Farewell, Comrade Clifford

Bridwell, Norman. Clifford’s Family. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2010. 32 pages. $4.99.

Christians are sometimes accused of being overly hostile in silly culture wars. Some would argue that we take a more irenic and confident approach, given that Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. However, when Jesus said that, people didn’t read books like Harry Potter or say “happy holidays.”If there’s one thing that all Christians should know by now, it’s that our faith is extremely fragile and that we must strenuously fight for its survival, even if we have to do things like share stuff on Facebook. 

While many Christians are fighting the good fight in the war on Christmas, another enemy is lurking in plain sight, and it isn’t the lady with the tattoos at church, though she is likewise dangerous. I’m talking about COMMUNISM. “Why is communism so dangerous?” you may wonder, like an idiot. The Catholic church has officially repudiated communism and written about its evils, but we know the Catholics can’t be right, so there has to be another reason. Communism is bad because it means that I don’t get to keep my stuff or something like that. Don’t believe me yet? Consider that the color of communism is red. Do you know who else is red? The devil. Makes you think.

And that brings me to another red character: Clifford the Big Red Dog. Like many, I grew up watching the cartoons of Clifford and reading his book, not realizing that I nearly shipwrecked my faith in the process. To demonstrate the dangers of this franchise, let’s consider Norman Bridwell’s Clifford’s Family. Now, you may notice that this book was published by Scholastic Inc. The Scholastics included people like Thomas Aquinas, who will make you Catholic if you read him, so this is a major red flag.

Nonetheless, I persisted past the title page, only to be met with horror on the very first page. The narrator introduces herself: “I’m Emily Elizabeth, and this is my dog. His name is Clifford.” And there she sat, a girl atop a giant red beast. We were clearly warned about this in Revelation 17, where Babylon the great rode a red beast, which the prophecy charts say is communism. The devil’s works are now sold as children’s literature, but your pastor is too cowardly to preach about that.

While Emily Elizabeth and Clifford live in a small town, we are told that both were born in the city, and they decide that they should go visit Clifford’s family. So at least this has a pro-family message, right? Wrong! Clifford’s mother had not seen him since he was a puppy and hardly knew him. What kind of mother could be so cold and callous toward her child? One cared more about the state than her children, of course. The only interaction she has with Clifford is checking his teeth and ears, obviously because all that mattered to her is that her son is physically able to perform his duties to the state. 

Next, they go meet Clifford’s first sister, Claudia. She is taking her blind owner for a walk. Now, the Bible says that we walk by faith and not by sight. That means that if you just have enough faith, bad things won’t happen to you, but this woman clearly doesn’t have enough faith, so she has to use a dog. On their way to the park, they come across a taxi blocking the crosswalk. Of course, any sensible person would just walk around the taxi, but the next page is shocking. This scarlet behemoth lifts the taxi over his head! The page reads, “Clifford took care of that” (17). This is a thinly veiled threat! Communists believe that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, and if you stand in their way, you will be “taken care of.” 

Next, they visit Clifford’s brother, who (I kid you not) is named Nero, who (I still kid you not), works at a fire station. Let the reader understand. While visiting, the alarm rings and they all rush off after the fire truck to a burning building. Nero runs inside, presumably to blame the Christians living there. Afterward, it says “Nero was very brave” (22). Nero, a public sector employee, is the only character to receive a compliment in this book.

Clifford and Emily Elizabeth then travel to the country to meet Clifford’s second sister Bonnie, who works as a farm dog. Bonnie herds sheep that are kind of like you. The illustrations are telling. Bonnie is a white dog, about the same size as the sheep. I’m sure she blended in with the sheep quite well, as though wearing sheep’s clothing. But Bonnie is not a sheep, but rather a dog, or rather, a domesticated wolf, there to keep the sheep in line for the state. Clifford, tries to herd the cows, but there is a bull present, and bulls don’t like the color red, so the bull charges Clifford, who jumps out of the bull’s way, and if you can read between the lines, you can hear Clifford saying, “real communism has never been tried,” as he refuses to engage with his enemy. 

Finally, Clifford travels to see his father. Clifford’s father is a shaggy-haired dog who “didn’t have a collar, or a dog dish, or a doghouse” (30). Clifford’s father is a hippy, and that’s probably why Clifford turned out this way.

The book ends with Clifford wishing that his family could live together, but he knows that “they all had people who needed them.” And that is truly the message of the book. The family must be ripped apart to serve the great society. All natural bonds must be broken so that we can more fully serve the needs of the state. If you like the idea of your marriage surviving and your children loving you, then stay far away from Clifford the big communist dog.

The danger of this book cannot be overstated. Before I ever approached this book, I made up my mind about it, but that still didn’t protect me. Even as an extremely holy person, merely reading this book for this review caused me to sin, and I didn’t even realize it. You see, I borrowed this book from a public library, which is communist because it’s run by the state and anyone can use the books, even if they don’t have money, and we all know that’s not right. But I was duped and bamboozled into sin. Much like Adam in the Garden, I was deceived by my wife, who offered me her library card. Even though it’s not my fault, I sinned. As such, this will be my last article for the London Lyceum, as I am now disqualified from ministry, at least for a few weeks until my friends declare loudly that I’m restored to ministry like Michael Scott declared bankruptcy. I look forward to teaching again in May.

Ockham Broseph (PhD, McCarthy University of America) is Professor of Christian Political Thought and Pastor of his local church. He has published numerous books and essays.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve read this far and haven’t realized, this is an April Fool’s post. We hope you chuckled. Humor is fun. 🙂


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