Hello, where are the clowns? More clownly, why am they? Clowns are hidden, forever, and hidden. They are both clown and clown. How is clown, clown teeth. Clowns definitely aren’t maybe, or is it? Hello again, I’m Seanbaby and here is reason: I’ve recently finished reading GOD’S CLOWNS: MESSENGERS OF THE GOOD NEWS.
Written in 1990, GOD’S CLOWNS is a 135 page exploration of a metaphor about clowns actually being other things. I can’t stress this enough: it is not a book about how to spread Christ’s message with pies and honks. Nor is it the memoirs of a missionary clown. Those types of books are pretty common. I have an entire section of my library dedicated to them where I weirdly always find my missing scissors, but none of them are like this one. As far as I can tell, aside from one afternoon as a child, the author has never been a clown, Christian or default. He is simply a big fan. No, more than that. This clown nerd, C. Welton Gaddy, has decided nothing is more majestic or important than the clown. They are the center of all life. In many insane, poorly explained ways, they are all life. Let’s get started.
Note: There were no images in GOD’S CLOWNS: MESSENGERS OF THE GOOD NEWS, but when I ordered it from an online bookseller, a nice lady (who must have thought I was a Christian clown) included a free copy of The Clown Ministry Handbook (3rd edition). This was lucky since I, and this is real, only owned the 4th edition. Anyway, this other bonus clown book had more than enough pictures of Christian clowns to illustrate this article. These images are irrelevant to the text, and are merely a haunting presence.
No one will ever love clowns more than C. Welton Gaddy, and even he could only write about clowns for four sentences before they made somebody cry. This opening is the perfect encapsulation of the book. This is a madman blindly sprinting away with a premise. What if we need clowns!? What if they are necessary for all things!? WHAT IF THE ANSWER IS ALREADY YES AND IT’S TIME TO EXPLAIN WHY.
Gaddy also writes like a D student making fun of a C student trying to sound smart in a freshman philosophy class. He is in the first half of the first page of a clown explanation, and they are already reflecting the pathos of desperation to challenge us to entertain redemptive fantasies. Nonsense. Raw, clown-bonered nonsense. And it never changes. If Christian clown hands closed around your throat right now, you would die with a full understanding of God’s Clowns and this book named after them. For everyone else, let’s continue.
This is the story of the time Gaddy got to be a child clown in a parade. Well, most of a parade. His legs weren’t long enough for the whole thing, though his soul was. This is page 2, and clowning is already a transcendent gift of freedom to the human spirit. Gaddy spent some of an afternoon waving at people in a costume, and he writes about it like a dying X-Men recounting their origin story. “As a youth I was hunted for my large shoes, my ‘unnatural’ pie abilities, but t-today I die… a free clown.” What I’m saying is there are no fucking brakes on the part of Gaddy’s brain that imagines clowns.
Clowns aren’t exactly a normal thing to like, but go ahead and like them. This, however, is an absolutely deranged way to put it into words. Clown faces continue to evoke your appreciation? Fucking what. I dare you to put that a crazier way. Oh, they feed on the imaginary in each of us? Fine, I guess that was my fault. Speaking of nuts, Gaddy has some criticism for people on top of parade floats: be far more emotionally vulnerable, you plastic sons of bitches. Fuck you.
Genuinely curious, I searched through the whole book to figure out what the hell is wrong with C. Welton Gaddy. It’s dense, unthinkably thick with clown metaphor and clown description and nothing else. However, I did find this passage of him describing how he thinks children play. It might help us.
So this might explain why Gaddy can’t deal with the thrill of clowning. While trying to picture the kinds of things children play, his only four examples were: pretend to be at church, pretend to be at work, commercial airline pilot, and pretend to be at church. This is more of an observation than a joke, but I guess it’s easy to enjoy clowns when your soul is already dead.
You probably know this, but motivated reasoning is when you decide something then figure out how it’s possible later. Christians do this naturally sinc– you know what? We don’t need to get into this. The important thing is C. Welton Gaddy somehow decided: clowns. They are good, and everything good is them. In a way, what isn’t a clown? The rest of the book is that idea stretched far past its breaking point, and is indistinguishable from a clown representing himself in a murder trial.
Gaddy looked up the word “clown” in the Bible, and didn’t find it. He did find “fool” several times, which is a type of clown, in a way, sort of, so God probably meant all of His prophets were clowns. I went to enough church as a child to know that looking up words in the dictionary and rethinking them with the 3rd or 4th definitions is a normal starting point for a sermon. So when Gaddy started claiming everyone who ever got called a fool in the Bible was technically, when you really think about it, on Team Clown, no big deal. I didn’t understand why he was doing it, or to what end, but it seemed like the ordinary thoughts of an incurious mind killing time before death. I could have put that in a nicer way. C. Welton Gaddy is the religious version of someone explaining how Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Wait, that’s meaner.
After he was done pointing out all the characters in the Bible who were legally clowns because people laughed at them, he moved on to the ultimate clown: Jesus Christ. Again, I have no idea what he is getting out of this. I don’t agree with any of what he’s saying and would call you a fucking idiot if you did, but even if he’s confinced you, fine. Jesus is a clown. Now what? Why lead us here? What is so funny about Jesus?
Ha ha holy shit. We give definitions some wiggle room, and there are a lot of games you can play with words to make a bad point. But fucking Jesus fuck, if you are saying a man getting crucified died an honorary clown because his murderers were sort of ironic… maybe saying things isn’t for you? This is like beheading your neighbor and arguing it was okay by holding up a fish. You’re wrong and crazy in ways that won’t make sense to you, so I’m not going to try. I wouldn’t even know which fish to hold up, you lunatic.
