The clown is preparing for his evening act at the circus. He puts on the ridiculous polka dot body suit. Next he slips his giant rubber feet into place and pulls on his red wig. Carefully he applies the colorful makeup to his features. Then, just as he pops on the big red clown nose, he notices smoke coming from under his dressing room door. In a moment the clown leaps up out of his chair, out the door and down the narrow hallway. In a series of bounding steps, his large rubber feet take him out of the darkened hallway and out into the bright lights of the big top in front of a sea of cheering faces.
“There’s a fire under the big top!” he yells.
In a moment the elephants stop their performance. The tigers look over curiously. The… And every eye focuses on the clown. And then, as if on cue, everyone bursts into laughter. They roar. Mirth fills the tent as tears roll down people’s cheeks.
The clown looks on stunned. “Perhaps they didn’t hear me,” he says to himself. So he begins jumping up and down even more earnestly, waving his hands and yelling with a stentorian voice: “Fire! Leave the building!”
That sends the audience into even deeper gales of laughter. And every successive attempt fails equally because there is nothing so amusing as a clown that is trying to be serious.
What we need is for the clown to stop, take a look at himself in the mirror, and realize the way others are looking at him. He needs to realize that he is dressed up like a clown. And he’ll never make any headway with the audience until he comes to terms with the fact.
The problem for many Christian apologists today is that other people view them as clowns, dressed up in ridiculous garb. Impossible to take seriously.
Flying spaghetti monsters? Invisible pink unicorns?
How about the doctrine of the Trinity? Biblical inerrancy? The atonement?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how important your message, or the kind of evidence you have to support it. When people are convinced that you are absurd they won’t hear you anymore.
So if apologists want to be heard, they shall first have to address the perception that they are dressed as clowns. Once people are able to hear them seriously they can then listen carefully to what they have to say.