A self-styled irreverent theological writer has paraphrased the Biblical book of Revelation in the style of poetic children's author Dr Seuss.
The cover of Steve Case's book Fun Rhymes for the End Times is careful to point out that it's not actually aimed at children, but the content within is unmistakably similar in tone to the famous series of American kids books.
In fact, the blurb includes the line 'if you are a fan of that author who is famous for his work about green holiday haters and felines wearing head apparel... you will enjoy this book'. Yet while Case's book is light hearted, it is also a serious effort at communicating the themes and messages of Revelation with both relevance and accuracy.
An example paragraph illustrates the style and the idea fairly well:
'Hidey-ho all you people! It's me, your friend John.
from here on this island I've been sitting upon.
I give you this message: a great prophecy
From the God who was then and is now and shall be.'
...and so it goes on, without letup, for 77 pages. The author is clearly both a Seuss fan and has absorbed the familiar style of the pen-named author's long-running book series. If nothing else, it's impressively consistent.
Like the Bible book on which it's based, Case's paraphrase has 22 chapters, although unlike it's source material also has a series of black and white illustrations which may or may not be intended as therapeutic colouring pages. Each chapter retells the prophetic narrative of Revelation, beginning with a series of 'Memos' to the seven churches in Ephesus, Smyrna and so on, and ending with the vision of a new heaven and earth.
The tone is fun, and while it occasionally trips (mainly due to mild bad language) into territory that might offend some Christians, the book does a pretty good job of unpacking the themes and ideas in the original book. It can't begin to compete with the dense richness of John's writing of course, and at times it feels flippantly lightweight, although that's probably the point. Some bits work better than others: telling the church in Laodicea 'you have become a church full of beige' is borderline genius, while at times the constraints of a form that requires every single line to rhyme gives birth to some absolute linguistic abominations ('well at first I thought it was the circle of Kings, who must have made lunch of chili cheese onion rings').
Despite the slightly hit-and-miss nature, it's a really creative and interesting piece of Biblical engagement, which reminds us that while the good book is God's word, it's not actually God. We should feel safe to play and have fun with the text – after all if it's good enough for children's ministry, doing so should be good enough for the rest of us. And if a non-Christian ever stumbles on to a copy of Fun Rhymes for the End Times by accident, perhaps they'll even have their preconceptions about the Christian faith helpfully challenged. Revelation is weird, and so this strangely wonderful new version doesn't just feel aptly odd, but also might just help some people find a way into one of the Bible's most difficult-to-grasp books.
Fun Rhymes for the End Times: The Book of Revelation in Rhyme is available from Amazon.com.