Insight on the News
Clowns for Christ?
“Gospel Clowns on the Road” was the headline that appeared in the Church Times, a Church of England newspaper. It was heralding the annual visit of the Church Army Roadshow to selected seaside resorts in England and Wales. Founded just over a hundred years ago as a wing of the Church of England, the Church Army was to evangelize “among the outcasts and criminals of the Westminster slums.”
Today, Church Army leaders are still concerned that “evangelism should be given its rightful place.” Their Roadshow aims to present the gospel in a “humorous way to people who have little previous experience of God, and who wouldn’t dream of coming to an event held in a church or church hall.” The costumed “Gospel Clowns” in the roadshow hope that “their dedicated fooling about will at least make passers-by stop and listen for a while,” notes the Church Times.
However, while their clown attire, buffoonery, and free balloons attracted many children, adults were left wondering what this approach had to do with the evangelism initiated by Jesus Christ.
True, the apostle Paul wrote: “We have become a theatrical spectacle to the world . . . We are fools because of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:9, 10) But what did he have in mind? Clowning or “fooling about” to attract passers-by? No. Paul was illustrating how the world considers Christians to be fools, “exposed to public ridicule and shame,” as The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology puts it, on account of their faith and teachings.
In contrast with the Church Army’s “Gospel Clowns,” Jesus taught the crowds “as a person having authority.” His ministry was straightforward and without gimmickry. As he explained, “Just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” What was the result? “Many put faith in him.”—Matthew 7:29; John 8:28, 30.
“Burden of Conscience”
Eugene Stockwell, director of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches, recently admitted to the hypocritical role the clergy and churches of Christendom have played during both world wars. “It is a heavy burden of conscience for Christians that the two major world wars of this century were unleashed among nations that have long traditions of Christianity in their midst and whose military assaults were often blessed by leaders of Christian churches,” he told an ecumenical gathering in Warsaw, Poland.
Stockwell added: “God was passionately declared to be on one side of the conflict or the other. . . . All too easily we Christians put our faith at the service of our violence.” He said that World War II was “a massive evidence of our failure as ‘Christian nations’ to live out our faith, a faith so frequently expressed in words and so evidently denied in action.”
But has this “heavy burden of conscience” helped so-called Christians and their clergy to learn a lesson? According to the Ecumenical Press Service, Director Stockwell conceded: “We talk of loving our enemies, and we kill them. We talk of turning the other cheek, and we arm ourselves to the teeth. We talk of peace that passes understanding, and we engage in war that surpasses any understanding. We talk of faith in God and we place our true faith in weapons of destruction.”
Christendom’s war-supporting clergy and their followers clearly resemble “profitless talkers” in the days of the apostle Paul. Concerning them, he said: “They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works.”—Titus 1:10, 16.
On November 19, 1987, the South African Postal Administration planned to issue four commemorative stamps on the Bible. One of the stamps contained the expressions “The Word of God” in Greek and “The Word of Jehovah” in Hebrew. There was a total printing of 1,750,000 copies of this stamp.
However, shortly before the date of release, post offices received a telegram instructing them to return their supply of this stamp. The reason? “Because it was found to be offensive by the orthodox Jewish community,” reported The Star, a Johannesburg newspaper. It added: “Rabbi David Hazdan of Johannesburg said the name of God printed in full as it was printed on the stamp was usually reserved for special religious occasions only.”
It is due to similar Jewish tradition that many modern Bible translators have avoided using the name Jehovah and have replaced it with mere titles, such as “Lord” or “God.” No wonder Jesus said to religious leaders of his day: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition”!—Matthew 15:6.