Monday, October 17, 2011

"Dear Lord Baby Jesus"

I've always have trouble understanding Jesus. I hear him referred to as "sweet precious Jesus" and I think, "What kind of Jesus is that? I don't find him in my gospels."

I love the scene in "Taladega Nights" (I don't recommend seeing the whole movie, unless you don't mind a lot of crassness.) when Will Ferrell is praying over dinner with his family, and prays to "Dear Lord Baby Jesus." This scene grows in hilarity as his friends and family members stop his prayer about 4 times to inform him that Jesus grew up and is no longer a baby. Will gets really mad raging that they can pray to "teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus or whatever kind of Jesus they want" but that that he prefers his "Christmas Jesus". He finally continues his prayer rubbing in his belief in a "Dear sweet tiny tiny baby Jesus, with gold, golden fleece diapers... Dear eight pound six ounce, baby Jesus who doesn't even know a word yet..."

We all do this. We all make up Jesus. My kid's books really do this. They never portray Jesus as looking like a normal 1st century Israelite. While they've gone away from blond hair and blue eyes, he always has a purple sash and is very handsome, if not a little iffeminate.

A couple of days ago, I was reading one at breakfast to myself (which is a good practise by the way - reading children's books on the gospel has a power that speaks directly to our heart.) I was reading from one of my favorite series (Archway Books I think) about the blind man Bartimaeus.

I got excited as I looked at the illustrations. They were terrific! So earthy and real. When Bartimaeus finally is invited to come to Jesus he is lead to one that I assumed was Jesus. He looked like a 1st century Jew! It turns out he was probably Peter, always the illustrator's punching bag.

The real Jesus was sitting on a marble slab in a tiled square rimmed with big porcelain vases. He looked like Plato, brooding and handsome. He was the image of the ethereal and Romanized Jesus of western thought. And later after "beautiful Jesus" finishes healing Bartimaeus, the illustrator does something that really gets my goat, puts the goat in a sack and tosses him over a bridge.

Bartimaeus and everyone are celebrating in the market, with their cute/ugly cartoon expressions, a really beautiful scene, when Western Jesus totally ruins it by serenely walking through the square, with his purple sash and with the two finger medieval wave he does raised in greeting to some dude in a window shaking out his rug. I can only imagine the rug guy's thoughts, "Who? What weirdo is this? Why did he two finger wave at me?" I would have drawn Jesus celebrating with the rest of them. Poor cartoon Jesus, always destined to have no fun and to be no fun at all.

This sort of Jesus is so detached. An emotional robot. A figment of our imagination. Didn't Jesus have no "beauty or outward appearance to draw men to himself"? Wasn't Jesus one of us? Isn't that the ENTIRE point of the incarnation?

Thanks for letting me vent a little on my blog. If this is the way we picture Jesus, no wonder so many of us have trouble relating to him.

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