DressJesusUp.com: Harmless Hilarity, or Offensive Blasphemy?

Today long-time reader, white-noise enthusiast, and all-around trouble-making media mogul  Brian Shields today brought to our attention the website DressJesusUp.com.

I went. I played. I’m asking.

[polldaddy poll=3302418]

(The follow-up to this post is What Would Jesus Do (If He Saw Himself Wearing a Propeller Beanie)?)

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Diana

    I voted "purely blasphemous" but only because the option "blasphemous but guilty laughter ensues anyway" didn't exist.

    • Ace

      Also, I'd vote for "purely stupid" if that were a choice. It's funny, but definitely stupid fratboy humor. It's just plain too stupid for me to even bother getting offended by it.

  • Dennis Dawson

    I looked at it and thought "offensive." I dragged some clothing onto Jesus and I laughed out loud. I tried a couple more outfits and laughed a little more. Then I stopped.

    I need to go read your column about transvestites.

    God is a comedian, playing for an audience too afraid to laugh.

    ~Voltaire

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I didn't really find it too funny. It's not that I find it too offensive for it to be funny, though I do find even the idea itself to be in marginally bad taste. I do find it somewhat entertaining nonetheless, but, for some reason, it just doesn't tickle my humor bone.

    I'm wondering if maybe I'd be more prone to laughing at it if I actually had some sort of guilty feelings about it (as perhaps you & Diana & Dennis) or, on the other hand, if I just didn't care at all about the fact that we're making fun of a dead guy hanging from a wooden post by playing dress up with his corpse. (It doesn't bother me in particular that it supposedly represents Jesus; obviously, it's not *really* Jesus. And even at the real moment apparently depicted, Christ was in hell, not on the cross–that's just a body–a body that apparently wore whitey-tighties!)

    • Matthew Tweedell

      Ok… so I found the BDSM version… Now THAT'S something I feel guilty enough about to laugh! and to think that maybe I shouldn't be putting my full name on these comments.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      My final verdict: just plain silly! Not so much offensive as stupid, and just too stupid to be very funny. Entertainment for the mind-numbingly bored with the potential side-effect, as noted by Bill below, of further numbing a person the truly atrocious (which this isn't really, but does dare to present itself as representing). I agree with Mary Linda inasmuch as this really is offensive to a large number of people, so for their sake it is highly disrespectful to even present it. So I guess I'm concurring with Anita's and Odgie's and wken's conclusions.

      Sorry, Mr. Shields: I guess I'm just too conservative. All things in moderation and all. Yes, "To the pure, all things are pure." And yet, "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God." To some in the church, this thing would definitely be a stumbling block; it certainly may offend and even bring feelings of guilt to our neighbor. So as long as our brother sits beside us, "if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." What causes him to fall is the distraction of his conscience by his own understanding of sin–that is, whatever brings him feelings of guilt, even if he didn't really DO anything evil.

  • LoneWolf

    Maybe it is hilariously offensive, or perhaps it is just harmless blasphemy.

  • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

    The site is nowhere near as offensive as that Shields guy…

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I was looking for the "Very interesting, but stupid" option.

    I was thinking of an Awana game-time parody and then I chuckled.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    I was unimpressed until I made Vader Jesus. Or maybe it should be Darth Jesus, servant to the Emperor (God) who can strike people dead at any moment.

    Which brings us back to interesting OT stories! :)

  • http://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/ Paul Wilkinson (Thin

    The problem is that, as of mid-morning Saturday, "totally hilarious" appears to have the most answers at around 35%, but when you add "too offensive" to "blasphemous" you end up just under 50%. Kinda splits that vote, doesn't it? Most bloggers and blog-readers are also wordsmiths and know that the definition of "blasphemy" can't really apply here; can it?

  • Bill

    Morbidly unfunny. To "play" with any representation of a person, ANY person being abused, let alone put to death in any way is offensive, not to mention what it does to further numb the player to atrocity. Don't we get enuf of that from the bloody video games that literally teach our children to think such human destruction is fun and games?

    I'm no evangelical Bible thumper but this callously crosses a line.

  • http://friendlymama.blogspot.com Mary Linda

    I didn't think it particularly funny. I also think it disrespectful. I'm all about questioning assumptions and examining sacred cows (as it were) but I also don't think it's ok to act in a way deliberately demeaning to something others value. That's what I try to get across to my teen sons, anyway: You don't have to believe it but you should be respectful for those who do.

