LITTLE CLOWNING HELPS FAMILY SPREAD GOSPEL.
John and Cindy Claussen are fools for the Lord, and they don't mind dressing the part.
Clad as clowns named Leviticus W. Doorknocker and Hannah Hosanna, the Claussens spread the gospel by exchanging their ``Sunday best'' for oversize clothes, floppy shoes and bright-color wigs.
``It's a neat way to put the gospel out there,'' said John Claussen, pastor of First Christian Church in Visalia.
The Claussens have been Christian clowning for 11 years now, following the lead of Floyd Schaffer, a Lutheran pastor who revived the art in the 1960s. Christian clowning has been traced back to the Middle Ages.
``The beauty of the clown is universal,'' John Claussen said. ``With the oversized smile and oversized shoes, the clown takes everyday problems and magnifies them and then somehow stumbles through, and in the end, there's hope.''
Even a clown's makeup tells the story of the gospel, said Cindy Claussen.
``The white goes on first and represents the death of Jesus. Then the bright colors are added, which represent his resurrection,'' she said. ``You tell the whole Christian story in your face.''
Through skits and songs, this dynamic duo provides entertainment and words from the gospel for nursing homes, schools, church organizations, banquets and hospitals.
The Claussens' four children, Jennifer, 11; Gabe, 9; Michael, 6; and Samuel, 5, have watched Leviticus W. Doorknocker and Hannah Hosanna touch hearts for years. Gabe Claussen said he was delighted when his parents finally agreed to let the kids join the act.
``I've been in a couple of their skits before,'' said Gabe, whose clown is called Doc Ology. ``This teaches people about God in a fun way. It's really fun to watch.''
But Gabe's sister, Jennifer, whose clown name Gloria Patri is taken from a Christian hymn, hopes people get more out of it than just fun.
``There's always a message,'' she said.
John Claussen agrees.
``Many times, Leviticus will try to answer a problem with a flat statement or try to bumble his way through it, and Hannah will help him and others in the church to see that there is a solution, and the solution is Christ,'' he said.
Christian clowning in no way makes fun of Christ.
``We become fools for Christ,'' he said. ``First Corinthians 4:10 tells us to be fools for Christ, so we take on that foolishness to lift Christ up.''
And certainly a sermon is never dull when it comes in the form of a clown skit.
``The message of the gospel has been out there for 2,000 years . . . We try to blend the traditional with the contemporary,'' John Claussen said.
The Claussens plan to offer workshops on Christian clowning.
``Christian clowning started for us as a way to teach high school vacation Bible study,'' he said. `It's amazing the effect it's had on people. We've had some people show an interest in learning to do this. It's something that adults and children can get something out of.''
Cindy Claussen said the art of Christian clowning shows that it's OK to have fun as a Christian.
Photo: John Claussen, pastor of the First Christian Churchin Visalia, performs a skit for the Awanas with his wife, Cindy, and children.