DJesus Uncrossed: Tarantino, Driscoll and the Violent Remaking of Jesus in America

 

No doubt, a lot of people are upset, or are going to be upset, about Saturday Night Live’s recent skit “DJesus Uncrossed.” The two-minute sketch lampooned director Quentin Tarantino’s penchant for turning tragic history into gory revenge and imagined what Tarantino might do with the crucifixion and resurrection. (Have they been reading my blog?).

I’ve already heard some rumblings of anger at the skit’s treatment of Jesus, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned into a full-blown manufactured firestorm of outrage.

But you won’t hear any complaints about the sketch from me (and many others).

That’s because even though the sketch satirized Tarantino, it also said something quite profound and revealing, if unintentionally, about how Americans have remade Jesus in our own violent images.

Because, if truth be told, we’ve been trying to uncross Jesus for decades in this country, long before SNL got their pens into him.

We have tried to arm him with our military-industrial complex, drape him with our xenophobia, outfit him with our weapons, and adorn him with our nationalism. We’ve turned the cross into a flagpole for the Stars and Stripes. We have no need for Tarantino to reimagine the story of Jesus into a fantasy of violent revenge. We’ve done it for him. We’ve already uncrossed him, transforming him from a servant into a triumphalist who holds the causes and interests of our country on his back rather than brutal execution.

The SNL sketch reveals the paucity of American popular theology with its camouflage and flag-draped Bibles that segregate the story of God for American patriots only. It pulls back the curtain and shows us just how twisted our Jesus really is: We want a Savior like the one SNL offers. We want the Son of God to kick some ass and take some names. Specifically, our enemies’ names. And maybe the names of a few godless Democrats. Definitely the Muslims. And the atheists. And the … I could go on.

In fact, DJesus Uncrossed kind of reminds me of the Jesus who appears in Revelation (or at least how he is understood in pop theology and throughout a fair amount of Christian history).* He returns, riding a war horse. He is armed with a sharp sword for a tongue with which to destroy the nations. He is harboring a righteous rage that’s been smoldering for quite some time. And who came blame John of Patmos for envisioning Jesus in such a way after all he and his fellow Christians had been through?

It’s human to imagine divine vengeance.

It just isn’t Jesus, though. And seeing the vengeful Jesus of Revelation roll away the stone of the tomb and exact bloody revenge on the executioners he had just asked God to forgive three days prior should jar us.

But this vengeful Jesus of Revelation is the one many of us prefer. The one who gets even. The one who finally settles the 2,000-year-old score. The one who, at last, gets to send the unbelieving, unrepentant masses off to an eternity of torment in hell. It’s the Jesus someone like Mark Driscoll seems to worship: “In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” This, of course, sounds a great deal like a certain group of Roman soldiers who mocked Jesus, calling on him to man up and come down and uncross himself. It’s enough to make one wonder whether all this time, it has been DJesus that Driscoll has been worshipping rather than Jesus.

In the end, whatever the fallout from the skit, American Christianity didn’t need Tarantino or SNL or anyone in Hollywood to think up something as absurd and as base and as hysterically inaccurate as DJesus Uncrossed.

We’ve already done that for ourselves.

Say what you will about how offensive SNL’s sketch was. Our popular theology is more so. Because we should know better.

But satire reveals truths that are hard to hear. That triumphalist Savior many of us worship? He more resembles the sword and gun-toting DJesus who brings righteous vengeance than the prophetic vagabond foot-washer Jesus who preaches liberation and love of neighbor in the Gospels. The Savior we have created in our own violent images seems more like a character of a Tarantino film than the one at the heart of God’s story of eternal love.

The truth is, deep down, I suspect we like DJesus the Uncrossed better than Jesus the Crucified. It’s the same reason why we like Tarantino films as opposed to actual history.

In the wake of horror, we like revenge.

In the aftermath of the unspeakable, we like scores settled.

And we like justice, but only in the name of our God, Retribution.

_________
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Update: I thought I was clear in the post that I was engaging with American pop theological understandings of Revelation a la Driscoll and that I was critiquing the militant and vengeful understandings of Jesus through the lens of Revelation. It should also be noted that the vengeful and violent Jesus has been the common understanding of Revelation for much of Christian history and it is important to challenge the myth of redemptive violence it helps to create. But based on the enormous feedback I’ve received (some of it via links that framed my post in different terms), I could have been more clear that there is work offering different intepretations. I have added a line in the original post that I hopes clarifies things. I don’t want a side point and rhetorical strategy to distract from the primary point of the post nor to sidetrack the discussion into the symbolism and style of apocalyptic literature. We could spend a semester on that.

About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • Darr247

    You seem to have missed the connection.
    The host Saturday night was Oscar-winner Cristoph Waltz (Austrian, by the way), who is nominated again (and will likely win, since he’s in the supporting actor category instead of being up against the shoo-in Daniel Day Lewis) this year for his role in Django Unchained, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the character he played in its pseudo-alliterative parody on SNL.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      No, I understand that connection. Perhaps you aren’t making the same connection I am or the theological turn I am? Which is fine.

      • Darr247

        Well, I thought that skit was funnier than Casual Hitler (Hi All!).

  • http://www.facebook.com/blaine.fricks Blaine Fricks

    I think you totally took Driscoll’s quote way out of context.
    Question asked to Driscoll: What do you see as the greatest challenge for young Christians in the next 10 years?
    Mark Driscoll’s Answer: There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      I don’t. And personally, I think Driscoll takes Jesus out of context in this quote.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      How does the context for that change it in any way? I guess I don’t see how the extra couple of sentences change the overall sentiment of what Driscoll is saying.

      • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

        Sometimes people think that you take something out of context when you don’t quote the entire comment but the heart of it.

        It just means someone should take Journalism 101.

    • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

      That’s the worst defense of masochistic Cage Fighting, homophobic “Jesus” preaching ever.

    • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

      You don’t know how to do damage control, do you?

  • Aaron Rathbun

    I very much liked this post overall, David — pointing out that this really is merely a reflection of our American Jesus — but don’t you make the same-but-opposite mistake that Driscoll makes?

    Which is to say: Driscoll only wants the Jesus from Revelation, and ignores the Jesus of the gospels. But you seem to almost explicitly only care about the Jesus from the gospels, and write off the Jesus from Revelation as just an idiosyncratic vision from John of Patmos.

    Again, I appreciate your sentiments overall, and I am extremely sympathetic. But the fact of the matter that the Jesus of Revelation is in the Bible just like the Jesus from the gospels is. We have to accommodate both, not whichever one fits into our schema.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Good question. It is a matter of understanding the literary and historical context of both. It’s not so much that I am writing off the Jesus in Revelation, but that I understand that Revelation is a book of apocalyptic literature with very clear symbolism in the historical context. I also understand its history as a book and in tradition, as the last and very debated book to be added to the canon. I’m not even sure the Eastern Orthodox church includes it in its Divine Liturgy (which if you understand liturgy is akin to saying they don’t believe it — praying shapes believing).

      I don’t think it’s a matter of accommodating both. It’s not equal time for a bipolar Jesus. It’s a matter of discerning who Jesus revealed himself and God to be in the Gospels and interpreting the rest based on that full revelation in the Gospels. But yes, as a Christian, I prioritize the gospels. Absolutely. I think this as it should be.

      Elaine Pagels has written a very accessible and very interesting book on Revelation that I would highly recommend.

      • Aaron Rathbun

        So it seems like your response is (1) Revelation is apocalyptic/symbolic, therefore not literal; (2) Revelation was hotly contested whether to add to the canon or not; and (3) some Christians don’t even include it as authoritative.

        I would respond:
        (1) Revelation is apocalyptic/symbolic, but that means we merely interpret it accordingly, not discard it. Which you would agree with, but you’re equivocating on it being “symbolic.”
        (2) Whether contested or not, it’s in the canon now, so this is the text of the church that we are given. You are welcome to discard it if you want, but in that case we’re merely doing different projects.
        (3) All broad Christian traditions include Revelation as canonical, it’s merely the Old Testament that there is dispute over certain books being included or not.

      • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

        1) I’m not equivocating. Now just isn’t the time for a lengthy conversation on the nature and symbolism in Revelation. That is a book-length discussion. This is why I pointed you to Pagels’ work. Neither am I advocating discarding it, and it’s a misrepresentation of my comments to imply that.
        2) Again, you put words in my mouth about discarding it. That’s fairly severe in its misrepresentation.
        3) Your interpretation of what I am saying is inaccurate. I say they do not use it in their Divine Liturgy. I would be interested in learning more about why that is and how that shapes their understanding. Your response in 3 is something I agree with. Still it is important to understand the canon and interrogate it for meaning not deify it.

      • Jordan Shaw

        I’m just trying to get on the same page as you here. On one hand, you say we must prioritize the Gospels. Fair enough. On the other hand, you call Jesus the full revelation of God on Earth – I also agree with this. But the Gospels aren’t the only books to speak about Jesus – Revelation does, as do Paul’s writings. Yes, they speak from different perspectives, but they’re still speaking of the same man. I understand the uncomfortable nature of Revelation, and the overemphasis of that ‘version’ of Christ in some pockets of Christianity, but I think we do a disservice to the Canonical process (which I believe is directed by God) by elevating any book above any other.

        I think rather than elevating the Gospels (which gives some, like our friend Aaron above, the impression that you’re dismissing Revelation), we need to be doing the hard interpretive work to find out what’s going on in Revelation, and understand why Christ would be presented that way. I don’t think this needs to be a book-length discussion – a few lines mentioning that Revelation is complicated and nuanced would serve to let people know that you’re not dismissing the book entirely.

        I think this is the line that’s catching people off guard:

        “And who came blame John of Patmos for envisioning Jesus in such a way after all he and his fellow Christians had been through?

        It’s human to imagine divine vengeance.”

        This states pretty unequivocally that you don’t think John of Patmos was right in presenting Christ like that – that that presentation of Christ is wrong. It states that John was simply creating his own revenge story in the same way that Tarantino does (the context you said it in really emphasizes this point). I don’t know if you meant to do this or not, but that’s how it reads… and that brings up all kinds of questions, especially for the layperson. Why de-emphasize that Christ, and not the Christ of the Gospels? What if the Gospel writers were simply imagining a peaceful, sacrificial Jesus because they were so sick of the war-mongering in Israel at the time? Isn’t it just Driscoll’s word against yours at that point?

        To be clear, I agree with you. But I think there are better ways to deal with Revelation which build a stronger case for what you’re saying.

      • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

        I think it’s interesting that you speak of elevating the Gospels. In the Episcopal liturgy, that’s exactly what we do — literally. When we read the Gospel, we stand and the deacon (or priest) crosses the page, kisses it and elevates it. So, it is literally elevated, and I think it right to do so. Many scholars and theologians give priority to the Gospels as well. So we might just likely disagree on that point. I think that’s okay.

