The spirituality of Snoopy creator Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz was widely applauded for a long list of achievements. The creator of the Peanuts comic strip was a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and his comics earned him an Emmy, Peabody, and Congressional Gold Medal.

Sixteen years after his death in 2000, Schulz is still the third top-earning deceased celebrity, trailing only Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. He even changed the way Americans talk, inserting phrases like “Good grief!” and “security blanket” into the national vocabulary.

But Schulz also revolutionized his industry by using his strip to subtly raise religious questions about the Bible, prayer, the nature of God, and the end of the world.

Schulz was a devoted Christian; unshell the Peanuts and you’ll find the fingerprints of his faith. By mixing Snoopy with spirituality, he made his readers laugh while inviting them into a depth of conversation uncommon to the funny pages.

“Many familiar with the Peanuts strip don’t think of Charles Schulz as a Christian pioneer,” said Stephen Lind, the author of A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz. “But he was a leader in American media when it comes to both the strength and frequency of religious references.”

More than 560 of Schulz’s nearly 17,800 Peanuts newspaper strips contain a religious, spiritual, or theological reference. To put this into perspective, Schulz only produced 61 strips featuring the famous scene where Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick it.

Particularly later in his career, the religious references came so frequently that pastors and religious publications regularly requested permission to reprint Peanuts strips, which Schulz almost always granted.

Schulz’s most recognizable reference to religion occurs in the Charlie Brown holiday special exploring the “true meaning of Christmas.” Realizing that the holiday’s secular accouterments did not form the essence of Christmas, Linus reads the story of Jesus’s birth directly from King James Version’s account in the Gospel of Luke. At the time, less than 9 percent of Christmas episodes and specials contained religious references. Continue reading

Sources

  • The Atlantic, from an article by Jonathan Merrit, a contributing writer for The Atlantic and a senior columnist for Religion News Service.
  • Image: Peanuts Wiki

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