Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who are you, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo

Every time I look at you I don't understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand?...
Don't you get me wrong
I only want to know
---"Superstar", from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar

Do you think Jesus knew what he was starting? Did he have any idea when he was dying on the cross what would happen to his legacy? When he told Simon Peter that he was going to build his church, did he have his fingers crossed behind his back, saying to himself "oh God, please don't let him screw it up?"? When Pat Robertson opens his mouth does Jesus sit up in heaven and think "oh crap, he's at it again"?

Of course he knew what would happen. He's God, right? When God created Adam and Eve he/she/it obviously knew that they would eat the fruit, otherwise he wouldn't be God. So when Jesus made his final instructions to his disciples, telling them to preach the gospel, start Christian rock bands and sing "Kumbayah" a lot, he knew that some of those future disciples would be real a**holes.

Don't you get me wrong- I only want to know.

Christ you know I love you
Did you see I waved?
---"Simon Zealotes", Jesus Christ Superstar

So let's imagine Jesus walking through the sands of time. The church starts, everything is cool, the Romans hate their guts but the believers give a collective middle finger to the Romans and meet anyway. The Romans throw them to lions and find many other ways to separate the believers from their lives, but it doesn't matter. They have a fresh vision of Jesus. Jesus is all that matters to them. Some of them even saw the man face to face. It's all about the man from Galilee.

Then when we retire, we can write the Gospels
So they'll still talk about us when we've died.
---"The Last Supper", Jesus Christ Superstar

Gospels are floating around now. Everybody and their brother put pen to paper and churn out Gospels like network TV churns out reality shows. And even if someone didn't know Jesus personally, they probably knew a friend of a friend who shared the Passover meal with an apostle's cousin, and if they say Jesus would have done something this way, he probably would have.

And so it began.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
---Matthew 16:13-15"

And the people said, 'Let us make Jesus in our own image, after our own likeness.'" Over the course of time people began to develop interpretations of who Jesus was based on what they wanted him to be. The apostles ordained successors, and so on and so on, and Jesus smiled on the whole chain. Jesus automatically approved of everything the Church did, because after all, he started the thing. Right?

Pretty soon Martin Luther said "you know, screw this" and broke off, starting a revolution that revolved around the belief that Jesus wouldn't make us do works, it's all about grace. Jesus wouldn't approve of this hierarchy stuff…Jesus would want us to read the Bible for ourselves…Jesus wouldn't baptize infants- what do they know, anyway? And branches continued to fall from the tree.

Look at the artwork. Jesus Christ became a white man from the Middle Ages instead of the man of Middle Eastern descent that he actually was. In the 1700's and 1800's Jesus had no problems with people owning slaves because, well, that's what the people wanted so they projected it onto Jesus. Marcus Garvey said that Jesus was a black man, because he wanted him to be one. To the emerging women's movement Jesus was the first feminist. After all, Mary Magdalene was the first to see him after his resurrection, so to hell with all the tired old white guys running the show- Jesus obviously favored bra burning and reproductive freedom. To the hippies Jesus was the first hippie rebel. He stood up to the man, man! He fought the power! He had long hair and a lot of crazy ideas about love and freedom. "Not so fast," the fundamentalist movement intoned. Jesus didn't have long hair- long hair was a shame to a man. To them Jesus was a short haired Bible thumper- just like them. Jack Hyles even wrote a book entitled "Jesus Had Short Hair." Jesus was the original fightin', feudin' fundamentalist who spoke in King James English. 1611, straight from heaven baby!

There must be over fifty thousand
Screaming love and more for you.
And everyone of fifty thousand
Would do whatever you asked them to.
Keep them yelling their devotion,
But add a touch of hate at Rome.
You will rise to a greater power.
We will win ourselves a home.
You'll get the power and the glory
For ever and ever and ever

---"Simon Zealotes", Jesus Christ Superstar

Along about 1976 Jesus Christ took the form of a peanut farmer from Georgia. Oops, my bad- that was Jimmy Carter. Same initials, though. A born-again in the White House- who woulda thunk it? But he was a Democrat, so he was destined to disappoint the crowd who was quickly seeing Jesus as the first Republican. When the 1980 elections rolled around old J.C. found himself thrown out on his peanut shells. The world had a new savior- old Ronald Wilson Reagan himself, the great white hope.

In 1987 and 1988, when Bakker and Swaggart took a dive, it was no longer cool to say "Jesus Is Lord." Smacked too much of pushy televangelists and an image Christians were trying to get away from. Jesus was your buddy, your friend. He's not going to push anything on you, man! He just wants to share a Budweiser and some smokes with you, maybe shoot a round of pool or go club-hopping. He was straight-edge before Fugazi took their first breath. Jesus was a vegan- he wouldn't have eaten poor, defenseless animals! Lamb of God? Oh , umm, well….

How about the pro-life crowd? "Jesus loves the little children…" they intoned while chaining themselves to abortion mills. Some of them got the idea that it might be kind of cool to kill a few doctors- after all, Jesus did say "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force." Most of that same pro-life crowd are now pleased that we're killing a lot of Iraqis and Afghanis for Christ. After all, George Bush is a man of God, and Jesus told him to invade Iraq. Too bad Jesus didn't tell him where the weapons were.

And now 2011 is here, and the whole thing has just bogged down into a big, giant mess. The Libs have Jesus as a union man, standing for the poor and downtrodden and cool with anything you choose to do, unless you choose to vote Republican, in which case even Jesus will never forgive what you do; the Sweet Neo-cons (thank you, Mick Jagger) view Jesus as an all-American man's man, a cross between John Walton and John McCain, dishing out punishment to unfaithful Demoncrats and serving up tea (although it tastes more like Kool-Aid). And most of the people identifying themselves as Christians, Christ-followers, Jesus People, whatever label they choose in order to disassociate from those they disagree with, they have taken up sides in some unholy spiritual civil war.

Always hear me complain, and you listen in once more,
I know everything your bride's against, but I don't know what she's for,
So, don't mistake my anger for bitterness and strife,
'Cause on bended knee I'm begging you, "Please Jesus, talk to your wife."

---"The Bride Song", Dead Artist Syndrome

A few years ago a fellow blogger challenged me to say who I believed Jesus is. I had every intention of making that an essay, but then I realized that it would be pointless. Nobody really cares who Jesus was, is or shall be. They only care about the carefully crafted image they've made of Jesus.

You want a statement of belief from me? OK. Jesus is Lord. The implications of that statement are still being determined.

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe

---"One of Us", Eric Bazilian (performed by Joan Osborne)


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