Progressivism and Conservatism Part 3: Deal With Reality, Not Caricatures

TomRichmondArtOn any given issue the extreme positions get the most attention. That is a problem in and of itself but what is even more problematic is when we transfer the extreme views to everyone who we believe is in a certain camp. If someone is conservative, the thinking goes, we can assume they are a legalist and bash them for it. If someone is progressive then, the thinking goes, we can bash them for hating the Bible and not believing it has any authority…ever. On and on it goes. Few stop to listen to the nuance of the other’s position because we already have them figured out in our heads.

That way of thinking is prideful at best. It is an outgrowth of subtle and insidious thoughts that lie under the surface that we must deal with ourselves or else be consumed by them.

Let me use an illustration, literally, to make the point. These discussions work a lot like those caricature artists that you see in amusement parks. You sit down for a few minutes and the artist starts their work. They exaggerate all of your worst or strongest features, making things way out of proportion to reality. It is all in jest and people have a great time doing it. But no one would send that in as a head shot! No one would use that picture on the wall of family pictures. Those pictures have a function…humor. They are not intended to represent reality. It is not how people really see you so you will never see that picture up in the hallway of pictures at your parent’s house.

Theological conversation often turns into a caricature drawing match…who can characterize the other in the most extreme way…making your ears way too big or your eyes too close together…that mole you didn’t even realize was there is drawn huge with a few hairs sticking out of it. That isn’t the real you but that is how the other person wants to see you because that version of you is much easier to dismantle and defeat.

We must deal with real people in honest ways. That means, again, we must be listeners. We come into conversations as much the student as the teacher. If we find ourselves drawing caricatures, we must stop ourselves and hand the pen back to the other person because only they have the permission to draw the picture of what it is they believe. Watch them draw for a moment before you criticize. It is easier to characterize a tiny profile picture next to the name of a stranger on facebook than it is to do that looking someone in the eye. Looking in the eye has been replaced with looking at the avatar…it just doesn’t work well because it dehumanizes and depersonalizes the conversation. People attack positions that don’t exist and people that don’t exist because in their minds they have drawn the caricature and are convinced somehow that is reality. It is a shortcut. It is easier. It is a mistake.

What caricatures have you been guilty of drawing and how do we get past that…realizing that a real person is at the other end of the conversation…a person Jesus died for, a person whose mother still thinks they are cute…a person who has to go to the DMV just like you do?


I want to thank illustrator Tom Richmond for permission to use his illustration above. After asking his permission I realized he used to illustrate Cracked and MAD magazine…the man is a genius.

Progressivism and Conservatism Part 2: Travelers on the Road to Emmaus

Travelers on the Road to Emmaus… Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyesContinue Reading

Progressivism, Conservatism and Saying What Needs to be Said (Part 1)

There has been quite a bit of talk in social media lately about progressives vs conservatives. Even the fact that there is a “vs” between those two terms bothers me but that is how this all gets presented…it should bother us. In listening to and even engaging in a few of these conversations myself thereContinue Reading

Grace is Only Grace When….

it is needed to be put on the table. Grace as a concept or just in theory is not grace at all. Grace must be practiced in order for it to truly be grace. If we are to be considered to be a graceful people then when hard times come or offense happens, we shouldContinue Reading

My Favorite Verse

If left to pick from all the verses of the Bible and I had to boil it all down to one verse I would pick Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” That verseContinue Reading

My Take on Interpreting the Bible

I was recently asked how I interpret the Bible. That is an easy question on the surface but there is a lot that goes into actually doing it. Here is my response, I am going to start off in this post talking about how I read/interpret/apply scripture and then answer your second question about salvationContinue Reading

Mind Blown – the Interconnected Narratives of the Gospel of John

As I am studying through and teaching the Gospel of John I am in awe of just how interconnected this book is. I don’t even know where to start but I will take a stab at it. Jesus comes on the scene as the lamb of God who comes to take away the sins ofContinue Reading

What Is Your Favorite Commentary?

If you had to pick one commentary, which is your favorite? I know that is hard to pick so if you want to do favorite Old Testament and favorite New Testament that works! Here are mine: OT: Robert Alter’s “The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary” NT/Overall: Ben Witherington’s 1 & 2 Corinthians CommentaryContinue Reading

Reading the Bible Contextually: Be Familiar With the Metanarratives

Metanarrative is the concept that in life we have larger stories that we see our lives fitting into. On a personal level it may be that things that were said to you as a child still impact you today…the words your father said or didn’t say still impact the value you see in yourself. OnContinue Reading

Reading the Bible Contextually: Pay Attention to the Whole Point

When we read Paul’s letters they are meticulously crafted and full of rhetoric (the art of making a persuasive argument). There have been entire commentaries devoted to unpacking the rhetoric of the New Testament documents and rightfully so…it is how they made their case in those days. The obstacle we face today is that theContinue Reading


Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Email address