If the image wasn't so chalk full of hubris, it would be quite humorous.
Recently this piece of visual playfulness found me, via my Inbox, courtesy of Martin Brooks, a colleague at Peace Catalyst International. It's a lovely bit, really, depicting how some followers of Jesus see themselves in the lifespan of the historical church. Or, rather, how some of us are prone to miss ourselves—misjudge ourselves—in the grand scheme of the overall narrative.
Therein lies the irony, the satirical and stinging moment of outright truthfulness. And admittedly, the meaning of the image tilts toward the inclinations (machinations?) of a certain swath of American evangelicalism.
Full stop. Consider the global movement that is Christianity. OK, let's carry on.
Realistically, I suppose there are any number of ways to interpret or apply the above image with respect to the historical, theological, ecclesiastical, denominational, or post-denominational movements within Christianity. The point is, no matter which Christianity defines the "we," when we hold up a mirror to ourselves, more often than not it tends to reveal the most complete (in our mind!) Jesus-formed understandings of at least the following biggies: church history, biblical hermeneutics, expressions/forms/styles of church, and identities of association, including parameters or boundaries of inclusion-exclusion.
However, because this particular image so directly spotlights the Johnny-come-lately Christian movements, it becomes impossible to escape the primary (fitting?) target of this easy tease: American evangelicals. Across the denominations, they account for 30-35 percent of the US population. And honestly, which Christians among us seem more likely than evangelicals to offer a Membership Class that is, in effect, (a)historical while at the same time self-indulgent or arrogant—"So this is where our movement came along and finally got the Bible right"?
Evangelicals, I'm sad to say, in their many iterations, just might be the "we" that really does have it really bad for picturing one's tribe at the forefront of much rightness. Aren't we the best ambassadors/representatives that Jesus has ever been privy to? All others can surely exhale now. The arguing can stop already. It is finished.
In fact, Jesus should be so lucky—which is exactly how one of the bright-eyed, absorbing children in the classroom sees it, without any sense of propaganda or dramatic irony. (Obviously, and not a little ironically, evangelicals have not always been the luckiest with regard to detecting irony or actually getting it.)
But without any disrespect to Jesus, I think we should be so lucky as well. I mean, after all, here we are...at the end of the age...finally and in all ways getting it always right. That's incredibly lucky—if you think about it.
By the way, for good measure, "the Truth" is—yes, take a breath; wait for it—quite lucky to have Christians. And no one else. But that's another irony for another day.