    And yeah, I know a lot of people have been "burned" by Jesus (not really by Jesus but by those who speak for Jesus) and so this is a tool to undo the cultural and religious damage done. But still…it is not cool to make fun of anything someone holds as truly sacred whether it's putting a jester hat on Jesus or "draw Muhammad day". Why go there? You're not building any bridges or openly engaging if you're pissing people off.

    • Freda

      Well said, Mary Linda.

    • Bill

      I agree, Mary. What was the creator of DressJesusUp trying to do? What is the motivation? If he had used the traditional picture of Jesus standing and knocking at the door it could have been hilarious. Imagine opening the door to find………..whatever!!!!!!!!!!

      But on the cross? That doesn't strike me as legitimate creative expression but merely in-your-face callous mockery, not of Jesus himself even, but of those who genuinely believe in him. So what is the point? What does that "artistic" creator gain except more agitation between believers and others and more factional stress………as if we haven't enuf of that already. It's basically immature nyah nyah.

      I cannot agree with Brian's (below) tit for tat approach. All that does it create more friction and to what point? Me throwing my tit back at their tat isn't going to change anyone's thinking and just elevate the tensions. That doesn't sound very productive and can actually create MORE ill will between factions.

      That SOME Moslems pervert their religion to violent ends is no reason to dis them all with in-their-face disrespect of their religious belief that may seem silly to us but otherwise does us no harm. Meanwhile, that disrespect is doing ACTUAL harm to relations between religions.

      I can't think of the verse now but there is one in the Bible where I think Jesus is speaking and suggesting that we should conduct ourselves in such a manner as to give no one cause to rebuke or discredit us. That should go for every aspect of life, not just religious inter-relations.

      The Golden Rule seems to apply here.

  • http://Sisterfriends-together.org Anita

    I'm going with the "disrespectful and boring with incredibly bad graphics" option.

  • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

    Oh oh John, you may change your mind after I'm done with you.

    This started as something fun but I'm starting to get a little ticked off here at the way the religious of most stripes demand that I be "respectful" and "tolerant" of their mumbo-jumbo but with rare exceptions (John Shore being the most prominent) have no intention of being the same back at me.

    If Christians don't want to "dress up Jesus" or Muslims don't want to "draw Mohammad", that is certainly their right. But to expect that no one else in the world will do so seems to me both unreasonable and intolerant. I proudly participated in "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" out of a sense of outrage at death threats aimed at the creators of South Park and Salmon Rushdie and the Danish cartoonists because of their art. While it's true no one on here has threatened me with auto de fe because I linked to Jesus Dress Up, the Christian church has its own history of persecuting and even executing the "blasphemous"

    My point is don't talk to me about respect and tolerance until the religious are willing to be equally tolerant and respectful of non-believers. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

    • Bill

      I could get into an intellectual discussion of the downsides of Brian's approach while understanding it, but I think the simplest response to it is…..

      WWJD?

    • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

      I like to think that I’m pretty respectful of anyone and everyone.

      I would never make fat jokes about Buddha or portray Mohammad as a terrorist, or any of the other such things.

      As for demanding respect … I don’t know if I see so much demanding (at least here) as I do asking for.

      Having said that, you have a very valid point. Stupidity like the war on the “war on Christmas” every year in which Christian agitation groups tell me which stores have used the word “Christmas” in their catalogs and which ones have cashiers who assume that their Jewish, atheist, Muslim, etc. customers want to be wished “Merry Christmas” is … well, … stupid.

      I would like to see everyone show appropriate levels of respect. I have friends in a variety of different religions — two or three Muslims, a Hindu, a couple Buddhists, and so on. I treat their beliefs the way I’d like them to treat mine. Yes, we disagree. We all get that. And when that’s the conversation, we talk about it.

      Otherwise, we just stay … polite.

      Just a thought.

  • Linda Chimienti

    Hi, Brian. I have always enjoyed your comments on John's blog. I thought it was interesting that you posted the link to the DressJesusUp site in response to John's Jesus Blow Up Doll image (John, you asked for it!) But if I have any complaint with the subject matter it would be with " Normal Bob". Actually, YOU are the only person who has criticized you as "that offensive Sheilds guy". I couldn't find a single comment demanding You be respective or tolerant. So lighten up on yourself. We love ya.( So, John, who have you cast for Brian's part in your screenplay?)

    • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

      I think it was Mary Linda who suggested games like this and Draw Mohammad Day were "not cool" and that "You don’t have to believe it but you should be respectful for those who do."

      And I guess my only point was that this respectfulness seems like a one-way street when it comes to believers and non-believers. I have to respect them even if they don't think it's necessary to respect non-believers.

      John had said he was going to write something on Draw Mohammad Day. I'm still hoping he will find the time to do so even if it's no longer timely.

