Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Jesus can beat up your Jesus (or maybe not!)

I just read on my friend's blog ( about an outrageous belief that some pastor named Mark Driscoll had about Jesus. Apparently, in an article, he (Driscoll) had said that he could never worship a person he could "beat up." That is to say, the idea of a kindhearted, gentle, peace-loving, pacifist Jesus doesn't sit well with him. In fact, he seems to say that he sees people like that as being weak and worth beating up.

To that, I say it reveals more about him than about the Jesus he worships. He's basically revealing himself to be nothing more than a bully. Or better yet, a FASCIST. I hate to bring out that label, but I do see a lot of similarities between fascist tendencies and our society's growing worship of military strength to get its way in the world. Fascist tendencies are perhaps natural in most human beings. The way we admire strength over weakness, our belief that might makes right, how bullies often pick on the weakest and least popular kid in class (and no one comes to the defense of such weakling, lest they be categorized as weak themselves), and even in the promotion of blue-eyed, blond-haired people as the most attractive. This last point, I mention, because I had noticed it most in the brilliant "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. All the heros had blue eyes, and the most beautiful of the people in those films were the Elves, who had fair skin, blond hair, and striking blue eyes. And the evil people were all brown skin and ugly. That's one example of fascist aesthetics making its way through popular culture without most people being consciously aware of it. But, I digress...

Back to the image of a weak Jesus and this pastor who admires brute strength over moral courage. Whenever I hear evangelicals and fundamentalists make claims about Jesus that contradict what I know I've read in the Bible, it baffles me how they can convince so many people that they speak with any ounce of credibility. Credibility is a huge issue for me, and one only assures his or her credibility by how close they are to the facts as everyone knows them. For instance, in the Bible, did Jesus ever bully anyone? Did he side with the rich and powerful over the poor and destitute? Why, in story after story, does he seem to take the side of the outcast, the unpopular, the gentile, the woman, the slave, the leper? This doesn't seem like a brute fascist that I can imagine. For the life of me, I simply don't understand how anyone can picture Jesus any other way, than as a gentile, loving man, who angered the powerful, the sanctimoniously religious, and the wealthy. The only instance we have of him acting "violent" was when he overturned the moneychangers' tables in righteous anger for their sacriligious consumerism in God's most holy temple. But when a Roman soldier's ear was cut off by one of his disciples, Jesus healed the man who had come to arrest him. Is that an act of a bully?

Which brings me to my final of my biggest problems with so-called "Jesus-freaks" (those people who go around asking strangers and friends and co-workers if they have been "saved" as a way of introduction, as though that was the most important thing about a person they first meet) is that they have created an image of Jesus that conforms to what they admire and are willing to worship, whether or not that is how Jesus truly was. Because Jesus is a historical figure whom we don't have a chance to truly know in person, we can impose whatever image we like on this person and he can be all things to all people. That represents the danger of religion, mostly because it's dishonest and it allows for wide deviations from the man who he truly was. It is hard for anyone to live up to another person's expectations on how they should be or act...much harder when its a person who perhaps two billion people believe is the way to salvation. Thus, we get people like Pastor Mark Driscoll who refuses to believe in a gentle Jesus, and we get evangelical writers like LaHaye, who presented a genocidal Jesus in the final installment of the best-selling "Left Behind" series. And Christians in Latin America see a Jesus along the lines of Che Guevara, a Marxist revolutionary who sides with the poor.

How can the true Jesus ever be reconciled and accepted by the vast majority of Christians? I think the answer is much simpler. When I meet people, especially those of the evangelical type, my main goal is to find out if they are more of a materialist or more of a spiritualist. I believe that's where the dividing line is (not whether they are "saved" or heathen; or Christian or not). Even so-called Christians can be materialists, and atheists can be spiritualists. It's how one views the world that's important to me. So, an individual who believes that God created the USA and has appointed Bush to be president, and that capitalism is part of God's plan for this world...well, a person who believes all that comes down on the materialist side of things, because they don't care if we rape the planet, pollute the earth, wreck the lives of the poor, and wage immoral war on weaker nations. They are bullies who use the good name of Jesus to pursue a materialist goal. A person on the spiritualist side tends to be tolerant of other faiths, willing to work with others who have a different perspective, value diplomacy and dialogue, and really care deeply about the kind of environment we will leave to future generations. This type of person is more likely to believe in a gentile Jesus, and whether they are Christian or not, they all see Jesus as a spiritual person worth emulating.

So, I hope that more people will come to reject the kind of Jesus that Pastor Mark Driscoll wants people to believe in. The kind of Jesus who goes around beating people up doesn't square with what's written in the Bible and it's not the kind of Jesus that will convert the world to a spiritual life. That kind of false Jesus is an idol, and a convenient idol that only serves mammon. In fact, it's probably the kind of Jesus that Satan would love to have us believe in...because that Jesus is probably Lucifer in disguise. After all, Jesus did warn his followers to beware of false prophets who appear in sheeps clothing but underneath it, are ravenous wolves. How any true follower of Jesus can miss that warning and fall for charlatans continues to baffle me to this day. Thus why, whenever someone asks me if I'm saved, I cringe, because I think only a non-spiritually authentic person would ask that question. When I meet people and converse with them, I know immediately where they stand on the material/spiritual spectrum. It's how one views the world that's the dead giveaway. And the truth is, if one's a die-hard capitalist/materialist, they are in more need of saving than anyone else. They have put their faith in an idol, not the true God. They have sided with the powerful instead of the people we are commissioned to help...the world's powerless and poor/middle class.

So, no Pastor Jesus can't beat up your Jesus. He'd turn the other cheek. And if your Jesus goes around beating people up, I think you better check to see if he's not wearing a mask. You just might find yourself PUNK'D by Satan himself!


Shannon said...

hi Nicholas!
Just a couple thoughts on your post.

First, my NT professor is constantly reminding us of the sheer irony of Jesus - that he is powerful not because he is strong but because he is weak. He provides life through death. He is a king, and a lamb. All of these are contradictions, all of them are in the Bible, so our attempts to get a hold on who Jesus "really was" have to take this irony into account.

Second, recently I have become fascinated by the concept that the ways people have thought about Jesus through the years have often reflected the "hegemonic masculinities" (for a basic idea of what I'm talking about, see this rather lousy wikipedia entry: of the times in which those concepts of Jesus came about. With what is often referred to as the "over-feminization" of much of our contemporary North American culture, some people are pushing back with ideas of masculinity that are excessive, epitomized by Driscoll's desire for a Jesus who he couldn't beat up. In a culture where Driscoll is being told by the advertising he sees and even the Promise Keepers rallies he might be attending, that he, as a man, needs to learn to be more sensitive and caring, he is hanging on to a thread of classic masculinity through Jesus.

Now that I have finished my irresponsible psychoanalysis of Driscoll, I'll end my comments and say thanks for an intriguing post!

Christian said...

And thanks for the shout, Nicholas! :-)