Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One billion and counting

Supposedly, this portrait of Christ is the most widely reproduced of all religious works of art, about a billion times, if you include bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, and switchplates.

It's the Jesus of Sunday school, meek and mild, who pulls children onto his lap, who doesn't disturb--only comforts, who accepts his death with grave obedience. This is a good image to have; it's just incomplete. Trouble is, it's the only image some folks have.

Still others have this image of Christ:

An angry, vengeful, Jesus as Judge, separating the sheep from the goats, casting the sinful into the outer darkness, into a lake of fire, raising a bloody sword against the Enemy of God: too many folks latch onto this image and use it to fuel their own agendas while controlling their fear. Actually, this image is taken from Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth where he overturns the tables of the moneychangers and chases them out with a whip of cords. Not many of us turn to this Christ, especially in our American empire.

This image is an artist's rendering of what Jesus might have looked like, given his ethnic background and recent paleoanthropological studies. I must confess that when I see this picture I think of the apostle Paul or Peter because this guy looks a little rough around the edges. Funny that visually I don't think that way about Jesus. More Sunday school conditioning, I guess.

This image I love: a laughing baby Jesus, looking up into the heavens, into the eyes of his parents or a visitor, perhaps just laughing for the thrill of being alive like any other child. Viewing Jesus as a baby reminds me that all people started out this way, as an innocent child, and that somewhere inside of each of us, that precious baby still exists as part of who we are--everyone. I wish we would learn to treat ourselves and each other as precious children of the universe.

I also want to take on Share Cropper's challenge to list 5 things I dig about Jesus:
  1. Jesus didn't say we had to follow. He gave an invitation, albeit, a very compelling one.
  2. Jesus lost his temper, wept, changed his mind. He was human.
  3. He had compassion on those who needed it most and told off the folks in charge in no uncertain terms.
  4. He pisses me off and yet I can't help myself--I still come back again and again.
  5. He saved my life--literally, not in the popular "born again" sense. At the age of @ 14 or 15 my life took a 180 degree turn; not the events in it but how I viewed them. I came up out of the pit I was in and started taking charge of my life rather than reacting to forces beyond my control. It was then that I first began thinking about going into the ministry.

What images of Christ attract you, incline your heart and mind, repel you?

P.S. Check out this hilarious blog entry on the second coming of Christ.


John Shuck said...

Hey Cynthia, thanks for the link! I will try to give rapture updates over the course of the next 10 days!

pj said...

It's funny...I'm of the Semitic persuasion myself but I can't quite see Jesus in that third image. I've seen it before, and (paleoanthropology aside) there's something faintly, um, exaggerated about it. Not that he looked like the Nordic Sunday school guy either, obviously.

Gorgeous thoughts in this post -- both your own and ShareCropper's. :)

Mystical Seeker said...

The first Jesus picture is definitely the one I associate with Sunday School growing up.

The artist's rendering of what Jesus probably looked like, the one that reminds you of Paul or Peter, has always reminded me of Abbie Hoffman. I can't find a really good picture of him in his later years, but is a blurry one that will show you what I mean:

Cynthia said...

John, I am awaiting the countdown with fire-and-brimstone breath!

PJ, he does almost have that deer-in-the-headlights quality.

Yes, Jesus as Abbie Hoffman!! Who knew?

But then, when I hear the name 'Abbie' I think of "Young Frankenstein": "Abbie Normal"!

pj said...

He does look like Abbie Hoffman! Interesting...

Grandmère Mimi said...

Zefferelli's movie Jesus was good. My ideal would be more of the Middle Eastern look, with the beautiful, large, dark eyes of the people of the area.