Topics: Spirituality | Interview

‘Naked Pastor’ pokes fun at the sacred with his cartoons

Cartoonist David Hayward calls himself “a graffiti artist on the walls of religion”

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David Hayward. Photo: Kelly Lawson)

Branded the “Naked Pastor,” cartoonist David Hayward calls himself “a graffiti artist on the walls of religion.” He started a blog in 2005 after 30 years in ministry in Presbyterian and Vineyard congregations, and discovered spiritual independence through art. He lives near Saint John, N.B.

On cartooning and rainbow sheep:

With a cartoon – which I try to keep to one frame – you see it in a split second and the message is delivered. You can’t un-see it. I love the speed, the effectiveness and the power of a single image to convey something that’s on my mind. The neat thing about [my] cartoons is that the sheep are cute and people love them, and when they’re rainbow sheep, it puts a twist on it so that someone who is not affirming suddenly feels this conflict inside – this sheep is adorable, why would you not allow them to be a part of the flock?

On drawing parables:

I compare what I do to parables. Short, pithy little stories that don’t seem to have anything to do with religion and often don’t mention God or anything spiritual at all. They’re just tiny little stories but the response to these stories is either joyful or enraged. One of my first LGTBQ cartoons is a man walking hand in hand with Jesus and he says, ‘I’m sorry, Jesus, but I think I’m gay,’ and Jesus says, ‘Relax, dude, I already knew that.’ You have this picture in your mind of Jesus accepting, even touching, a gay man. You can’t get rid of the thought. For some, it’s very disturbing and for others, really encouraging and validating. A cartoon has the same kind of power as a parable.


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On spiritual independence:

When we start questioning authority and systems, that’s when the church drops the ball; because losing control of the people and not being able to dictate to the people is uncomfortable. I think congregations would be healthier if people were given permission to really explore and research and discover what their spirituality looks like. If they can do that, in community, I think it creates a richer, deeper, fuller relationship. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see or experience that a lot.

On being naked:

[When] I started blogging in 2005, I wanted people to see behind the curtain of what it means to be in ministry for real. I wanted them to see not only the joys and victories, the fun and the fellowship, but also the struggles and frustrations and doubts and fears, the financial struggles and conflicts. What really goes on in the life of a pastor. The word ‘naked’ means vulnerable, raw, open, real, transparent, honest.

On being a disruptor:

A lot people think I’m trying to destroy the church, that I’m an enemy of Christianity or ministry. But they’re not getting it – I’m for the church. I love the church. The church is my mother, spiritually, but can we please do it in healthy ways? That’s my beat. I do critique the church and theology and the ministry because I’ve seen it done right and well, in healthy ways, in affirming and inclusive ways. It is marvelous to witness and experience. It’s beautiful. But we don’t see it very much. That’s why I’m interpreted as a disruptor.

This interview first appeared in Broadview’s April/May 2021 issue with the title “David Hayward.”


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Sara Jewell is a writer and lay worship leader who lives in rural Nova Scotia.

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  • says:

    "When we start questioning authority and systems, that’s when the church drops the ball; because losing control of the people and not being able to dictate to the people is uncomfortable."
    The problem with this statement is "we. Christ is the cornerstone of the Church, not us. It is God's standards "we" need to follow. We cannot pick and choose which standards, we need to follow ALL of them. God's standards make all of us uncomfortable.

    "I wanted them to see not only the joys and victories, the fun and the fellowship, but also the struggles and frustrations and doubts and fears, the financial struggles and conflicts. What really goes on in the life of a pastor. The word ‘naked’ means vulnerable, raw, open, real, transparent, honest."
    I totally agree, however, if you have doubts about your faith and your position in Christ, you should not be in leadership. It would be the same as a battalion going to war with a coward as the general.

  • says:

    I love the cartoons. Very refreshing and thought provoking. It is difficult for many folks to grow spiritually. As one person said in a Session meeting one time, "I believe what I learned at my mother's knee." Spirituality is that - and more, much, more.
    As for being naked? As a pastor, my experience has been that we are not seen as real people. Quite often we have to cover up who we really are. When we let our guard down within our congregation things can go down hill very quickly.
    This is good stuff. Love it!

    Replies

    • says:

      I often wonder if we don't grow spiritually because it is not in our nature to do so. I know it's cliché, but prayer and reading the Bible is the best way. I have read many testimonies about people who attribute their faith because of their mother. Some of us unfortunately didn't have that luxury, and needed someone else to tell us how to live Spiritually.

      Replies

      • says:

        I feel that the process of growing spiritually is a combination of one's desire combined with the moving or the pushing or pulling or cajoling of God's Spirit within us. It began in me when I was a young teenager and has been an ongoing process that continues into my 70s. But spiritual growth isn't confined to Christianity. We are each a part of the power of creation which many of us call God and because we are a part of God, God acts within us if we allow ourselves to be open to the metaphysical. What our parents teach us may be good but just as we start of in kindergarten for our schooling and progress through the grades, we should also progress spiritually but, alas, our spiritual education often falls by the wayside. And, I have found that spiritual growth is not the same for everyone. It isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are many folks who actually live the way Jesus teaches but don't go to church or read the Bible or any other scripture deemed "holy." God has no denomination so even atheists can be great ministers if they are caring, kind, compassionate, loving, forgiving and open to the moving of spirit within their lives. Cartoons are a great way to encourage people to think about this stuff.

        Replies

        • says:

          Trouble with your comment is that "works" - not faith - gets you into heaven.

  • says:

    I found the cartoon the author cited in the article to be mildly provocative but entirely uncourageous satire for our times. Why don't you take on the main line church leadership directly. For example, they have nothing to about the sanctity of human life and so uncourageously do not speak out against unfettered abortion even if it includes live birth abortions. And they would publish articeles in this magazine by woke clergy who support the unfettered right to abortion. Surely there is something worth satirizing here? Or why don't you satirize the hypocrisy of church senior leaders (as Jesus did the temple authorities) that supports the anti racism movement and remains silent in the wake of the violence and destruction of entire cities and property by those same anti racist proponents. Now this would be cutting edge contemporary satire worthy of someone with your talent who presumably seeks to expose the full truth of the churches sins.