Monday, February 22, 2010

Jesus was purple and other stuff

I was ready to start complaining about shoveling the driveway again after a Sunday afternoon and evening snowfall, then here came the neighbor with a big snow blower to finish off the job I’d started at 7. I’ve nothing to complain about now. It’s a beautiful, sunny, very cold morning and a great day to be alive.

It looked to me like about four inches as I shoveled the drive to the point where the house-paralleling sidewalk joins it, then the sidewalk, before coming inside for coffee. The amount increased as you got closer to the Missouri state line, I understand, and schools here and to the south are out for the day again.


How about that Bode Miller (above), now redeemed after disappointment in Torino; the U.S. hockey team (didn’t you feel kind of sorry for Canada, though?); spectacular U.S. and Canadian ice dancing teams; and Apollo Anton Ohno, always fun to watch? I’m looking forward to women’s figure skating. Without serious U.S. contenders it’ll be easier to root for entries from other nations.

Best enjoy the Olympics while we can, since lesser fare will return after the weekend and I can send the television into semi-retirement again. Already there have been adverts featuring a smirking Jay Leno tooling along a highway somewhere in one of his Corvettes, reminding us he’ll be back to late night come next week. Sort of reminded me of the words spoken in church last Wednesday as the priest made the sign of a cross in ashes on our foreheads, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”


Sir Elton John made news in some religious circles recently by stating in an interview with Parade magazine (who knew Parade was still around?) that he envisioned Jesus as a “compassionate, super intelligent gay man who understood human problems.” After that remark bit him on the ass, he hastened to explain that he was not suggesting Jesus was gay, merely that as a gay man that was how he experienced Him. We create God in our own or other peculiar images all the time, after all, and so long as it’s done respectfully I doubt Jesus minds.

I started out in life thinking Jesus was purple, for example. The fault lay with a large framed lithograph my parents received as a wedding gift that depicted a rather glamorous long-haired, bearded and berobed Jesus sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, all executed in shades of rich plum. I have a Catholic friend similarly misinformed and actually traumatized by a similarly pretty and romantic European vision of Jesus, only with his chest ripped open to display His sacred heart.

Out of deference to the givers, my parents displayed that picture on a living room wall when I was very small, then transferred it to a bedroom and finally to the storeroom, where it reposed until my mother dispatched it to an undisclosed location (she never would tell).

As the years passed, I saw other depictions --- all similar to the wedding gift version, similarly pretty with European features --- but without the purple skin. Someone finally broke the news that we hadn’t a clue as to what Jesus really looked like, other than the facts He probably resembled other raggedy, poor orthodox Jews of his time and place but had a commanding enough physical presence to facilitate his efforts to draw a crowd. I’ve since seen Jesus portrayed as black, as Asian and even with a cigarette and beer in hand. Again, I doubt Jesus minds.

And it’s possible to understand, beyond the “own image” factor, why some might suggest Jesus was gay --- a single man in his 30s who associated for the most part with other men, but occasionally in a respectful, non-sexual way with strong women. But if you think it through and contrast the way it was then with the way it is now, it becomes evident that this theory is as unlikely as the competing heterosexual proposal that Jesus married (perhaps Mary Magdalene) and had children. That old notion got its most recent airing in the wildly popular “Da Vinci Code.”

And so it goes. We have a terrible time with the nature of Jesus, which as Christians we confess is both fully human and fully divine --- not dual, but fused. Nonplussed by the vision of our Saviour taking a leak among the bushes along the road to Jerusalem, we want a Jesus fully divine who understands the human condition but who floats above it and certainly never was troubled by an overflowing bladder. And that misses the point. It’s also useful to remember we serve a risen Savior, and not one stuck somewhere in the clouds 2,000 years ago or so, still dressed in sandals and robes.

Interesting stuff to think about. My Jesus is neither obviously heterosexual or homosexual, but does wear bluejeans and, since this is southern Iowa, Carhart and now and then cowboy boots even though he has neither a horse nor a cow and wouldn’t know what to do with either if one or the other appeared.

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