What It’s Like Going ‘Viral’

You may have heard about Louisiana’s new law requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in school classrooms. Over the weekend I made a comic (pictured above) expressing my take on the matter. To my surprise it went viral on X (formerly Twitter). It was shared over 2,600 times with 18,000 likes and over 400,000 views, and is still going. The comic was also re-posted by other meme accounts. On one such account it got another 1.9 millon views.

I jumped from about 400 followers on X to almost 4,000. To welcome everyone I re-posted one of my more popular cartoons from the archives, The Great Exchange. That comic now has over 800 shares and has been viewed a quarter of a million times.

Quite a weekend.

Here’s a few random observations about what it’s like to “go viral”:

First, it consumed my weekend. About every half hour I was pulling out my phone to watch the numbers climb and to skim the comments. Even though I know there are far more important things in life, it was hard to think about anything else. Including sleep. The little screen in my pocket was like a portal into a parallel universe where total strangers were shouting over something I created, churning up sparks and dust. Yet I would look up from my screen to see my mundane life grinding on normally as if nothing was happening. It was kinda surreal.

It’s impossible to keep up with all the comments. For a while I was getting notifications faster than I could read them all. Apparently I touched a nerve. People either really loved the cartoon or really hated it. Most of the comments were just the same four or five thoughts being said a hundred different ways. The biggest criticism of this cartoon is some version of, “What about separation of church and state?” I answered that objection here. A surprising number of people also said I was making a straw man argument because of course the government’s job is to impose morality on everyone! It just has to be a secular morality, not a religious one. God has no say in the matter.

Despite going “viral” on X the comic kind of died on Facebook and Instagram. The internet can be a fickle place.

This cartoon was about a controversial topic so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any butterflies in my stomach. Once you post something online, you lose control over it. The more it spread, the more I started to wonder, “What if any of my clients see this? What will my friends and relatives think? Am I burning any bridges?” Of course I had thought some of that through before I drew it and posted it. If I feel strongly enough about something to post it online, I have to be willing to live with whatever response comes. But that was theory and now it was reality, which was kinda scary. Not everyone looks at the world through the same lens, and I respect that. I am trying to learn the balance between being bold but not brash, being blunt and yet (I hope) not unfair to the other side. That’s a hard line to walk and I do NOT have it all figured out yet. I’m still learning and I’m very open to thoughtful criticism and critique. Still, some people will be offended no matter what and I guess there’s nothing I can do about that. As a pastor I respect once said, “I don’t care if the truth offends. I care very much if I offend.”

Going viral didn’t bring me much income. I don’t have a big enough following to earn any ad revenue from social media. Since posting the cartoon I’ve gained 7 new subscribers on Substack so far (six as “free” subscribers and one of them as “paid”) and sold one item on my web store. It turns out giving away things for free on the internet is not a great business model. There was a time when a popular cartoonist could become rich and famous through newspapers and books (The Far SideCalvin and Hobbes, etc.) but those days are long gone. 

As far as I can tell it is possible to earn money on social media IF you have a large enough following, but that’s a tall hill to climb. The truth is most people don’t even bother to notice who the artist is, they just hit “like” and keep scrolling. Only a tiny fraction even bother to comment or share. Very few people go to the trouble of looking up the artist and check out more of his work. I learned this lesson a few years ago when one of my Sketchbook Silliness comics was voted all the way up to the front page of Reddit (one of the largest sites on the internet) and yet I didn’t gain any new followers. In order to build an audience I think you have to go viral over and over. Repeat the trick enough times and maybe you can start to gain a reputation and some fans who might one day part with a few bucks to support you. One viral post just isn’t going to do that. If you have merch or books to sell, that helps too. But overall, earning income with social media is a long, slow build. (Though I’m always super grateful for new subscribers. Every bit helps!)

It’s hard not to feel any pressure for my next cartoon. But I’m trying not to worry about it. All I can do is my best. Whatever happens after that is not up to me. 

After all, ultimately this moment is really just a “flash in the pan”. By tomorrow everyone will have moved on to a new tempest in a new teacup and my little comic will be forgotten.

All I can do now is learn from the experience.

Memorial Day: Onward Christian Soldiers

The Bible often compares the Christian life to a spiritual battle. Battle within (resisting sin) and without (conflict with evil in the world).

There is a popular notion that Christians must always be friendly and tame, but that is not exactly what the Bible teaches. The New Testament tells us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), but also soldiers of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). We are to be gentle (Galatians 5:23) but also bold (2 Corinthians 3:12). We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) yet hate what is evil (Romans 12:9; Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 97:10). Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:11, “pursue godliness, love, and gentleness”, and then in the very next verse he says “fight the good fight”.

Also the mild, soft Jesus many people believe in is not the Jesus of the Bible. Yes he was full of IMMENSE love and forgiveness, but he was also righteous and bold. As such he sometimes offended people (Matthew 13:57; 15:12-14). He called out evil and was hated for it (John 7:7; 15:23-24). Jesus said his followers would likewise be hated (John 15:18; Luke 6:22-23). Christ publicly insulted the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23:1-36). Jesus took a whip into the Temple courtyard and flipped over the tables of the moneychangers (John 2:13-17). He preached often about judgment and Hell, warning that most people will be damned (Matthew 7:13-14;21-23; Luke 13:24-28). Twice the crowds tried to stone Jesus (John 8:59; 10:31-33). Another time a crowd got so angry they tried to throw him off of a cliff (Luke 4:28-30). Some thought he was demon-possessed (John 7:20; Mark 3:22; Matthew 12:25) or insane (John 10:20; Mark 3:21). His ministry made enemies, enemies who ultimately had him crucified.

