car·i·ca·ture [ kárrəkə choor ]; comic exaggeration: a drawing, description, or performance that exaggerates somebody’s or something’s characteristics for humorous or satirical effect
Have you ever had a caricature done of yourself? I did, years ago, at some carvival type thing. It was funny! Fortunately, the painting has been forever lost.
When a caricature is done right you recognize the person even though certain “flaws” have been exagerrated. Below are some caricatures of famous people. Do you recognize them?
I think most people appreciate the humor and satire in caricatures. What would be sad is if someone did not know they were really being made fun of, or did not recognize the reality behind the caricature.
I think our society has drawn a caricature of Christianity. I see the humor behind the satire and the element of truth in the exaggerations. Very rarely am I offended. Usually I laugh, although sometimes it is an uncomfortable laugh. Sadly, I think most Christians don’t even recognize the reality behind the caricatures being drawn of them, and Christians are some of the most easily offended people I know.
My first realization of these caricatures occured not long after graduating from college. I attended a small, ultra-conservative Bible college in a mid-sized southern city. As students we were told over and over again about the stellar reputation the school and students had in the neighborhood and city. We were told how people in the community loved hiring students from the school for yard work, baby-sitting, house sitting, etc…Overall, those were accurate statements. People did like hiring us. But I soon learned that while people respected us, they didn’t really want to be like us. We saw ourselves one way but they saw us as caricatures of fundamentalism.
After graduating I pastored a church in the same city as the college. During those days I regularly played basketball early in the mornings at a local YMCA. One morning, as I was in the locker-room getting dressed, I over heard a conversation by two men. They did not know I was listening. The name of my college came up because both had hired students to do odd jobs. Both talked about how nice and trustworthy the students from the school were, but they also talked about how “weird” the students were and how they would never want to be like them, or even send their children to the school. In essence, they thought the school was some sort of cult. Both men mentioned how they were Christians, and even the churches they attended. But to them they saw my branch of “Christianity” as a caricature of the real thing.
I understand this was just the opinion of two-men in a locker-room. I realize it is unfair to apply their opinions to everyone. But what they said, and how they said it, did make me do some soul searching. What I thought was a positive representation of Christianity, in reality, was a turn-off to the gospel.
Since then I have noticed how the media portrays conservative Christianity. I don’t think they ridicule it as much as make fun of it. I recently watched a show that made fun of evangelicals and mega-churches. The people were painted as hypocrites and the church and pastor were depicted as only in it for the money. The name of the church was “Absolute Truth Ministries” or “ATM” for short. I thought the name was clever.
We, in the evangelical church, have an image problem, and I don’t think we even realize it.
Those who do realize our image problem often go to the opposite extreme. And so we have pastors all around the country who are trying to look hip and cool and in touch by wearing name brand jeans and bracelets and necklaces and frosting their hair and having cosmetic surgery. I don’t think most realize how stupid this makes them look to outsiders; and so outsiders continue to “caricaturize” us. In an attempt to not look like a preacher we have created a new image of what a preacher should look like, and society laughs. In an effort to avoid orthodoxy and religion we have created a new orthodoxy and religion. In our attempt to be genuine we have become more fake then ever before, and we don’t even realize it.
What people far from God are looking for is authenticity. However, authenticity cannot be manufactured. A person either has it or they don’t, and those who have it don’t know they have it because their goal has not been to be authentic. Those who want it and strive for it can’t get it because the harder you try to be authentic the more inauthentic you become. It’s tricky. I don’t know if I have it. I hope I have it, which probably means I don’t have it. It’s complicated.
There does seem to be one rule of thumb about authenticity and that is an authentic life attracts people to you instead of repels people from you. In other words, if you are genuinely living out your faith people will notice your character, not your caricature.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)
When was the last time someone asked you “to give the reason for the hope that you have.” If you have never been asked, can you really claim authenticity?
Just a thought.