What make you of this tract’s cover image? It intrigued me enough to lay out 50c at the religious bookshop, anyway.
Now note the angle of the shot. Interesting choice, isn’t it, shot from the top, concentrating on the forehead and eyes, rest of the body foreshortened? Who else do we ever see photographed like that?
Many of you may not be able to come up with an immediate answer, but as I’ve spent the last few weeks building a site that is a directory of Australian live comedy, I can tell you right away: it’s a standard PR shot for comedians (one that’s becoming a little overdone, BTW), but anyway: it’s a standard representation of people that the rest of us are not meant to take seriously.
It screams whimsical, weird-thinking, ridiculous. You never see a serious dramatic character or action hero character shot in this way. It’s enough of a cliche for the Simpsons to mock it in a PR image of Bart.
Do most people know this consciously? Probably not, including the person(s) who selected this image. But there’s a very good reason that comedians are shot from this angle for their publicity headshots and actors are not: it distorts the proportions so that the person doesn’t look quite real. This is great for comedy, but not great for conveying drama or moral authority. Choosing this image for the cover definitely sends the message that ultimately, these evangelists feel that a skeptical attitude to religion is not a serious intellectual position that should be treated with respect, it is just a trifling squib of an unreasonable objection, to be treated as a joke.
The tract itself pleasantly surprised me by not using the Pascal’s Wager argument once. Perhaps Homer Simpson’s succinct two sentence rebuttal has finally put paid to the use of that one as a staple?
(Here’s another comic rebutting the PW argument.)
Grateful as I am to have been spared that particular insult to the intellect, this ministry is still operating on a woefully incorrect premise in how they have approached this piece of outreach. This is the description of the content from the website:
In the age of The Da Vinci Code, it can be difficult to explain the gospel when all your attempts are met with a heavy dose of scepticism. But are the people you talk to really sceptics, or have they just closed their minds to the evidence?
Jesus for Sceptics is our new tract, perfect for Easter or any other evangelistic opportunity. It explains that a healthy dose of scepticism can be a good thing, because a true sceptic will look at the evidence and weigh it up for themselves, rather than taking someone else’s word for it, or closing their mind to it. It also explains why Jesus’ death and resurrection are of such momentous significance.
What they basically end up doing, after a bit of an excursion around urban legends and The Da Vinci Code, is recommending that the sceptical approach the issue with an open mind and read at least one Gospel and some other books about the historicity of Christ. Note the assumption that a skeptic couldn’t possibly have already done this and come to a considered conclusion that has nothing to do with a closed mind to the arguments! It’s just that these arguments are far from new to the average skeptic, who has examined, weighed and found them lacking persuasiveness years ago. There’s simply no compelling new incentive to read them yet again.
Nonetheless, I’m all for people with unanswered questions actually doing exactly what they recommend, because I’m totally with Isaac Asimov:
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for Atheism ever conceived.”