        The line you quote me on actually puts me squarely in the historical criticism camp on Revelation, in thinking that it refers to events happening at the time of its writing. It’s not dismissive. It’s concise. My guess is that the issue remains that people disagree with that interpretation.

        In any event, I feel like I am clear in the post that I am critiquing popular theology and popular Christian culture.

        I think the issue here is that you agree with my broad point, but not my minor one. It’s not my word against Driscoll. I’m not going head to head against Driscoll. I am setting Driscoll’s words next to DJesus and revealing the similarity.

        And I don’t stop there: I speak of our own penchant for wanting revenge and wanting things to equal out, a common and typical and popular theological trope for which Revelation is and overwhelmingly has been used throughout history.

      • Clara

        Correct; the Orthodox Church does not use the book of Revelation liturgically. Interestingly, however, it sees its Divine Liturgy as quite closely connected to, and a model of, the heavenly worship depicted in Revelation. It’s important to note that this understanding of the relationship between Revelation and the Church’s worship assumes an interpretation of the book that does not try to pin its complex and rich symbols to particular historical moments or persons. See:

        http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/bible-history/the-new-testament/book-of-revelation

        As to elevating the Gospels, of course. The Gospel book resides on the holy altar. We elevate it and venerate it. Most Christians who find this somehow offensive are probably very uninformed about the actual practices of the early church that they claim they want to emulate.

        Thanks for writing this post. I had seen some of the outrage about the skit and thought I just wouldn’t bother watching it. Your take on it here is illuminating, though, and I’m glad I was directed to it (first time reader of your blog).

        As for Driscoll, I find it appalling that any Christian would give him a minute’s attention. What a mess.

      • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

        Thanks so much. For pure curiosity’s sake, why isn’t Revelation used? Is it used in funeral service as it is in the Anglican tradition? I’m interested to know why it’s excluded …

      • Clara

        All I know in answer to that is pretty much what Fr. John Matusiak offers (same OCA site, different page):

        “Weird interpretations of Revelation are not new. Already in the second and third centuries there were so many twisted and sensational misinterpretations that the false teachings that arose caused great confusion to the Christians of the time. For this reason, while the Book of Revelation was included in the Canon of Scripture, it was not permitted to be read publicly in the services of the Church.”

        Believable enough.

        BTW, why does this comments system order a longer series of replies into this ludicrously skinny column?

      • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

        I have no idea, but it rather maddening. It’s a program called Discus. Useful, but far from perfect. I feel like I’m in the grip of a greenhorn layout and design paginator.

  • buzzdixon

    For the record, the underground comix artist who published The New Adventures Of Jesus under the name Foolbert Sturgeon did a story back in the 1960s where Christ when to a Steve Reeves movie based on the Gospel but done in the style of an old Italian Hercules film. The movie ends with Reeves’ character saying, “You won’t crucify me w/o a fight!” and laying waste to a Roman legion with his cross.

    As Christ walks out of the theater, he hears a man tell his date: “The book ended differently…”

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      No way! That’s amazing. I would LOVE to have a copy of that!

  • http://fairybearconfessions.wordpress.com/ Meghan

    Thank you for writing this. My husband and I have been talking about the sketch, which we both thought was brilliant, on so many levels. I think viewers’ responses very much reveal the different Jesuses that have emerged in American Christianity. My husband and I thought the sketch was hilarious because the Jesus portrayed was so opposite from the Jesus we know and love. Others who find themselves feeling attacked should ask themselves how much their image of Jesus resembles the one in the sketch.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Exactly so!

    • Non fool

      Fool.

      • z00m3r

        Why? Please enlighten us with your superior wisdom, “Non fool.” :)

      • Lhelmuth

        The ‘non fool’ has shown his true colors: see what jesus said about calling poeple fools!

  • Southerner

    There is no doubt in my mind that if Jesus started his ministry on this earth in 2013, getting a popular following doing the very things He did earlier, He would be killed in the name of God and patriotism a lot sooner than He was killed before.

  • http://twitter.com/alicampbellyes Ali Campbell

    I’m in the UK, but unfortunately I can relate to this . . . we seem unable to help ourselves – simultaneously being “outraged” by stuff certain American mega-pastors say . . . whilst hungrily lapping up ever word via their twitter / facebook accounts. In the UK, because we don’t have mega churches (at least, not led by white middle class people) we keep looking over to America for “answers” (because big must mean they are doing it right) – and in the process buying a whole load of junk about who Jesus really was (the man-up machismo stuff) . . . thanks for your reflections that gives me greater understanding of some of the thinking on your side of the pond.

  • tonyburgess1969

    I was offended when I saw the skit. Perhaps SNL went too far in this piece of satire but after reading this article perhaps its what we needed. Christians want a person who can settle a score vs save our hearts. In a world that needs Christ we have made his church to be a place of intolerance, violence, sexism and racism. We don’t want salvation as you said we want retribution. It’s sad how true this skit is upon further review.

    • Rebecca DeLaTorre

      I so rarely see someone on the internet who is willing to see something in a different light. So many people rush to the keyboard to spew out their opinion and have learned nothing. They fail to take advantage of the chance to see other points-of view available on the amazing web.