Obviously Christians should never be jerks or use violence to advance the Gospel. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world”….“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (2 Corinthians 10:4; Romans 12:21). But neither should we smile at lies or shrug at evil in order to be “nice” and “keep the peace”. Jesus warned against seeking popular approval (Luke 6:26) and the Bible says cowardice is a damnable sin (Revelation 21:8).

Loving your neighbor means there is a time to take a stand, to speak up, to protect our families and culture. To fight the good fight. To pay a price for a greater good. I don’t have all the answers. My own natural tendency is to be a people-pleaser. So I am seeking to learn and grow in my understanding of when to engage in godly conflict, and what that conflict should look like.

I am certain that as Christians we know the truth. We have seen the light. We are born anew. We have the message of hope for the lost. We have the Holy Spirit of Almighty God pulsing through our hearts. The King of the universe hears our prayers. As the grenades of sin and chaos explode all around us, surely God expects more from us than smiles and prayer emoji’s.

World War II was perhaps the ultimate conflict. No one ever wants war. War is horrific. But with Memorial Day approaching I think most people would agree WWII was necessary, and a fight where the good guys won. Since we are called to be soldiers of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 2:25) maybe WWII works as a sort of analogy for the spiritual battles every Christian must fight?

I found some public domain photos from that heroic page in history and paired them with Scripture to help me ponder the call toward struggle, bravery, and sacrifice. I don’t want to promote violence, but I do want to challenge my own tendency (and perhaps the tendency of many Christians) to be docile and play it safe.

As cultural battles rage around us and spiritual struggles rage within us, may God help us to be wise, loving, brave Christians ready to lay it all down to advance the hope and holiness of the Gospel.

I’ve printed out a few of these images and framed them on my studio wall, to inspire me to be stronger and more courageous in my own Christian life:

If you’d like to do the same, for a low cost I’ve put together a WWII bundle of all 15 images you can download and print at home as 8×10’s. Or, you can order individual prints (framed or unframed) from my studio store and I will run them off my inkjet printer onto glossy photo paper and mail them to you. (Your purchases help support my work.)

And if you found this post inspiring or helpful please share it:

Children’s Catechism

Recently Generations, a Christian ministry and publisher, hired me to illustrate a catechism for young children. It’s now available to order through their store: https://store.generations.org/collections/new-at-generations/products/teach-me-the-faith

Here’s a few of the images I created for them:

New! Video Webcomics

I’ve started transforming a few of my Narrow Road Comics into video shorts for play on TikTok and YouTube. I’m not doing animation, just simple pans and cuts. And not every idea will work as a video, mostly the ones that have little or no text. But feel free to subscribe and share:

“The Great Exchange” Animated

This is so cool! A professional animator named Jezreel Carlos took one of my most popular webcomics and made an animated version. The audio is AI generated but he animated the visuals himself, and did a great job!

Feel free to share this around.

Follow Jezreel on LinkedIn.

Should Christians Always Be Nice?

Christians are supposed to be like Jesus. That means being nice, being kind, and seeking peace at all costs, right?

Actually, no. Not according to Pastor Doug Wilson. I stumbled upon this talk where he says sometimes being like Jesus means saying hard things people don’t want to hear. It means conflict. It means being hated. Of course we should never pick fights or rock the boat just because, but neither must we be always soft and gentle and say “Aw shucks” with our hands in our pockets. There are times when being tame can be just as wrong-headed and un-Christlike as is being a jerk.

Yes of course it is important to be kind and gentle. Love does not mean being a bully. But there are also times when the most loving thing to do is to suit up and slay the dragon.

Wilson is thoughtful, witty, and quotes a lot of Scripture. This talk is an easy listen and it gave me a lot to chew on.

Are Christians Arrogant?

I’ve been reading, “A Serrated Edge” by Doug Wilson. It’s a Christian defense of satire, and a good read. I’m only three chapters in but Wilson made a really good point that stuck with me.

He points out that too many Christians stay silent on a host of topics for fear of being called “arrogant”. The problem is that Christians and secular people often aren’t even using the same definition of the word. The meaning of the “arrogant” slur can be very different depending on who is tossing it around.

To a biblical Christian, God is our supreme authority and therefore we must submit our lives to what he has revealed to us in the Bible. To follow God‘s commands is humility. To reject God’s authority is arrogance.

To a secular person, God is unknowable (if he even exists at all). The only thing we can know for sure is our personal experience and feelings. Therefore moral uncertainty is a sign of humility. Anyone who presumes to know what God thinks is “arrogant“.

To one side it is arrogant to reject God. To the other side it is arrogant to acknowledge God.

When Christians stay silent for fear of being called “arrogant“, we have already lost because we have essentially conceded to the secular view of arrogance is the correct one. That’s a problem.

So far it’s a fascinating and thoughtful read. A Serrated Edge is available from Amazon here.