Dueling Messiahs

Jesus_cagedRay Waddle, former religion editor of the Nashville Tennessean, has written a guest column on one of the most enduring problems in theology: The temptation to remake Jesus in our own image by emphasizing only the portion of his message that confirms our pet ideas.

Waddle summarizes the four most popular views of Jesus as “Free-market Messiah,” “Peace-and-Justice Jesus,” “Silence of the Lamb (of God)” and “Redeemer Revisited.”

I would add Cool Older Brother Jesus, who loves absolutely everyone just as they are, unless they express doubts about how the gospel of inclusiveness compares with Jesus’ other words, like those unsettling warnings about hell. Or there is Live Long and Prosper Jesus, who wants to shower people with health and wealth — unless they stray from the legalism of prosperity theology.

How about you, readers? What are some of the limited images of Jesus that have caught your attention this year, or in years past?

These two paragraphs of Waddle’s are a good start toward understanding Jesus on his own terms:

In the New Testament, Jesus is too intense and unpredictable to belong to any clique, whether in first-century Holy Land or 21st-century Washington, D.C.

In the four Gospels, Jesus blesses the peacemakers but also brings a sword of judgment. He says love God, fear God, show mercy, be righteous, live the Golden Rule, expect the fiery Reign of God from heaven and look for it inside the heart too. Believers must somehow hold all these themes together because the Gospels do. It will take humility, discernment and a sense of humor to realize that a user-friendly Jesus might be just a pious excuse for justifying political prejudices.

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  • http://christianity-applied.blogspot.com Stuart DiNenno

    “How about you, readers? What are some of the limited images of Jesus that have caught your attention this year, or in years past?”

    There’s the no-cost Jesus. That’s the Jesus of those who love to go around saying “Jesus paid it all.” Their meaning seems to be that Jesus paid it all so that they don’t have to pay any price for their faith. No sacrifices, no self-denial, and certainly no suffering. In other words, Jesus paid it all so that they could blithely continue to live for their own selfish pleasure and gain. In fact, they don’t even have to obey the teachings of the Bible because that is “legalism” which is a contradiction of the “Jesus paid it all” doctrine and a denial of the no-cost Jesus.

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ Darrell Grizzle

    How about the thumbs-up “Buddy Jesus” from the movie “Dogma”?

  • Erik Nelson

    There is always the “liberator Jesus”, which I sometimes think of as “Jesus Guevara”, where Jesus is all about supporting us in overthrowing “the man” or whatever oppresses us at the moment (even if that means overthrowing the Gospel itself), and justifying whatever we do in the name of liberation.

  • Austin

    This reminds me of a book I read a few years ago…here let me find it on amazon. It’s “Jesus Through the Centuries” by Jaroslav Pelikan. Very interesting historical perspective on this very subject…


  • Cheryl

    My fave Jesus this past year was “Passion-free” Jesus.

    Under no circumstances are we to focus on what happened immediately before the resurrection (the sacrifice depicted so vividly in the Gibson movie) because the whole Passion thing is too violent, too disturbing, too icky and obscures Jesus “real” messages about caring and sharing and the joy of the resurrection.

    At least, that’s what I heard a lot of leftie Catholic pundits saying earlier this year.

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    There’s “Just-desserts Jesus” (or maybe Jihad Jesus, but that might be too confusing). This is the Jesus who is going to come back (finally!) and annihilate Hollywood and the fornicators and the perverts…

  • Molly

    “My Jesus Can Beat Up Your Jesus”, “Jesus is Red”, “Jesus Isn’t Blue”, “Don’t Mess with Jesus (or by extension) Me”, “Red, White and only in this circumstance Blue Jesus”, “Jesus vs. Muhammed”, “Jesus vs. Jews”, “Jesus vs. Hindus”, “Jesus vs. Bhuddists”, “Jesus vs. Hollywood and those leftie perverts and fornicators”, “Let There Be Jesus on Earth and Let Him Justify Me”, “Jesus Would Drive a Hummer”, “Jesus Would Drive a Beemer”, “Jesus Would Live in My Neighborhood”, “Jesus Would Invest in Israel”, “Jesus Is Coming and Boy is He P***ed!”, “Jesus Hates the Blue States”, “Jesus Hates the Red States”, “Jesus is Lord”. Well, actually, I haven’t seen too much of that last one but wouldn’t it be nice?

  • http://www.therevealer.org Jeff Sharlet

    Check out Steve Prothero’s Jesus Nation for a full history of the species.

    I nominate: Jock Jesus; Jewish Jesus; Right Wing Hippie Jesus; Sensitive-Guys-Cry-and-Vote-Republican Jesus (as seen in the ouevre of DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline, etc; Tea-and-Crumpets Christ, Lord of the Old, Old Mainline; and Patti Smith.

  • http://www.anglican.tk Mike Daley

    How about “gin soaked, old British biddy Jesus?”

  • Mark

    Unfortunately, Jesus for the Evangelicals is the “Prosperity Gospel Jesus”, as in I name that Cadillac, SUV, McMansion, or other frivolous consumer good and claim it in the name of “Jesus”. The Gospels I read say that “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me”. I don’t see anything about putting that cross in the back of an SUV or pick-up truck.