      Your post made me so happy and renewed my faith in people today. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/kikimojo kirsten oliphant

    I do think that we do this, more than we realize. Remaking Jesus, I mean. And not just in the way that you wrote about–we do it whenever we are SO SURE he is on OUR side and is backing OUR agenda. I always remember the angel of the Lord–”I’m on the Lord’s side.” I was a little confused, though, by your mention of the Jesus of Revelation–possibly because it was just a mention. When you made the remark about that portrayal being sort of natural because of what John had been through, did you mean that you don’t think that it’s an accurate portrayal? or that it was from man, not God? Just curious by the wording, again, probably because it was just a mention. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      I mean mostly that, like you say, we are always remaking Jesus. In many ways, each of the Gospel writers did this, tailoring the stories of Jesus to their audiences. So I don’t fault John of Patmos for doing the same.

      I wouldn’t say it’s an inaccurate portrayal, because I would want to nuance that a bit more by saying it’s not the same kind of portrayal of Jesus as the Gospels. Revelation is apocalyptic literature and the Gospels are parabolic. They serve different purposes and function in different ways in community.

      I don’t think it any surprise that Revelation was the last (and very debated book) to be added to the canon. I’m not even sure the Eastern Orthodox church includes it in its Divine Liturgy (which if you understand liturgy is akin to saying they don’t believe it — praying shapes believing).

      I don’t think it’s a matter of accommodating both. It’s not equal time for a bipolar Jesus. It’s a matter of discerning who Jesus revealed himself and God to be in the Gospels and interpreting the rest based on that full revelation in the Gospels. But yes, as a Christian, I prioritize the gospels. Absolutely. I think this as it should be.

      Elaine Pagels has written a very accessible and very interesting book on Revelation that I would highly recommend. It was really helpful for me, to be honest.

      I hope that helps and thanks for your thoughtfulness here!

      • JB

        I agree with much of this article but I have a real problem and strongly disagree with your hermeneutic of Revelation and your view (lack of) of inspiration of the scriptures. Sure they were influenced but they were also divinely inspired and to suggest that John got it wrong in Revelation is pretty arrogant. What Biblical foundation can we stand on if we think it was all opinion and not inspired by God? Am I missing something here?

  • Josh

    Thanks for the great post! One addition: the Jesus in Revelation is covered in his own blood, and his sword is his tongue. So even that picture of Jesus is sacrificial and non-violent. That passage proves your point, and doesn’t work against it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      That’s interesting, but I disagree. The context of the image is clearly one of war and destruction of the nations, ruling with an iron rod, and armies, etc.

  • Nersedebbie

    Saturday Night Live has absolutely crossed the line with this skit!! This is the most holy season of the Catholic faith and to have this skit , at this time or any time, is not only in bad taste, but I urge people to boycott SNL. If this were a comedian (and you know this has happened) discussing the N word or a Muslin deity, there would be “hell”to pay. I , for one, will not watch SNL anymore.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      I respect your stand, and it’s yours to make. Alternatively, though, instead of outrage, we could look at what God may be saying to us in this piece of satire. That is what this post addresses. In fact, it’s a good skit for Lent, for it reminds us of how scandalous and countercultural the cross and Easter is in a world that prioritizes vengeance. Lent does after all lead to the cross.

    • Melsevans

      I respect your opinion but disagree..I think this season of Lent is the best time of all to reexamine one’s faith and relationship to the teachings of Christ. This skit rightly portrays many many “Christians ” today . If one is offended by the skit perhaps it hits too close home. We all need to reread the teachings of Christ, the Sermon on the Mount in the shadow of this skit and think..which Christ am I following…the reinvented Christ ..or the Christ of love thy neighbor of the New Testament.

    • DaveBOTN

      Personally, I don’t see how this skit can be compared to racism, but even if you think this skit was mocking Jesus (and not just mocking a wrong idea of Jesus) it seems to me the right response to such foolishness is not to get enraged, but rather turn the other cheek.

    • Lhelmuth

      Didn’t see it, but the pop Jesusa today is not the real Jesus. So let’s pony up and get it right.

  • Nersedebbie

    PC has gotten way out of control with this skit!!

  • http://twitter.com/SouthHumanist SouthernHumanist

    I like to say that Biblical hermeneutics is the art of using scripture to confirm your biases.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Yep.

  • Shadowscooter

    Personally, I think you all are spending too much time thinking about a sketch on SNL. It’s a comedy sketch folks…no deeper meaning than that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Tell that to Sarah Palin and Tina Fey.

  • Jordan Shaw

    But what do we do with Revelation? Writing it off as John’s revenge fantasy does not feel very good to me. There must be more to it than that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Yes, take a moment and click through some of the conversation around this subject in the comments. We talk about understanding it as apocalyptic literature and prioritizing the Gospels. In the post, I try to be clear that I am dealing with the pop theology understandings of Revelation. (Which is why I quote Driscoll!)

    • LutheranChik

      Read “Revelation and the End of All Things” by Craig Koester (Augsburg Fortress) — very accessible, responsible discussion of the Book of Revelation that emphasizes the paradox of “Lamb Power” and repudiates a lot of Christian-pop-culture assumptions about Revelation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryanleif.hansen Ryan Hansen

    David, this is a very insightful piece. I think you may be a bit hasty to write off the Jesus of Revelation, or at least too hasty to hand him over to the Left Behind crowd. The Jesus of Revelation is the Slain Lamb, and even the sword coming from his mouth is exactly that, coming from his mouth, rather than in his hand. See also the white rider in chapter six who carries a bow without arrows. You have to admit that the divine violence in the Apocalypse is, at the very least, quite strange and nowhere near straightforward. Thanks for this article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryanleif.hansen Ryan Hansen

    David, this is a very insightful piece. I think you may be a bit hasty to write off the Jesus of Revelation, or at least too hasty to hand him over to the Left Behind crowd. The Jesus of Revelation is the Slain Lamb, and even the sword coming from his mouth is exactly that, coming from his mouth, rather than in his hand. See also the white rider in chapter six who carries a bow without arrows. You have to admit that the divine violence in the Apocalypse is, at the very least, quite strange and nowhere near straightforward. Thanks for this article.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Indeed. If you’ll click through some of the comments, a number of us are discussing this and the importance of treating Revelation as apocalyptic literature. In the post, I try to be clear that I am dealing with the pop theology understandings of Revelation. (Which is why I quote Driscoll!)

