ever made their way cross the common ground of human experience as an adult.

Christianity is nothing more than an intellectual or philosophical study if it does not also appeal to our emotions. I’m not saying that emotions are everything, nor that emotions are the most important part of faith. As Spufford states, “emotions can be misleading,” and are therefore an unreliable guide. But, like Simeon Zahl expressed at the NYC Conference, “The way you change a person is by getting through, not to their head, or to their will, but to their heart.” 

The Holy Spirit will remain something of a holy mystery. And perhaps that mystery creates space for us to reflect more on the multiple ways in which the Spirit works in our lives. The unseen mover of heaven and earth skirts on the periphery. Like a ghost, we see and do not see his works. Like our emotions, the Spirit sometimes appears all too obviously and other times like a mere blip on the radar. Faint, yet blaring, overwhelming, yet slight, the Spirit is a master of surprises. Sort of like grace.

When you watch a movie or listen to music, what sticks out to you? Usually it’s the events of the story, the shift in the beat of a song, or the repetition of a chorus that leaves us wondering and wanting. In a similar way, when something about the gospel meets and strikes us at our core, we are left feeling all sorts of emotions. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that works within our hearts and pours into them love, hope, gratitude, and repentance. 

The warm feeling we get from reading about a little blue ghost and his love for his friends just may help us connect to the real and ever-present personhood of the Spirit. We may come to realize God’s love for us by laughing and crying when reading about the lives of a ghost, a squirrel, and a badger.

God could no longer be with us in human form but Jesus did not abandon us. Instead, he sent someone in his place to remind us of his love — something more than a what and far better than an adorable blue ghost.


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One response to “The Holy Ghost and His Friends”

  1. Colin Craig says:

    What a great and intriguing read. I often struggle with conceptualizing and understanding the Holy Spirit and its role in my life. I often fear that my understanding comes from my own subjective and biased perspective, kind of what you were alluding to with how emotions can sometimes misguide us. Is what I think as the Holy Spirit from God or from me?

    Yet, it is that mysterious nature, that perplexing presence that often brings me comfort in my lack of clarity. If I could understand it all, it would not bring contentment or satisfaction (more likely the opposite, and a degree of arrogance). Nor is that the point. The Holy Spirit being with me in my suffering, my doubts, my joys, my everything means the world, on an emotional and spiritual level. Thank you for your post and I am looking forward to reading this comic book!

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