The Holy Ghost by John Hendrix

In The Holy Ghost, author/illustrator John Hendrix freely exercises his imaginative powers while contemplating the third Person of the Trinity.

The Holy Ghost: A Spirited Comic by John Hendrix. Abrams, 2022, 121 pages.

Reading level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 12-up

In his Author’s Note, John Hendrix recalls “entering a feeling of numinous wonder” as his pastor preached on the Trinity. As the congregation sang “Be Thou My Vision” in response, he imagined a literal blue ghost hovering above, an image that “delighted me beyond words.”  The character featured in this book, a series of unrelated comics inspired by the author’s musings, may not delight every reader, but will certainly raise interesting questions and thoughts. And isn’t that partly what the Spirit does?

The little blue ghost frequently engages with a skeptical squirrel and a pharisaical skunk, encounters in which he is thoughtful, gentle, challenging, loveable, and wise. Many of these encounters are hilarious while skewering our pretentions. “I’m not sure you understand religion,” says the skunk, insisting that there’s no room for doubt. Ghost quietly replies, “I’m not sure you understand faith.” He adjusts squirrel’s antenna for better reception to God’s messages. Some respond to beauty, such as “‘Beautiful sunset’ with a very effective nostalgia upgrade.” Squirrel gets “‘pain and personal failure.’ They aren’t very popular, but they work the best.”

In his solitary panels, the Ghost is both comforting and somehow vulnerable, praising the beauty of humanity and creation while acknowledging its fallenness. This is a paradox, and perhaps the Spirit Himself is a paradox—or, as Hendrix explains it, “both a mystery and the very device that unlocks that mystery.” Some of the individual comics will make you smile, others will make you think, and still others you may never figure out because they stem from the winding thoughts of someone else’s brain. That’s our human paradox: while eminently recognizable and relatable, we remain mysteries to each other.

Is it legitimate to picture a holy mystery? Some believers will have issues with the whole idea as they interpret the second commandment. I think this is a conscience question, and no question at all that Hendrix is a sincere Christian artist who insights can be valuable to the church. For the intellectual, the quirky, the artsy, or the confrontational-tee-shirt Christian, this book could be both fun and rewarding.

Overall rating: 4.75

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic/literary value: 5

Read more about our ratings here.                 

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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2 Comments

  1. Debi on November 1, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    I have an atheist friend who, on a whim bought this book, and is loving it, it has opened conversations that he didn’t show interest in pursuing before – for him it has made him think about God in ways he didn’t realize you could. Love all of John Hendrix’s works.

    • Janie Cheaney on November 2, 2022 at 4:40 am

      Great story! I’m sure John Hendrix would be delighted to hear it. The work of an artist is (partly) to help us see in a new way, and The Holy Ghost definitely does that.

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