  • mmckeever

    Thanks for starting a good discussion, David. Given that the Christian apocalypse takes the narrow, nationalistic and militaristic conquering common to the genre and transforms it to an inclusive, sacrificial image of conquering, the Christ of Revelation is quite consistent with the Christ of the Gospels. A slain Lamb is the chief Christological image throughout Revelation and his followers are invariably portrayed as martyrs. Neither the Lamb nor the followers of the Lamb inflict violence but rather usher in God’s kingdom by redemptively suffering on behalf of others. The profound tragedy is that Driscoll and millions of others continue to read Revelation as though it were a traditional apocalypse rather than a profoundly transformed Christian vision. For an eminently accessible understanding of The Book of Revelation in this regard I would recommend the concise volume by the preeminent Revelation scholar of our day, Richard Bauckham, in The Theology of the Book of Revelation from Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      I’m not sure Baukham is quite as clear on that point as you are making him out to be. But all are welcome to read and discuss: http://le-protestant.ru/wp-content/files/R_Bauckham_-_The_Theology_of_the_Book_of_Revelation_2003.pdf

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      That said, I completely agree with the tragedy of folk misusing Revelation (and for more than just the modern era, though premillenialism and Left Behind certainly took it up a notch). And this is what I am taking issue with in the post. I thought I was clear that I was engaging with popular theology, but judging from the feedback, I could have been more so.

  • http://twitter.com/travisegreene Travis Greene

    I think you’re buying Driscoll’s interpretation of Revelation too easily. Sure, there’s military language in Revelation 19, but don’t overlook the details. The sword is coming out of his mouth – it is with his teaching that he strikes down the nations. The blood on his robe is likely his own. And in the end it’s not the lion but the “lamb that was slain” who is worthy to open the scrolls of judgment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      If you think I am buying Driscoll’s interpretation of Revelation, I think you’ve misunderstood the post.

      • http://twitter.com/travisegreene Travis Greene

        I agree with the overall post, and with your clarification my objection is withdrawn.

    • excalibur

      Read Isaiah 63 for the context. This is the blood of those people from the nations that come against Israel in Armageddon. The 10 nations that give their power to the Anti-Christ.

  • duhsciple

    See “Compassionate Eschatology” edited by Grimsrud and Hardin for solid scholarship on nonviolent interpretations of The Revelation.

    Sadly, I agree with the post’s main point that the Forgiving Christ is being transformed into Revenge Jesus.

    • mmckeever

      Yes, this is a helpful resource. In fact, Richard Bauckham has a chapter in it titled “The Language of Warfare in the Book of Revelation” that both addresses why it is there and how it has been misunderstood. Most of that chapter can be read on the Amazon page by clicking “LOOK INSIDE,” but I think even reading the concluding paragraphs online would be beneficial for most readers who wrestle with Revelation’s depiction of Christ.

      http://www.amazon.com/Compassionate-Eschatology-Future-as-Friend/dp/1608994880#reader_1608994880

      However, this really is a secondary discussion to David’s main point, which is this skit’s depiction of Jesus is clearly at odds with the wider testimony of the New Testament. “But this vengeful Jesus . . . is the one many of us prefer. The one who gets even.”

      • duhsciple

        I agree with the author’s main point about many preferring a vengeful Jesus. My local context has many who read the Bible from this point of view, even people I think should know better

    • Eugene

      A great narrative commentary on Revelation that really uncovers the language of irony behind the violence and warfare images there is “Tales of the End” by David Barr. If you want one commentary on Revelation, buy that book!

  • deegeejay

    The only thing manufactured is that anyone is outraged. It was funny and if you think it was about Jesus more than it was about Tarantino – never mind . . . just stop making up “news”.

  • Celiaahkm

    Spot-on as the folks on this side of the Pond would say.

  • Sojo_Truth

    I really appreciate this post. It’s so true that an Americanized version of Jesus has become the cultural evangelical norm, and used to no end to accomplish agendas far apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Anyone feel free to interject some history here, but would we/you date the start of this more modern form of nationalistic religion to the Francis Shaffer era, or did someone else in America bring this to American soil well before him?

    When we think of Manifest Destiny, African Slave Trade, and so many other American injustices justified in the name of Jesus it’s seems this false gospel is about as old as America itself. Any objections?

    In other words, in America this is way more than “decades” old, it goes back centuries….

    Unfortunately, because the Neo-Reformed ilk carry the most current fundamentalist torch they are caught in the middle of these current controversies. Before them however, it was really the Baptist and Charismatic camps from the 70′s – 80′s who were adept at spreading these types of falsehoods. They had more of a Dominionist bent to their platform, but Driscoll and others have seemed to pick up where they left off now all in the name of advancing the “gospel” and “redeeming” culture. I still find remnants of a postmillenial Shaffer running through the veins of it all though,

  • Sojo_Truth

    Hey, what happened to my comment??? That’s messed up, it wasn;t that bad was it???

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      I can still see it. I thought it was an insightful comment. Thanks for contributing it.

