Caricatures distinguish themselves by taking a feature of someone or something and exaggerating it out of proportion. As such, caricatures can be mean and may cause offense to those who see themselves as their victims. On the other hand, caricatures can also highlight aspects of the truth that have been overlooked or distorted to promote a particular version of reality. While the appreciation of caricatures requires a sense of humor, once their picaresque dress is recognized, they can be a good way of revealing serious issues that require consideration. In such cases, they may bring to light inconvenient aspects of the truth.
Thus, with tongue in cheek, I offer my portfolio of verbal caricatures of the Gospel. The profits from the sale of these caricatures will be used to design and build a machine for the shaking of Adventism. The contraption used by fruit farmers for the harvesting of cherries provides a promising model.
First, I would like to give a biblical definition: The Gospel is the power to give life to all those who have faith in God as the giver of life (Romans 1:16). This is the crux of what Christians should proclaim; however:
The Greeks of the second to the fifth centuries made it a mystical philosophy.
The Romans made it a legal state: Christendom.
The Russians made it an icon to be paraded around the church for veneration.
The monks made it a rule for self-denial.
The papacy made it a financial enterprise for the benefit of shareholders.
The Germans made it a cry for a peasant revolt.
The Spaniards made it a colonial instrument for the subjugation of native peoples.
The Portuguese made it a consecration of their imaginary multi-continental nation.
The Dutch made it the protector of profitable laisse faire economics.
The English made it an agent for the establishment of a mercantile empire.
Modern mainline churches made it a bourgeois living standard.
The conservatives made it a set of rules with which to manipulate people.
The liberals made it a charter for social improvement.
The Fundamentalists made it a book written in heaven.
The Evangelicals made it an invitation for a romantic forever-friendship with Jesus.
The Charismatics made it the escape hatch to another world.
The white supremacists made it the foundation for their delusions of grandeur.
The Christian nationalists made it the moat to keep the Other out.
Early Adventism made it the Three Angels' Messages: fear of the Final Judgment as a lifestyle.
Ted Wilson has made it the switchblade with which he stabs the air and marks the faces of those who disagree with his ignorant verities.
Throughout history, the Gospel of Christ has been in need of rescue from its purveyors.
Herold Weiss is professor emeritus of religious studies at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN. His latest book is The End of the Scroll: Biblical Apocalyptic Trajectories.
Title image by Jeffrey Soh.
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