If you visit a city that has an artists’ quarter you’re likely to see artists drawing caricatures. In Montmartre, in Paris, I’ve stood admiring their skill and sense of humour as they’ve grotesquely distorted the features of those sitting before them who then, amazingly, paid them for the pleasure.
Artists aren’t the only ones who draw caricatures; words work too.
Journalists, for example, are very good at this. They write a picture, such as of the NHS, whose likeness we may find hard to recognise because our experience paints a very different picture. Yet, if the target of their caricatures is Government ministers, NHS trust managers or bureaucrats we may well be more likely to believe their picture.
What picture has the church painted? If we’re honest the picture has been both ‘Big Mouthed… Small Hearted’ as well as being ‘Big Hearted… Small Mouthed’. Both versions of this picture have existed side by side; but we know which caricature is better known. The ‘Big Mouthed… Small Hearted’ caricature fills our history, our fiction, our films, our sit coms, our theatre, our comedy to such an extent that it’s no longer thought of as a caricature but the only truth.
It’s time to start redrawing the picture.
This caricature was particularly expressed when the church was the heart and soul of our culture and country; when words were easily said and lifestyle easily assumed. We now live in a very different world. We are now a minority, one voice amongst many, a voice with no privileges, no frills, no guarantees. We now live in a world indifferent to words but open to being won over by large hearts.
Living as a minority will take getting used to, but it is who we are and where we are. It’s about a different way of thinking. It’s about recognising churches are strange and unfamiliar places. It’s about learning to live a different way of loving. It is about being as large hearted as we can be as we learn to reflect our large hearted God into a world asking, is this the love, that I’ve been searching for?