How Craig and Reina’s differing religious beliefs parallel their opposing views on relationships.
Religion is a fundamental facet of humanity. It shapes human opinions on what is right or wrong and largely influences decision-making. Factoring in the ambiguity of some religious teachings and the liberty of individuals to make independent decisions regarding personal satisfaction, religious beliefs can spark up a lot of controversy especially between people who are in romantic relationships. The book titled Blankets is a classic depiction of the tug of war that exists between religious teachings on one hand and strong emotional feelings and persuasions on the other. This book is a graphical autobiographical novel by Craig Thompson which illustrates his progression from childhood as he grew up in an evangelical Christian family to early adulthood. The intricate and vital details in regard to religion and relationships are expounded through Craig’s relationship with his first love, Raina. The development of opposing views by people in a relationship due to deliberate or uninformed defiance of religious teachings previously adhered to by the lovers, catalyses irredeemable differences in their relationship.
Prior to religious differences causing them to break up, Craig and Raina agreed on several aspects in as far as their relationship was concerned. They both belonged to not only the same religion-Christianity, but also the same denomination-evangelical Christians. The two had met at a Bible camp in Wisconsin one winter and they were an instant match or so they thought. Each of them had been nursing broken egos as a result of being bullied by his or her peers because of their faith, physical appearance or socioeconomic status-both came from financially challenged backgrounds. Harboring all these challenges it was easy for Craig and Raina to find emotional satisfaction in a relationship with each other. It seems therefore that the overriding factor that brought the two together was desperation. Altogether, the two developed strong interests in each other to the point of becoming almost inseparable. After the camp they continued to grow their relationship through phone calls and letters and even agreed to spend two weeks together at Raina’s home in Michigan at a later date (Thompson, 32). Subconsciously, this was in an attempt to escape from a world they saw as treating each of them unfairly. Spending time in each other’s company would temporarily help each of them Craig feel appreciated and loved.
As their relationship progressed Craig and Raina discovered that though both belonged to the same evangelical faith their level of commitment to Christianity were different. While Craig was a staunch Christian who believed devoutly in God, Raina did not believe as such strongly (Thompson, 139). In several instances, religious differences about relationship issues rock their blossoming relationship to the point of causing them to break up. To begin with, Raina and Craig have glaring differences in the way they interpret Christian teaching on relationships. Raina values the relationships that she has with her adopted siblings and her family members more than she values her relationship with Craig. She has an autistic brother, a mentally handicapped sister and the child of her irresponsible older sister to take care of after her parents separated (Thompson, 325). Raina is therefore overwhelmed with these care responsibilities and she deems it right for her to show love to her family members in accordance with Christian teachings. Craig on other hand has no family members to take care of and he is struggling with his sexuality. He wants to have a deep emotional sexual relationship with Raina regardless of his religious teachings. Raina declines as she sees Craig as demanding too much emotional attention disregarding her God-given responsibilities to take care of her family members.
The two young lovers have divergent paths as far as their future in religion is concerned. In their upbringing and up to the point of their meeting, Raina had been brought up in a family of less devout Christians as opposed to Craig whose parents were devout evangelical Christians. Craig was therefore taught to believe in strong inseparable family relationships and marriages. Raina on the other hand had her parents separating with a divorce being imminent. When Craig visited Raina, he could not understand Raina’s parents they had to separate. Christianity as observed through his parents was characterized by inseparable bonds of marriage (Thompson, 61).
Both Craig and Raina had several similar aspects of religion in their lives but their reaction to these aspects differed. For instance both had the same painting of Jesus in their bedrooms (Thompson, 59). Raina had a hold of her sexuality due to religious beliefs and the fear that expression of sexuality would ruin the relationship she enjoyed with God through Jesus. She revered her relationship with God as symbolized by the painting. Craig on the other hand valued expression of his sexuality more than his relationship with God which was supposed to be represented by the painting of Jesus in his bedroom.
The progression of Craig and Raina’s relationship leads each of them to take divergent paths in regard to religion. When Craig visited Raina to spend two weeks with her, he calls her his muse but she very much is an object of his lust. Raina on the other hand wanted to maintain her purity according to religious teachings and she desired Craig’s company and expression of love devoid of sexual contacts. When Raina asked Craig to paint something on her wall, he painted a picture of the two of them sitting in a tree with the tree seemingly embracing them (Thompson, 88). Craig was metaphorically insinuating that just like the grown tree, their love had matured and it was only a matter of time before they consummated their love. Disregarding Christian teachings Craig openly desired to sleep with Raina. Raina on her part was hesitant as she feared that this would jeopardize her future relationship with Craig and more so her relationship with God.
As days went by, Craig and Raina could no longer contain their sexual longings. Craig no longer could find bliss in expressing his sexual longings through art and he lured Raina to enjoy the sexual bliss brought about by feel, touch and the fulfillment of desires. These expressions are captured in several pages of beautiful surreal art that has been freed from the confines of shame (Thompson, 547-578). As opposed to Craig’s painting which showed them cradled by the arms of a tree, the two lovers now enjoy the swirl pools of fraternity, joy and satisfaction. However, the path each of them takes afterwards is quite dramatic and it is rooted in religious teachings regarding relationships. Whereas, Craig feels he is rightfully enjoying life, Raina is ashamed of her acts. She feels that she has violated the sanctity of her relationship with Craig according to Biblical teachings. This remorse causes her to withdraw from Craig. Craig gets furious with Raina and though he also feels that their acts violated Christian teachings he is adamant to make up with Raina and refrain from engaging in a pre-marital sexual relationship.
In the later stages of the book, Craig totally disregards Christian teachings about relationships while Raina resolves to pursue a relationship in line with Christian teachings. Both of them feel justified in their resolutions and hence the break up. According to Raina, Christianity demands that relationship should be anchored on love and hence her commitment to serve her family members and disregard the sexual relationship with Craig. Craig believes that love and art are too complex and wonderful to be contained by doctrine (Thompson, 577). Rather than attempt to borrow aspects of Christianity to guide him in future relationships, Craig sees religion as a total condemnation of love and art. Raina is accommodative of religious teachings which she deems as vital in strengthening her virtues to enable her take care of her family relations.
Though diverging religious beliefs create a wedge between Craig and Raina it is this very religion that brought them together. In an unfolding drama, each of them ends up holding on to the exact opposing religious beliefs of the other. This depiction presents the intricate relationship between religious teachings and nature. While love, passion and sexuality are forces seemingly beyond the control of ordinary mortals, Christianity and other religions call upon their adherents to practice celibacy till marriage. This places many people on collision paths with the religion of which they can hardly do without.
Thompson, Craig. Blankets: an illustrated novel. [Nachdr.] ed. Marietta, Ga: Top Shelf, 2009. Print.