  • Non fool

    Please explain how American’s have turned Jesus into a symbol of patriotism and have armed him with weaponry. I will always put Jesus above the stars and stripes as he has sovereignty over all nations and peoples. I have not seen the tarnishment of Jesus’s peaceful nature in American culture that you so describe.

    You’re a fool if you think what SNL did is acceptable or does not deserve reproach directed in their direction.

    • Sojo Truth

      See Richard Land’s recent defense of guns in the name of “love” and all things biblical. Or the “righteous hatred” of Muslims in this country. Even mentioning it again is troubling. It’s all over the place my friend.

    • Christopher Buchholz

      There is a quote by Marc Driscoll that seems to disprove you, he is pretty popular, after all.
      Also the ads by Rick Perry during the primaries,
      the alternate “straight and non-retarded only” proms that are occuring, because Jesus said to shun everyone who you think is a sinner.
      etc, etc

      David Henson, have you seen this? We thought it was pretty funny when it came out, if you remember the Rick Perry ad:
      http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/e23d1c26d4/jesus-responds-to-rick-perry-s-strong-ad

    • LutheranChik

      Google “Dominionism”and “The Family,” for starters.

    • Lhelmuth

      When we join the military is of our countries we buy so doing have given over to nationalism above our faith. For when we do that, we destroy the people to whom we are to take the gospel. You cannot have it both ways. We have been duped

  • MK

    Didn’t read all the comments so maybe this has already been posted, but MadTV had a similar sketch which was just as (unintentionally?) insightful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftgmdRlDkko

  • Jonathan

    I saw the skit yesterday and while I’m not surprised that someone saw it as an Americanized version of Jesus, this was not a skit done by a program with a right wing, pro-USA bent. The image of Jesus shown on SNL was much more in keeping with the angry, liberation theology viewpoint of Jesus that has been popularized by t-shirts and posters showing a crown of thorns wearing Che.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      I don’t think you know what liberation theology is if what comes to mind is violent revenge.

  • Jim Forest

    I have sometimes described the primary story for most Americans, including a great many Christians, as The Gospel According to John Wayne, a story that preaches salvation not by God’s mercy but by firepower. See his link: http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2011/06/03/the-gospel-according-to-john-wayne/

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      The Gospel According to John Wayne. Loved that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberlyAknight Kimberly Knight

    Thoughtful, faithful, bold post. This country worships Mammon and Violence not the Jesus who consorts with the poor, weak and criminal and then willingly goes to his own death at the hands of the state in collusion with the religious elite.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeanne-Dulaney-Andrus/1014415272 Jeanne Dulaney Andrus

    This is the Jesus his disciples THOUGHT they were following for most of his ministry. And even though it’s not who he was, it’s the one way too many in this area feel they are following today – and then piously saying “Amen” when the preacher tells them the truth

    • duhsciple

      Amen

  • Laurilebo

    Thank you for your exploration of this. The video has been in my head and I’ve been mulling about what it means for us as a culture. Love this: “The SNL sketch reveals the paucity of American popular theology with its camouflage and flag-draped Bibles that segregate the story of God for American patriots only.” This worldview fascinates me. Another narrative take on that theme is about Jesus returning to Earth to run for Congress on the Christian conservative platform. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9URWnMWijm0

  • http://twitter.com/TylerJPetty Tyler J. Petty

    This essay illustrates how, in its own special way, The Book of Mormon musical gets Jesus better than a lot of other portrayals:

    What did Jesus do when they sentenced him to die?
    Did he try to run away? Did he just break down and cry?
    No, Jesus dug down deep, knowing what he had to do –
    When faced with his own death, Jesus knew that he had to…

    Man up, he had to man up.
    So he crawled up on that cross, and he stuck it out.
    And he manned up; Christ, he manned up.
    And taught us all what real manning up is about.

    “Man Up”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fP_FT-0yS0Y

  • http://growrag.wordpress.com/ Bobby Grow

    David wrote:

    ***And who came blame John of Patmos for envisioning Jesus in such a way after all he and his fellow Christians had been through?
    It’s human to imagine divine vengeance.***

    The problem that I have with this, is that is presupposes that John’s vision was more like a Feuerbachian projection than an actual reception of Divinely initiated ‘vision’ that he “received” from Christ.

    This should be sidetracking for any discerningly Christian reader.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      I love Feuerbach!

      • http://growrag.wordpress.com/ Bobby Grow

        Of course you do! You need some healing in your life … try, Barth, he had some fun things to say about herr Feuerbach; ha.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        I like Barth, too. I think both are important to the conversation of religion and spirituality.

    • http://www.facebook.com/badnews.bear.771 Badnews Bear

      you nailed where the article went wrong more effectively than I did. Yes it is hard not to get sidetracked when you see John of Patmos assimilated to Driscoll.

      Cheers

      David wrote:

      …….I thought I was clear in the post that I was engaging with American pop theological understandings of Revelation a la Driscoll and that I was critiquing the militant and vengeful understandings of Jesus through the lens of Revelation………

  • http://www.facebook.com/badnews.bear.771 Badnews Bear

    Hi, I really liked most of the article, the part you clarified leaves me rather confused:

    “……….In fact, DJesus Uncrossed kind of reminds me of the Jesus who appears in Revelation (or at least how he is understood in pop theology works like the Left Behind series and throughout a fair amount of Christian history).*…………………”

    I find it unclear weather you see the “pop theology” Jesus as the same as “Faithful and True”, or you are saying the pop Jesus is a misinterpretation of the rider of the White Horse?

