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The Power of Parody

I love parodies. I always have.

I have been a Weird Al fan for as long as I can remember. His renditions of pop songs have been stuck in my head all of my life, and he is still at it. Just recently I caught his parody of “Royals” by Lorde. The parody, called “Foil,” imitates the original, but then spins off first into a QVC style advertisement for aluminum foil, then dives further into the paranoid world of a foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist. Add in Patton Oswalt as the frustrated director, and you have a great parody.

We’ve all seen or heard a parody. A parody takes an original song or movie and reproduces it in a way just similar enough to be easily recognizable, but at the same time fundamentally different.

We typically make parodies for our amusement, but consider for a moment the real power of parody. A parody makes you forget the original. For just that moment, while you are listening to the parody, you cannot remember how the original song went. This song, the parody, becomes the song. The parody, as long as it holds our attention, is the real song. In fact, you might have that brief moment while listening to a parody when you say to yourself, “Wow, this is better than the original!” It’s a strange trance that falls over us, and it remains the reason why parodies are always popular.

My favorite New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, loves to use this word “parody” to describe the relationship between Jesus and the powers of this world.

“Jesus succeeded where Adam failed; he completed the task assigned to Israel; and he is the reality of which Caesar is the parody.” 1

“Paul’s point is this: that the resurrection has declared Jesus of Nazareth, descended from David, truly to be the Messiah, ‘son of God’ in that sense. This carried, once more, enormous political significance in a world where Caesar was the son of a god and the lord of the world; the resurrection has marked Jesus out as the true world ruler, the one of whom Caesar is a mere parody.” 2

Christ is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, but this world is full of parodies. The parodies are those imitations of Jesus’ reality that lure us into amusement for a time and cause us to forget what is true. As long as we listen to their version of the song, we cannot remember what the original sounded like. In fact, we will find ourselves tempted to say, “Wow, this is better than the original.”

But of course it isn’t.

The reality of Christ and his kingdom is greater than anything this world has to offer us in his place. Our worship and our spiritual disciplines are methods of reminding ourselves of the reality over the parody. When we worship, the world’s joke fades away and we hear the sweet strains of the original song, see the scenes of the authentic story, experience the reality of the true cosmos.

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