You Have A Platform —
For Persuasion or Expression
Years ago, while working on my Master’s degree from Bowling Green State University, I was interested in Al Capp. In fact, as I was considering the direction I would go in writing my Master’s Thesis at BGSU, it was first of all a decision between doing an empirical or a “biographical” study. After deciding to go the “biographical” or “historical” route, it became a decision between Al Capp or Garner Ted Armstrong.
It was a close race in my mind, but I ended up writing my Master’s Thesis on Garner Ted Armstrong – a well-known and effective radio preacher, second in charge, of the Worldwide Radio Church of God. The leader was his father, Herbert W. Armstrong.
Nevertheless, I have never lost interest in Al Capp. During those graduate years, Al Capp was a speaker who traveled across America’s university campuses and charged up the academic institutions of that day. Today, we might call him the “Ben Shapiro” of the Viet Nam University era.
However, Al Capp is also known to many on a far different level. Al Capp was the creator and artist behind “Li’l Abner.” This famous comic strip appeared in every newspaper across American from 1934 until 1977 – a 43-year run!*
“[It had] 60 million readers in over 900 American newspapers and 100 foreign papers in 28 countries. Author M. Thomas Inge says Capp “had a profound influence on the way the world viewed the American South.”
I would suggest from my study of him since the 60’s that “Li’l Abner” ended in 1977 because Al Capp wasn’t funny anymore.
And Capp wasn’t funny because of two dynamics which were operating.
√ First, because his art and craft of comical relief became politically infected.
Al Capp was a liberal-left leaning American icon in the 60’s. Steve Heller, in an article from the liberal Atlantic magazine, February 28, 2013, states . . . .
“[Denis Kitchen] he witnessed Capp’s transformation “from a progressive figure to a student-hating, pro-Vietnam War pal of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. . . . . Keep in mind that he was still liberal-left enough to campaign for Johnson in 1964. He started to change shortly afterward, when he saw and was angered by the activism on the college campuses across the United States.” – Heller
“The reasons have less to do with fashions in newspaper comics than with trends in newspaper politics. In the mainstream media, the man in cap and bells wins ovations so long as he toes the line, mocking red-staters and GOP conservatives. But woe to the jester who kids the Left.” — [Exile in Dogpatch: The curious neglect of cartoonist Al CappStefan Kanfer Spring 2010]
√ Second, because he was more interested in expression than persuasion.
Capp loved to speak to the college and university students. However, it was not because he loved the students at the various elite campuses, but because he wanted to express his disdain for them, for their elitism, as seen in their political and social beliefs.
“He had no patience for what he felt were privileged kids attending college on their parents’ money, raising hell and showing disrespect toward all authority figures, talking like know-it-alls when they actually were very limited in experience, and so on.”
I say all this for two reasons . . . .
√ First, because Al Capp provides a great insight into what is happening today in our culture and in the realm of Christian ministry. Ministries are mixing biblical truth with politics, and the result may well be the same — I frankly don’t believe the words “may well,” but since I am not a prophet I avoided saying “The result is going to be the same — and worse” — which is what I truly believe.
The disdain that some ministries express towards various groups, movements and people groups is not at all unlike that of Al Capp.
√ Second, because Al Capp moved from persuasion to expression. He loved addressing the college and university crowds which filled the auditoriums. In fact, he was invited to address the student body, and he would even field questions from the student body . . . .
Q: “What do you think about modern music, Mr. Capp?”
A: “I think that those animals can be taught to make human sounds.”
Capp was interested in expression, not persuasion. As I listened to and read the various speeches Capp gave across American, that was the conclusion I kept coming back to as I looked at his public speaking methods, words, approach, and techniques. That was going to be the driving premise I was going to establish in that Master’s thesis, which was never written.
He wasn’t interested in persuasion. He was focused on expression. He wanted a platform to express his thinking, opinions, vantages, interpretations of culture, and his personal feelings towards this elite group of “educated social hillbillies” which have no appreciation for authority, American culture, and/or America.
Al Capp illustrates a tendency which “may well” infect biblical preaching and teaching — more interested in expression than persuasion. There are some preachers who are more interested in using the platform to express his or her thinking, opinions, vantages, interpretations of culture, and his-her personal feelings towards what they deem as “constitutional hillbillies” [i.e., those who would like to limit the Second Amendment rights of Americans – etc.], than the simple, glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus!
The eternal nature of both heaven and hell are put on the back-burner and eternity takes second place to political issues because some are more interested in using the speaking platform for expression than persuasion.**
I would like to include some examples of expression over persuasion, but the examples may be too close to home for some who revere this-or-that speaker, and far too many to choose from within some religious circles. — Who would you pick as more interested in expression than moving those who need Christ closer to the kingdom and the simplicity of the Gospel?
*”Alfred Gerald Caplin, better known as Al Capp, was an American cartoonist and humorist best known for the satirical comic strip Li’l Abner, which he created in 1934 and continued writing and drawing until 1977. He also wrote the comic strips Abbie an’ Slats and Long Sam. He won the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year, and their 1979 Elzie Segar Award, posthumously for his “unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning.”
“He coined expressions such as “hogwash” and “double-whammy” and invented Sadie Hawkins Day, when girls and women get to ask boys and men on a date.”
**Yes, there were occasions where what was preached by various prophets was highly offensive. HOWEVER, notice three dynamics which operated in those situations . . . .
- The Truths: Such speeches, as those of the prophets, were biblical, moral, and spiritual truths.
- The Governmental Structure: The nation of Israel was a theocracy, and there were socio-cultural and/or political issues which were addressed – justice – mercy – humility – equity – moral purity – etc.
- The Audience: They were directed towards the most hardened and/or culpable/complicit religious leaders, not the common man, but the “preachers” who twisted and deviated from their true ministry.
AND even with these dynamics operating, the voice of God through His prophets and apostles was still not aimed at expression, but to persuade.