    In the context of what you wrote later it seems you are not a fan of the white horse, but how do you know he is ‘harboring a righteous rage’? Why do you Psychologize this rider? Do you not give the Book from Patmos any benefit of the doubt? What about Apocalyptic sections of Isaiah ect? I admit these things are challenging, but watching current events (Sidney Hook) is challenging as well

    To avoid Driscoll’s error I read apocalyptic sections through the lens of Jonah, Isaiah 5, and Amos 5:18

    Woe to you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.” -Amos 5:18

    Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes,
    who say: “Let him be quick,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
    let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
    and let it come, that we may know it!” -Isaiah 5:18,19

    ” But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10

    This comment probably sounds more negative than I would like it to, I really agree with most of what you said and like your presentation, and sorry if I have totally misunderstood anything

    Cheers

  • JoFro

    So you think the Book of Revelation is just the rant of an angry apostle, irritated with the way him and his fellow Christians are being treated? Well, phew, who knew! Good thing we can just dump that nonsense…any other Gospel books you’d like to have discarded because they do not gel with your “meek and humble” opinion of Jesus?

    • DaveBOTN

      Usually, when referring to the Gospels, those are just the 4 books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

      Although Revelation is in the Bible, it is not a Gospel. I think the rhetorical comment you meant to make whether there are any other Books of the New Testament that you’d like to discard?

      You might not be aware of it, but as late as 200 A.D. it was still disputed whether the Book of Revelation and some Epistles should be included in the Cannon of the New Testament – and even modern Lutherans do not consider Revelation to be on the same level of authority as the Gospels.

      http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708094901 Sean Burns

    Brilliant!

  • Habari Mjumbe

    Jesus is indeed loving and forgiving, and he is the King of peace, BUT, when he comes again, his enemies will out of necessity be “DESTROYED by the light of his coming” (look it up). Certainly, he is no respecter of persons, or countries, BUT, the sins of ALL humanity are SO important that he died on the cross in our stead.for our sins. He did NOT come to earth MERELY as an example for us of how to live. He came to us because we need to be saved from hell. OTHERWISE, he NEVER would have needed to die. We CANNOT come to the Father, except through Jesus, EVER, as God is HOLY, as is Jesus. So, Jesus took on our sins so that we too could be holy.

    • duhsciple

      Jesus died to absorb and transform evil over against transmitting it.

      Any interpretation of revenge Jesus, although often well intentioned, is anti Christ

  • Ltjmail

    It’s easy and popular to point a finger at the “republican” Jesus but the “libertarian, vagabond, enlightened” Jesus is just as inaccurate. I see this article as just another attempt to make Jesus into man’s image.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Matthew-Thorp/507863050 Jason Matthew Thorp

    One major problem with this, the Jesus of Revelation and the Jesus of the Gospels are the same Jesus. There is only one Jesus. Of course the Jesus of this skit is nothing like the real Jesus nor is it intended to be. Really this piece is aimed at the Right Wing as a critique of politicizing Jesus. Fine, I would do the same but the Left are doing exactly the same thing. Pox on both your houses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Matthew-Thorp/507863050 Jason Matthew Thorp

    Another thing Revelation does not tell us about “Jesus getting even.” It tells us about the forgiveness of sins and good gifts He gives to believers and the justice he will execute on unbelievers.

  • GB

    I’m glad you received some useful insight from this skit and I believe you are right. All of us are guilty of making God in our own image at some level, even those of us who try to point out the speck in our neighbor’s eye. I still find the sketch offensive and unfunny. Not just because it mocks our Lord in this way, but because it celebrates a lousy filmmaker, even if only to satirize him badly. SNL is a treasure trove of 1,000 crap skits for every one hilarious gem. This one goes in the crap bin with millions of others–the same place Tarantino’s films belong. I’d like to see what would happen if SNL decided to try to trash Muhammad or Allah in the same way. I’m pretty sure the creators and players would require some kind of government protection program.

  • http://twitter.com/_AndroidExtreme Android Extreme

    While this is an interesting discussion as to what has been done with Jesus’ image, I think the criticism of this satire comes from those who are insecure about their own faiths. The motivation is quite simple in this skit. Take the most historically benign and peaceful character and create a ridiculous, Tarantino-like historical rewrite. It could have been Ghandi – anyone to illustrate the most absurd of contrasts. No more no less. This was not a social statement. This was not a religious statement. This was meant as an innocuous parody of Quentin Tarantino. That religious characters and much in our lives is distorted to resemble that which we prefer – none of that is new and does not need this skit to illustrate the point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Bockenthien/1476190129 Peter Bockenthien

    I shared that video 4 days ago. I wrote “What I like about this revision is that it shows how most people think Jesus would act if and when he were to return in physical form. They think of Jesus as a spiritual warrior.” Having grown up in Colorado Springs I can confidently say this is the attitude most Christians there have. No love, just violent RIGHTeousness. Kudos to SNL for once again getting it right.

  • http://www.stuffaudreysays.com/ Audrey the Turtle

    Well said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1425319200 Tom Yarborough

    I did not see the sketch but was once chastised (by some Pentecostal Deacons) for using the icon of Jesus with an AK-47 as my FB icon some years ago They did not see the satire that I was attempting to produce….Obviously Jesus would never have an AK-47 but yet we go to war for Him.
    I have found that those who believe Jesus to support violence will quote the one passage in the NT Luke 22:36 “if you don’t have a sword sell your cloak and buy one”….which can be interpreted as supporting violence, when in reality, many theologians believe Jesus was only wishing to fulfill the prophecy ….for He also said “two swords are enough”…and later in the Garden of Gethsemane he healed the ear of the man which Peter had cut off …and He said “put away your sword, for he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.”

