Submitting To Be More Vile – a graphic novel

To say Charlie Baber teaches Wesleyan theology, history, and practice unlike anyone else is an understatement. Through his Wesley Bros Comics, he created “webcomics”—an online world where historical church figures all exist at the same time…our time. In Submitting to Be More Vile, Baber collects his comics in printed form and includes group-discussion guides that make the book perfect for youth groups, adults, and college/seminary students. Those new to the Wesleyan tradition will find Baber’s style easily accessible and those who have a strong United Methodist background will find themselves chuckling at his unique approach.

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On April 2, 1739, John Wesley realized that the pulpits and sanctuaries were closed to him. If he wanted to follow God’s call, he had to give up the stuffy trappings of a Church of England priest and an Oxford don and go to the people. He famously wrote, “At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation.” Today we are proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation–and the other things that come with church–with comics.

Wesley Bros Comics is an online world where historical church figures all exist at the same time, in today’s world, not unlike the communion of saints where past, present, and future collapse into a moment. For the first time ever, these “webcomics” are collected in printed form with new group-discussion guides to help lovers of John and Charles Wesley find a little humor in the present state of the church, and learn a lot about church history, theology, and Methodist identity.

Perfect for youth groups, small groups, and even college and seminary classes, Submitting to Be More Vile uses the comic book format to communicate Wesleyan/Methodist theology, history, and practice.

Editorial Reviews of Submitting to Be More Vile

“Through the comics, commentaries, and discussion questions, Baber invites the reader to dive more deeply into complex theology, convicting personal reflection, and courageous social commentary. Confirmands will learn the tradition and habits of spiritual growth, seminarians and clergy will be reminded of the higher calling of their work, and laity will deepen their own sense of what it means to be part of The United Methodist Church in these challenging times. An engaging way to bring Methodists back to what unites us and remind us that by returning to our roots as a movement, we might find a way to move forward. Plus, cats!”

Elizabeth W. Corrie, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peacebuilding, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

“Charlie Baber delivers complex theology and church history with integrity and humor. Baber faithfully comments on current issues through a modern cultural lens, making even the thickest theology and messiest of issues accessible, poignant and funny. Perfect for clergy and lay alike–this book is not to be missed.”

Rev. Eric C. Fistler, co-host of Pulpit Fiction podcast

“Deacons in the Methodist Church, like Charlie Baber, are called to be a bridge between the world and the church. Rev. Baber’s Wesley Bros comic strip is an excellent example of that bridge, at once true to the popular culture of our times and true to the values of our shared Methodist tradition. Rev. Baber is simultaneously a grounded practical theologian and an accomplished cartoonist, a combination so rare I can’t think of another example. This collection is unique in all senses of that word. It’ll bring you enjoyment and insight at the same time”

Rev. Mike Friedrich, former writer for DC Comics and Marvel Comics

“I love cartoons that provoke an intellectual as well as an emotional response. Wesley Bros comics do that for me.”

David Hayward, author at nakedpastor.com

“Charlie Baber has cooked up an amazing appetizer to bring to your church’s next potluck. 1 part history, 1 part theology, 1 part pop culture blended together with an ample splash of humor, Submitting to Be More Vile serves up Methodism in an extremely creative and digestible way, and legitimately is fun for all ages. Would be a great gift for Confirmation or a reason to start gathering your own Holy Club.”

Chris Wilterdink, Director of Young People’s Ministries, Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church

“I really like this comic.”

Ruben Bolling, author of Tom the Dancing Bug

What People are Saying about Submitting to be More Vile

“Charlie Baber does important translational work for Methodists and others who follow the teachings of John Wesley or sing the hymns of his brother Charles Wesley. The translation happens at least three levels simultaneously: visual, historical, and theological. Visually, it’s a comic strip and Baber is able to use the full palette of expressions, images, and colors to translate a particular idea. Even without reading a word of the text, one can often understand in a glance the actions and emotions expressed in a panel. The Wesleys and readers can easily be transported into Star Trek or a new expression of the Fantastic Four. Historically, Baber leverages his deep understanding of the historical context and translates a connection to modern technology, culture, and contexts. Within the comics, Charles Wesley particularly is often seen set within modern worship and musical contexts – often with an implicit critique of both modern and 18th-century models. Theologically, Charlie Baber really stands out because of his ability to translate the visual and historical into something that illuminates fairly complex and difficult teachings. The comic format allows him to be “playful” in the best sense – to work through the history of theological interpretation of Holy Communion in a single large panel set like a table that ends with “Well…you are what you eat.”

