Bandit's Banter

As I had hoped, I am able to start off this month's Bandit's Banter by saying that I did finally hear from the friend whom I spoke of in last month's Banter, whom I thought I had lost.  I had made an errant assumption in that I assumed I had offended him in some way, when in fact there was essentially a breakdown in communication.  He had changed his e-mail address, and we've both been kind of busy this year (him more so than me), making it harder to stay in touch.  So, to my friend, I again apologize for having assumed I had offended you, and I'm glad to have heard from you again.

Anyway, on to the news.  For those of you who've been wondering, there will be a new Bruno the Bandit collection on sale within the next few months.  My publisher is hoping for an October release date, but given the amount of work on my plate these days, that may be a bit optimistic, but hopefully, it'll be on sale in November.  I'm not entirely sure yet which Bruno stories will be included in the latest collection, but given its popularity, there's a pretty good chance the recent "No Offense!" story will be part of this book.

I wasn't sure how people were going to respond to "No Offense!", but judging from the e-mail I received, as well as the messages on the BTB Message Board, it really struck a chord with many of you, and I'm glad.  I heard from everyone from atheists to fundamentalist Christians, and everyone who wrote me seemed to be able to take something positive away from the story, which is what I had hoped.

One of the people on the Message Board asked the question "Is organized religion always bad?", which, admittedly, is something I did want people to think about while reading the story.  Certainly has led to a lively debate, one in which I am learning a lot from, for sure.  I'm really proud of the fact that those of you who've posted have kept it civil, and have so far respected the opinions of those you may have disagreed with.  Keep it up!

From the story, how many of you would have guessed that I am in fact a Catholic who attends church every Sunday?  Admittedly, I'm a very liberal Catholic, who have more than a few problems with the church today.  Some would probably consider parts of "No Offense!" to be anti-Catholic, which would be a shame.  Just because I am critical of the church doesn't mean I'm against it.  If I didn't care, I wouldn't say anything, and I certainly wouldn't attend Mass.

The story for me was partially a study of religion and spirituality, which are not necessarily one and the same, as some may assume.  You can be spiritual without being religious, but if you're religious without being spiritual, well, what's the point?  Anyway, is organized religion always bad?  Well, that certainly wasn't what I was trying to convey in this story.  I certainly don't believe that organized religion is always bad, but will admit that things can get pretty ugly when those in charge of our major faiths forget or outright ignore the spiritual underpinnings of their faiths.  This has caused many people down through the ages to reject all things religious and spiritual, out of sheer disgust with the hypocrisy of many of those who claim to be these things.

For li'l ol' me, at least, I don't want to, to use the old cliche, "throw out the baby (spirituality) with the bathwater (the negative aspects of religion)".   "No Offense!" was written for two groups of people: those who think the bathwater is every bit as sacred as the baby, and those who'd machine-gun the baby because he may have a few drops of bathwater on him.  Whether I changed anyone's mind, or gave them a new perspective at least, I don't know.  Whether I'm even right about what I wrote, I don't know either.  But I enjoyed writing and drawing this story, and for me, that'll do just fine.

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