The kitschy Wesley

By Steve Beard

Several years ago, I spoke at a retreat for the fun-loving students and staff of the University of Kentucky Wesley Foundation. The gathering was held at picturesque Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. On the first night, Dr. George Freeman invited us to have pizza at the World Methodist Council Museum. The World Methodist crew could not have been more gracious. It was a bit surreal, however, to be munching away on pepperoni and double cheese pizza while surrounded by such a stunning collection of Wesleyana and Methodistica – actual phrases for historic Wesleyan and Methodist valuable items.

bobblehead-revInterestingly enough, the Museum has the world’s largest collection of Staffordshire porcelain John Wesley busts and statuettes, about the size of a G.I. Joe action figure. Personally, I loved the fact that we proudly display John Wesley’s death mask. After all, it was Wesley who said on his deathbed, “The best of all is, God is with us.”

When it was time for me to give my talk, I pointed out that the Museum even displayed a lock of John Wesley’s hair. “We have stumbled upon the Graceland of Methodism’s founder,” I said. “Ladies and gentlemen, John Wesley has left the building.”

It may surprise some to discover that I almost have as many books on Elvis as on Wesley in my library. Needless to say, my fandom is eclectic. Furthermore, my office is festooned with kitschy action figures and bobbleheads.

That’s why I got pretty excited when my friend Isaac Hopper got one of the new John Wesley bobbleheads. Isaac is a Ph.D. candidate in Wesley Studies at the University of Manchester. So, what’s an analytical scholar to make of his new toy?

“Wesley always lets me know, with a simple nod of his head, that I have fairly represented him and that he approves of my work,” Hopper reported. “He offers me timely and concise feedback in life’s most pressing situations, and he does so with an ever present smile and dip of his brow. Simply put, when I see Wesley nod in approval, I get the sense that I am moving on toward perfection in love.”

I think that response was a bit tongue in cheek. Well, let’s hope so. Never know with these Ph.D.s. (Kidding.)

Hopper and I are not the only United Methodists who celebrate the bobblehead.

“I’ll take a case,” said Charley Harold, manager of the Cokesbury Store at Asbury Theological Seminary, when she first saw them. “I wish I would have ordered four cases because they have flown off the shelves faster than I ever imagined. We’ve spoken to customers all over the United States! Thankfully, more are in production and should be available at the end of September or the beginning of October. Customers have been raving about what great gifts they make for graduation, birthdays, ordination, and some are even purchasing them now for Christmas gifts.”

Charley told me that John Calvin is predestined to make bobblehead status very soon. I asked her if she had a Karl Barth or a Wolfhart Pannenberg? Sadly, no.

Nevertheless, I’m still holding out that C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Johnny Cash are on some toymaker’s to-do list. In the meantime, I’m thrilled with my new bobblehead.

Although he is usually considered a bit tightly-wound, my favorite Wesley quote will always be, “One design ye are to pursue to the end of time, –– the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity.” While we pursue that goal, it probably doesn’t hurt to crack a smile and gain a little enjoyment from a bobblehead honoring a great man of God.

 Steve Beard is the editor of Good News.

 

 

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