  • Bruce Bvc

    So the Revelation of John does not depict accurately Jesus’ plans for his enemies? ….. Breathtaking

    • duhsciple

      Luke 6:27-36 is breath taking!

  • Keith Piper

    American Christians like their magic show and when you mess with that you are going encounter reaction. Christianity need to enter the real world and see Jesus in his historical context sans the magic–virgin births, resurrections, etc– and see that Jesus died for what he believed in, social justice and compassion for people- not as an atoning act. Separating Jesus from the tradition that grew up around him should be the great work of Christian scholarship.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

    As always, what the heck goes through Mark Driscol’s mind.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    Wait, so Bryan Fischer and Phyllis Schlafly (sp?) are concerned, very, very concerned about the violent message of a violent Jesus skit?

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA

  • Elmuth

    Very good
    Christianity in some sense has been a disaster as far as the militant Jesus is concerned. What most don’t realize, is that the pop theology is a drastically modified Jesus that has been in existence since nationalism took over in the time of Constantine. It is a modified Jesus that has been evidenced in the earlier Catholic Church, especially in the reformed theologies, and is carried on in American today by the popular preachers, James Dobson, E Et cetera. It was particularly prominant in the Adolf Hitler/Martin Luther extermination of the Jews in World War 2 *. It was prominent in the US manifest destiny doctrine that overtook the Native Americans. The uncrossed Jesus has been a disaster.

  • Osvaldo Vena

    The Church has gotten Jesus wrong from the very beginning, distorting his message, hitch hiking his figure so as to justify male domination of the world, including wars, colonization and genocide. It is not surprising that another Empire, the American, is doing the same thing today….

  • Ramona K Silipo

    Absolutely brilliant. I understood your point completely and agree with it absolutely. Living abroad, I am very careful about the term, “Christian,” because the impression that so many Europeans have of American Christianity is based on the right-wing fringe that you are describing in your essay. The Jesus I know and understand is the Jesus of the Beatitudes, the garden and the man on the cross who prayed for forgiveness for two other men. Thank you for this essay. It’s brilliant.

  • Gordon

    Uhm…Jesus is not on the Cross Dave. You seem to be substituting one image of Jesus for another. Jesus is not a victim and any Jesus that does not fulfil his role at the end of the age is no Jesus of the Bible.

  • Shea

    I never saw the skit… But by the looks of it I do not want to. I am sorry but you are plain wrong in your christology. You cannot have one side of Jesus and not the other. Plain and simple.

  • microtunel

    Hear from minute 23… http://marshill.com/media/who-do-you-think-you-are/i-am-____#downloads … And I need you to know this: at Mars Hill, we believe in Satan, we believe in demons. If you don’t, you will have a hard, let’s say impossible, time explaining the world. You will have an impossible time explaining all of the evil, all of the injustice, all of the tyranny, all of the lies, all of the abuse, and all of the darkness if there is not personal evil behind it harming persons.

  • naugiedoggie

    Good call-out of the state of American doctrine.

  • maxx

    Christians and other mindless believers in superstitions, e.g. Gods should just STFU and blabber amongst themselves. Noone really cares about your “feelings” and your rights were not violated. Likewise for the dumba$$ Muslims, Hindus and all the others who believe such $hit.

  • Guest

    David, i’ve been following your articles for some time now and your theological leftist positioning, and progressive agenda in the “church” is apparent. While you’re free to continue these teachings, you tend to omit the text of any quote that puts a quote in its appropriate context, or even verses that give a passage it’s full meaning if it’s contrary to the point your making. Anyone who knows Mark’s teachings know’s he uses hyperbolic language as metaphors to express a larger theological point. Here you’ve omitted his point and kept his colorful language. The real point is that there are many, like yourself, who don’t teach repentance from sin and preach an all loving, inclusive Jesus.

    Here is Mark Driscoll’s quote in full.

    Mark Driscoll: There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.

    • Ruth Leviticus

      You know what’s amusing? The full quote doesn’t change the context for me at all. It’s still the pursuit of the same warrior mean-spirited supply-side Jesus ideal. But then maybe I’m just too much of a heathen.

  • http://twitter.com/revdrewdowns Drew Downs

    David, I loved the skit (as you could guess). I can’t help but positively compare the American triumphalism to the confusion the disciples have of what kind of Messiah Jesus was going to be. The sadness, then, is that we, living in the time after the cross, are not just living with an image of an uncrossed Jesus, but the very vision that Jesus routinely rejected and showed us is wrong. The vision that causes Jesus to condemn Peter, naming him Satan, moments after handing over the car keys.

  • Daniel

    So are you suggesting John misinterpreted the vision he was given? Are you suggesting Jesus will not come and destroy the demonic forces? Not being smart aleck, just trying to get what your point of bringing up Mark Driscoll’s quote of the Jesus represented in Revelation. Further I completely agree with most of what you wrote, depending on how you answer my question.Thanks

  • Dustin Kunz

    Is it really fair to say we’re any more concerned with vengeance than, say, the authors of Psalms, Judges, (yes) Revelation, or several other biblical authors?

  • http://www.humblewonderful.com/ Tony C.

    Really enjoyed this post. Now if only I could remember which theologian described the understanding of the cross in revelations emphasising christianity as merely the worship of violence delayed rather than violence rejected.


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