Clowns are rambunctious, yet stoic! Minimalist, yet Santa Fe! And these aren’t just Gaddy’s provably unhinged speculations! He cited an actual “careful student of clowns.” This seems unnecessary, though; since the only other type of clown student is, of course, dead. I am not being cute when I say I have no idea what is going on in this book. It has the structure and content of a nine hour scream. I promise I had no intention of coming in here and making a bunch of murder clown jokes, but read some of this and tell me you feel safe:
I don’t understand why someone would define clowns in increasingly strange ways for 70,000 words. This is something a clown would weep during a dismemberment. The main text is pointless madness and the subtext is a cobra-like penis bite. Despite his love of them, it is not possible to know less about anything than C. Welton Gaddy knows about clowns, who are now every character in the Bible, beacons of joy, icons of revolution, and tortured lovers. And you know what? Why not? They’re unfettered by reality itself:
Now that clowns are defined by any trait, word, or concept and every Biblical character is one, Gaddy starts to consider which secular historical figures might have also been clowns. Now what I want you to do is stop here and think about it. Who do you think is first on his list? What person from history was, when you think about it, a clown? Seriously, think about it. You might really guess it.
. . .
Okay, let’s see if you’re right.
You either guessed Martin Luther King, Jr. or you’re a goddamn coward.
Admit it: even after Martin Luther King Jr., you weren’t expecting to read “prisoners of World War II and Vietnam. Talk about clowns!” If clown ever meant anything before this book, it doesn’t now. Clown is a scurry of legs fleeing from the light. It’s a smell on the wind that lets you know you’re prey. It’s the pure laughter of a child playing church accountant.
Now that you know what a clown is, let’s discuss laughter. It’s what you think of when you think of clowns, along with Vietnam POWs… Martin Luther King, Jr…. the hilarious death of Jesus. Gaddy lists the three main types of clown laughter: fear, trauma, and fake. Wait, holy fuck, I wasn’t kidding. I listed three things no one could possibly use as the pillars of laughter and somehow Gaddy went back and… h-how did he do that?
Chapter four! Time to lose our mind a little bit more! We need clowns, we simply must have them. Please, I beg of you: clowns. We need them, I’m not sure I’m making myself clear, give clowns unto us, Amen.
I guess Gaddy wasn’t done listing civil rights leaders who were plainly clowns. Which, again, is his highest compliment. What’s interesting about Rosa Parks is that when Gaddy calls her a clown he is suddenly sarcastic. And I’m speaking with the benefit of a brain unpoisoned by clown enthusiasm, but I would say the sentence where you describe Rosa Parks’ dignity is the wrong moment to try sarcasm for the first time. And it’s, I don’t know, interesting that Gaddy considers the cops who arrested her to also be clowns. What cards! Rosa Parks and the 1955 Alabama PD– just one big team of silly billies working together to make us do all three types of laughter!
Our need for clowns is quite urgent and can’t be overstated, even this late in the book. We need clowns, we need at least some clowns. Everyone is clowns, yes, but still: we will literally die if we are away from clowns for too long. This needs no explanation, and this book has no meaningful structure, so it’s time to move on to more historical clowns.
To the starving people of Calcutta, Mother Teresa was an angel. To everyone else, a little clown.
Clowns tell the truth. Are you fat? Clowns know. Are you irrational? Clowns are Martin Luther King, Jr.. They express grief. They refuse to comply with conventional goodness, fears are screamed aloud. What were we talking about? Irrational? Ha ha ha ha ha irrational!?
Maybe C. Welton Gaddy wasn’t clear enough with you, reader. Tell him where the clowns are. He needs them. Or maybe they need him. In fact, maybe they are terribly sad. Maybe we’re asking too much of them to be all things and people in our life. This is the book adaptation of leaping from a bush to steal a second grader. I have never seen an idea so tiny get stretched so far. If you took the skin of a clown and wrapped it around a van, it would be exactly the same as GOD’S CLOWNS in every relevant way.
You don’t have to be a Jim Crow-era police officer or a sad, beleaguered soul to be a clown. You could be a teenager who doesn’t fuck or the kind of person who doesn’t tell a sick man to “just give up and die” like his unperceptive friends. These are all normal things to think and type. Seriously, we all joke about clowns being scary, but how else would you describe this book? I caught it trying to crawl down my throat while I slept. When I threw it in a fire, the voices of fourteen lost children said thank you. And when it reappeared unburnt the next day, the same voices told me I’d made a mistake.
Aside from everything else, I hate the way Gaddy talks. “Ah, my inventing cap has been donned and mayfor by happenstance, methinks a clown convention there should be!” This dumb fucking shit thinks he’s a clown expert, but he came up with the idea of a clown convention seven years after the World Clown Association’s first clown convention. Which means the clowns, all of them, made a clown agreement to not invite the author of GOD’S CLOWNS to the clown party. This is like writing a book on marriage and saying, “we should come up with a way for women to have sex,” but only after spending 130 pages explaining how women are, at their essence, Martin Luther King, Jr..
Oh good, he ended his book non-insanely. With the forbidden words clowns use to echolocate in the dark. The author brings up an important point, though. For Christ’s sake, where are the clowns, where are the clowns? Where are they then, fuck, the clowns must be near. But where, Amen.
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