Many of us who have been following the Wesley Bros for a while, look forward to our weekly dose and Charlie’s accompanying commentary. If you get stuck on some of the admittedly insider language about theology, church history, or the Methodist Church, you’ll want to dive deeper into “Questions for Your Local Holy Club” that integrates some of Baber’s formerly accompanying commentary with further questions for discussion.

Overall, a helpful resource for Methodists, Wesleyans, and all those trying to make sense of their faith in the crazy world we live in today.”

Andrew Keck, amazon.com

“Every Methodist pastor should own this. Most Christians in general should own this, but certainly every Methodist pastor–and I say this as a Methodist pastor. This is hilarious, informative, kind, and real. Baber’s awareness from his own years as a Methodist pastor seeps through every comic with a mix of frustration and genuine love for the calling.

That’s not to say that this is only for pastors; this is for anyone curious about the history and polity of the Methodist church, especially the United Methodist branch. Baber pulls in all sorts of pop culture references to make his point: Lord of the Rings to talk about communion, The Fantastic Four to talk about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, an Escher painting for atonement theories, and on and on. It’s brilliantly creative, but it really is informative. The Wesley brothers are the main characters, but there’s also George Whitfield, Jarena Lee, Tertullian, Frances Willard, and tons and tons of other saints of the faith.

Along with the comics are short narratives with questions intended for book groups, so this lends itself easily to study either with youth or adults. I will certainly be keeping this for confirmation, preaching, membership classes, and my own journey through the funny and the poignant that Baber clearly knows so well.”

JD Waggy, goodreads.com

“I have followed WesleyBros comics from its early days. The comic presents Wesleyan tradition and history with great acumen and cleverness, but it never shies away from current challenges in the United Methodist Church. WesleyBros is witty, well-researched, and memorable. Reading the book provided a refresher on comics I had long since forgotten, but because the comics are thematically and in some cases, chronologically organized, it offers an accessible and insightful presentation of the comics and the issues they address. Whether revisiting the Wesleys’ ghostly companion, the early development of the Methodist movement, or the challenges of ministry in the 21st century UMC, the comic invites readers to reflect on how our Wesleyan heritage impacts people of faith today. Each section’s topics for discussion in your own “holy club” make this book a meaningful resource for a confirmation class, a Sunday school class, or a small group. Even having read most of these comics, this book offered me a fresh take and an opportunity to reflect anew on the relevance of Wesley and his movement.”

Dwayne H. Stinson, amazon.com

“With The Wesley Bros, author/artist Charlie Baker has deftly presented significant aspects of the historical and theological development of the Wesley brothers (and their subsequent movements). Baber’s anachronistic and pop-culture laden style lends itself to illustrating and bringing these moments to life in a fun and entertaining way. In addition, the book can be augmented by visiting the original Wesley Bros website and reading additional comments by the author about the comics and the content that inspired them. Whether for personal edification or small group use to learn about these significant religious leaders, this is a great book!”

Ron V Bartlow, amazon.com

“A comic about my favorite subjects (Wesleyan history and theology)? This will be an easy read….or so I thought before I dived in.

This comic is DENSE, it packs in a lot of text, a lot of information, and a lot of extremely nerdy and niche references. I LOVED IT.”

Allison, goodreads.com

“What an absolute delight. The author weaves together historical and theological insight with contemporary culture, exploring the Wesleyan way to engage some of the most pressing realities of our time while educating and uplifting us in the process. I could very easily see this book being used for Confirmation classes, for small groups, for Bible studies, or for individual growth. My 12-year-old is devouring it for the 4th time, and I’m absolutely loving it as well (when I can steal it back from her). Charlie Baber is a gifted pastor, author, teacher, and artist, all of which shine brightly through this incredible piece of work.”

JLB, amazon.com