Posted by: serrels | April 28, 2010

I Don’t Know Jesus

What’s happening chaps! First off, I want to say thanks to everyone who read my first post on Stuck in Church, and to those who took the effort to comment, both in the blog itself and on the Facebook page – I couldn’t be happier with the response!

David Hamstra, who I don’t know (but my missus says is just lovely), mentioned that he’d be interested in a post “clarifying my position on God’s existence”; and Steven Kane (who I think I’ve met before) also wondered what my thoughts on Jesus were.

To be honest, I’m a bit worried that a 1000 word post regarding my own personal beliefs will end up making me look and sound like this guy.

You can't see, but he's wearing really tight jeans

But that being said, I think that I can probably answer both these questions at once, with one statement:

I don’t know Jesus.

I just don’t know him – and I think that today, it’s extremely difficult to know Jesus, because my idea of who Jesus is and what he stands for it is utterly saturated. It’s tragic – but honestly, when someone mentions the word Jesus to me, I cringe. It’s involuntary – just an instinctual reaction that’s almost out of my control.

If that sounds a little vague, I’ll use an (somewhat blasphemous) example. Please don’t kill me.

Take Che Guevara, hero/terrorist of the Cuban revolution. He looked like this.

"Cuban cigars are awesome." - Che Guevara

After the revolution in Cuba, socialists started myth-making in an attempt to duplicate their revolution and let the world know that Cuba was the idealogical bomb, baby – they took this famous photograph, redesigned it as an icon, and used it to help spread their ideas.

"Argh, now I'm a ideological symbol!"

Then it got weird. The image got so popular that people used it to define themselves, so they put it on a t-shirt.

Imagine being worn by this guy – poor Che…

Then it just got plain stupid – companies began to use this image of Che to market their products! To help fund commercial enterprises – which went directly against everything Che originally stood for!

Mmmmmm. Sacrelicious!

Then it got hilarious! The iconic Che image – taken from a real photograph, transformed into a logo, then used to promote the very thing he railed against – eventually devolved into parody. Because it was utterly impossible to take it seriously, Che and his iconic image had become a bad hipster joke.

Ho ho ho (stupid hipsters)

It took us, what? 40 years to get to that point? Imagine what someone could do to the image of Jesus in 1000 years…

Because in the same way that I cringe when I see someone wearing a regular non-ironic Che Guevara t-shirt, I cringe when I hear someone talking earnestly about Jesus. I can’t take it seriously, and neither can most non-Christians – which is why on easter, my facebook was littered with status updates from my friends claiming they were celebrating Zombie Jesus Day by eating a crapload of chocolate easter eggs.

Jesus has been branded into oblivion – to the point where I don’t really know what his name is supposed to represent in a contemporary context. I don’t truly understand who he was, or what he stood for. To an extent it makes me completely understand why Muslims get so upset by visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammed. They’re simply doing what all good businesses do – protecting their brand!

So, honestly, I don’t know how I feel about Jesus. As a result of all the white noise that surrounds his name – I simply feel like I don’t know Jesus.

And I sometimes wonder – does anyone really know Jesus? And can his image be salvaged and made relatable for non-christians like me?

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  1. Hi Mark… I have to say I can completely understand this point of view and I do believe it’s a sad reality in the world we live in today where defining moments in the life of Jesus such as Christmas and Easter have become so commercialised that the real message of hope and salvation that they represent is lost in translation.

    I am aware of so many in and out of the church that no longer celebrate these occasions for what they really are. I believe in my own christian SDA heart that if you remove the commercialised image and just focus on the real message, then some understanding of who Jesus is may be possible.

    Not just that, but to get to know Jesus you only need to look as far as the bible, that’s something that while different versions vary slightly it is the closest you can get to the real thing without too much of this muddied world caught up in it.

    I hope that while your stuck in church with all of us that you will truly get to know Jesus!

  2. I have never heard anything like this before. Honestly and truly I have never heard anyone say this about Jesus. It’s really interesting to me.

    Even if one does not believe in Christ’s divinity, Jesus was still a person who existed in history, just like Napoleon or Socrates, and even if we look at Him on a surface level just a human He was a pretty awesome person and said and did some crazy things. Jesus was a radical!

    Do I know the real Jesus? Not completely. But I believe that one can get to know him. That’s the way He wanted it. I think Jesus is the most relate able person ever. You can get to know Jesus. He is relevant in contemporary society. The question is though, what difference does it make whether you know Jesus or not?

  3. Hey Kylie – I agree that Easter and Christmas has been commercialised into oblivion, but I think that the image of Jesus has taken more damage. It’s been whitewashed, literally – white, blue eyed, pale, soft spoken, physically weak – these are the words I think of when I hear the name Jesus.

    But Caryn is right – Jesus was a person who existed in history, and he was an incredible person, completely radical, and far from weak. He stood up for the poor, and disenfranchised, and stood up to the tyranny of cruel leaders.

    And there’s a reason why I chose Che Guevara as my example – in a way he was marketed as a socialist Jesus: as a man who stood up to Tyranny and defended the poor. Whether that was true or not is besides the point – the point is that that image and that message is a powerful one, but Christians don’t want to present that side of Jesus. In a way they’ve totally buried it!

    Or, worse, the branding of Jesus has been so inconsistent and mish mashed that people simply don’t care any more.

  4. I am really interested in watching this develop….keep the updates flowing regularly!!!

  5. I believe this image sums up what I was going to say-

  6. We are all searching for something, and this is a key! And if we’re patient enough we will find IT. At each turn of our path there is something to learn and live by–inherently we know what is good, especially if our circumstances allow the freedom to wonder and decide, and add that detail to our ensemble…..
    To me the key to the key is the sense of Other Than Self. To look beyond Me–beyond my wants and wishes. If a person who never leaves their abode (I understand that in this time of great technology-might be a mute point but imagine the old days for a mo)–what does he learn just in his own space? whereas to go out explore the surrounds and nature, meet people, experience, watch, listen, it is inspiring in and of itself creating a sense of wonder and peace. Just be..
    Its nice to get a few clues from books, the bible included, and then relate it, then grow– there are so many possibilities. Serrels, your mention of the Muslim reaction to depictions of Mohammed are poignant–do not create ‘graven images'(close enough to a quote I hope) cos how do we know what Jesus looked like or God for that matter. In the Islands he is black and right on brothers. Why define anyone into something we make? I feel very unqualified for that job!

  7. A lot of what you’ve said about how the meaning and understanding of “Che” and “Jesus” have changed over time is reminiscent of Jean Baudrillard’s writings on postmodern Christianity. Is that something you’ve read?

    • Hey mate – nah I haven’t read his writings. I’ll have to check it out – thanks for the suggestion.

  8. Wow… I love they way you put it across… Elegant yet simple! Good job!

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