Caricature is a very popular art form which we see almost daily. The term comes from the Italian word caricare, which means to charge or load. In other words, a caricature is a “loaded portrait.”
The key to caricature is to take an obvious trait of a person or thing, and exaggerate it. The result can be either flattering or insulting, but is always unmistakably recognizable as a representation of the subject. It is very common to see celebrities and politicians portrayed in this manner in newspapers and magazines.
No doubt you have seen cartoon caricatures of Jay Leno with an over-exaggerated chin. While Jay Leno’s chin is pronounced, the caricature obviously goes way beyond what would be a true depiction. President Bush is often depicted with large, protruding ears. While this has come to be a common aspect of caricatures of the president, it is clearly an invention: not representing a real image of Mr. Bush.
Some go even further, adding elements based on perception, or for effect. Because of his ideology, Charles Darwin is sometimes drawn with a monkey’s body. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is often drawn to look like a parrot on President Bush’s shoulder, with the artist including the mandatory, exaggerated gap between her front teeth. In each case, the object which the artist is depicting is unmistakable, even at a glance.
It is possible to create an ideological caricature as well. Comic impersonators will zero in on a number of traits, real or perceived, that are characteristic of the subject. The use of exaggerated gestures, creative inflection, and repetition of certain phrases can often produce a comical portrayal of a well-known personage.
Stereotype is another way to create an ideological caricature. While my last name is of Scotch-Irish origin, I am not a drunken, red-headed, kilt-clad riverdancer. While we all know stereotypes to be an exaggeration of certain traits expressed within a particular culture (traits we have no doubt also witnessed as true to some extent), we also know that they are not an accurate description of that culture as a whole. The way a stereotype is created is by observing the actions or characteristics of the more obvious elements of a particular culture, and making a mental image, assuming that said actions or characteristics can be universally applied to all members of that culture.
Ultimately, any caricature can be characterized as a perversion. It is an image warped out of proportion, created either by deliberation or ignorance. They are, in fact, distortions – sometimes gross distortions – of the true.
In this manner, there are likely more caricatures of God than of any other being in history. Believers and unbelievers alike are prone to take a very few particular aspects of God, and distort them, or give them a prominence outside of their proper perspective. It is like the story of the three blind men who tried to describe an elephant: one grabbed the animal by the leg and supposed elephants resembled trees; the second grabbed him by the tail and said the elephant was like a rope; likewise, the third grabbed the snout and deduced that elephants were like snakes. Were any of them wrong? Not exactly, but each failed to see the bigger picture, not realizing the true scope of the beast. To take any one particular scripture regarding the nature of God is equally ill advised.
Is God love? Yes! Is God merciful? Of course He is! He does not delight in the destruction of the wicked, yet He is just and able to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.
The wicked desire to emphasize certain aspects of our Lord in an attempt to silence the righteous, but they are ignorant of God. They neither know Him at all, nor they want to know Him. In like manner, the righteous are also apt to emphasize an aspect of God’s nature, while forgetting to duly acknowledge the rest of His attributes. This was the indictment of Jesus against the Pharisees in Luke 11:42, “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
Throughout history, false religions have taken small aspects of God and attributed them individually to a unique deity. Though each religion had their own versions of these gods, we may be most familiar with their Greek or Roman names, or possibly their Norse names. Take for instance the gods of Olympus: there was Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Apollo, the god of the Sun; Ares, the god of war; Artemis, the goddess of the Moon; Athena, the goddess of wisdom; Demeter, the goddess of agriculture; Hades, the god of the dead; Hephaestus, the god of fire; Hera, the goddess of marriage; Hermes, the god of travel; Hestia, the goddess of the hearth; Poseidon, the god of the sea; and, of course, Zeus, the king of the gods, the god of thunder and lightning.
Whereas, even the Greek gods’ king was limited in power, the God of scripture, the true and living God, Jehovah Elohim is the Almighty God! The scriptures show the greatness of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: God is love (1 John 4:8); God makes the Sun to rule by day, and the Moon to rule by night (Psa. 136:8-9); the Lord is a man of war (Ex. 15:3); it is the Lord that gives wisdom (Pro. 2:6); God sends the rain and makes the crops grow (Psa. 104:10-16); He has the power to raise the dead (Rom. 8:11); He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29); God invented, defined and honors marriage (Gen. 2:18-25); He determines the fate of our journey (Gen. 24:21,56); He causes the governors of His people to be as a hearth (Zech. 12:6); He rules the raging sea (Psa. 89:9); and from His great throne proceed lightnings and thunderings (Rev. 4:5). All of the gods of Mount Olympus together do not equal the God of gods! He is great and greatly to be praised.
God is all and in all. He is not like the Pharisees who focused on obeying the letter of the law, while sometimes failing to heed the spirit of the law. Nor is He like the many deities fabricated by man, whose scope and power are limited in every way through human imaginations. He leaves no stone unturned. He is both loving and vengeful. He is both merciful and just. He is both full of compassion and full of wrath. He gives His people the power to get wealth and remembers to visit the poor in their affliction.
It is perverse to limit our emphasis of God to any one particular truth. The word of the Lord says that the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart. For us to truly know God, and understand who He is and what His will is for mankind in general, and for us in particular, we must get a complete picture. This picture He Himself has painted in the pages of His holy word: not on just one particular page, but upon all of them – from Genesis to Revelation and everything in between!
Let us set our hearts to worship God as He is, in the way He desires to be worshipped. Let us not compromise His greatness through a caricature of our own inadequate understanding. Let us worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let us walk after the Lord our God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and serve him, and cleave unto him. “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. … He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen” (Deut. 10:17-21).