The New Testament contains four gospels that tell the story of Jesus’ life. In Greek, gospel literally means good news. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are evangelists who proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Their entire goal is to invite their readers to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Over the centuries, others have retold the gospel story in a rich variety of ways. Jesus’ life has been portrayed through paintings, sculptures, frescoes, stained glass, operas, musicals, theological books, novels, and even animated cartoons. Although the medium might change, the message remains eternal.
In our post-modern world, Christian authors continue to seek fresh new ways to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Contemporary books include The Gospel according to Peanuts, The Gospel according to J. R. R. Tolkien, The Gospel according to Harry Potter, and even The Gospel according to the Simpsons!
Dr. Seuss remains my favorite theologian. When I was a pastor, I found that I could find no better illustrations for biblical principles than I found in Dr. Seuss’s stories. His themes help us to understand what is truly important in life. His messages cause us to think about ourselves in new ways.
Dr. Seuss was born as Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from Dartmouth College and pursued a career in advertising. In his late twenties, Geisel had time on his hands. His contract with Standard Oil prevented him from working on other ad campaigns. However, it did not prohibit writing children’s books.
So in 1938 he published And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street. He used his middle name as a pseudonym because he planned to write “serious” books under his real name. He added the title of “Doctor” because his father had always hoped he would be a physician!
Geisel went on to write over fifty children’s books under the names of Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSeig, and Rosetta Stone. During his career, he received three Oscars, two Emmys, and one Pulitzer Prize. He died in California at 86 years of age in 1991.
In 1957, Geisel published a book featuring a fantastical creature who became the symbol of all things Seussian. In an era of Dick and Jane school books, a publisher at Random House Books challenged Ted Geisel to write something new. Using 223 words from the basic Dolch Reading List, Geisel created a whimsical tale about a cat in a floppy top hat. The Cat in the Hat sparked a revolution in beginning readers’ books.
The author of The Gospel according to Dr. Seuss, James Kemp, wrote that the Cat in the Hat was one of his favorite characters. In an interview, he said: Through him we see that something good can come out of bad circumstances; we are never hopeless.
Kemp’s statement is all the more remarkable when you know his life story. After fifteen years as a United Methodist minister, James was forced to take early retirement due to severe multiple sclerosis. In his mid-forties, he became a quadriplegic. He dictated his writing to his mother, and his wife handled interviews.
Reverend Kemp died in 2006 after battling MS for 20 years. Just before his death, he told his family that he wanted them to “put the fun back into funeral” for his memorial service.
This is the same man who said with absolute conviction: There is always hope in the unlimited richness of God. Most of our problems are trivial. What a lived out affirmation of faith that witnessed to how a Christian lives . . . and dies.
Indeed, there is always hope in God’s grace and love. No matter how big a mess we have made of life, our Lord can clean us up and forgive us for the past. He provides order in the midst of chaos and purpose in the face of meaninglessness. Then Christ restores us to right relationship with self, others, and God.
It is not Seussian rhyme, but another poet put it this way:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.