      • http://friendlymama.blogspot.com Mary Linda

        Brian,

        I don't think I know enough about you to know what I may or may not have ever said or done that would have been disrespectful of anything you hold dear. If I've ever offended you, please tell me how so I can understand. My point was that we should be tolerant of one another and respectful and that goes ALL ways. Christians should be tolerant of those who do not "profess Christ". Non-Christians should not go around making fun of something just because it's not sacred to them. No matter how much you dislike me or my views, I'd hope you wouldn't dis on my mama or my favorite teacher, mentor or best friend just to spite me.

        Again, what you said seems to be a matter of painting many people with a broad brush. Unless you've read other posts I've made here or read my blog, what I wrote above does not in any way indicate my personal beliefs. Suggesting that we all try to respect one another does not mean that I am disrespectful of your beliefs and it certainly does not mean I'm trying to force you to believe what I do. It just means we should be polite to one another and try to assume the best and not judge anyone based on the actions of others.

        Mary Linda

        • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

          Mary Linda: I tried to paint with a broad brush because I didn't want you to think you had personally offended me. I was trying to make a larger point that the religious traditionally have demanded respect and tolerance when their track record in reciprocating is quite the opposite. I did not mean to suggest that you personally or anyone on here is intolerant.

          • http://friendlymama.blogspot.com Mary Linda

            I don't think what you're saying is necessarily true. I think the majority of the religious are tolerant while the intolerant minority gets all the press. My brother and his wife are Muslim and you won't find a broader mind in the world than my brother. His wife is from a majority Muslim country where the people are loving, kind, tolerant and very devoted to their faith but which makes the news whenever a small group of zealot plants a bomb in a crowded public place. The zealots are a very small minority but they get the attention. My group of friends runs across a huge spectrum of beliefs but no matter what, if any, diety they call Home, my friends are compassionate, passionate tree-hugging do-gooders who act out their values a whole lot more than they talk about them with stangers.

            The thing is that you may encounter untold numbers of nice, tolerant and respectful people of faith in a lifetime but you may never know because those good people are not trying to convert you: They ARE respecting you!

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

    I'm not a fan of God jokes. I hold to this idea that if I'm laughing at Jesus and/or God, then I'm not really being reverent.

    It's certainly not the most offensive thing I've ever seen, but I'm inclined to agree with Mary Linda. This looks like it's just someone with nothing better to do than irritate Christians. That's probably more annoying than the actual substance of the site.

    As Odgie said, it's pretty pointless and lame.

    Why am I even writing a comment if I'm just going to cite everyone else?

    Oh, well …

  • http://steveinmarines.blogspot.com steve

    I think it's bad to compare this one to Draw Mohammed Day. Draw Mohammed Day has a much narrower focus, and a much clearer goal. It is focused not on a whole religion, but on the barbarians making death threats and attempts. And the goal is to mock them. Since most of us are unable to arrest them, it's the best we can do. Clearly I'm in favor. Free expression is worth defending, and this Draw Mohammed Day is about defending it with solidarity and mockery. "Go on," we say, "now there are millions of us committing your thought crime. Let's see you kill us all." It's so inspiring. It's so dangerous. It's so American.

    This Jesus thing, on the other hand, is much more broad and less clear. And not funny. But this animation is: http://normalbob.com/

    • Diana

      Re: normalbob–didn’t laugh.

  • http://jfaraday.wordpress.com jfaraday

    I find dressing up Jesus on the cross to be really, truly, unspeakably offensive. If it were the image of a smiling, happy Jesus, I might be convinced that He'd have a sense of humor about it. But mocking Jesus on the cross crosses a line IMO.

  • Elizabeth F.

    Score one for being up here in the cheap seats. Because I can't afford computer internet access, I read the comments and imagined what it would be like for almost a day before I could actually see it. Nothing here nearly as blasphemous, or as funny, as what was in my head.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    Just some general thoughts on the concept of "respect":

    I suspect that in our daily lives most of us encounter people of different beliefs on a day-to-day basis. In my discussions on religion with my friends and acquaintances of different faiths or no faith, I have rarely ever had a discussion that blows up the way these things do on-line. In real world discussions among friends, nobody demands respect because it is a given; how can anyone be friends with someone who has no respect for them or vice-versa?

    However, on-line we are strangers no matter how much we might write on each other’s blogs, and there is really no consequence to being an ass. Because of this, I don’t expect respect or even common courtesy on-line. While I find the “dress-up Jesus” offensive, I’m not in the least surprised by it. I’m also not going to try to get the website taken down or send the site manager hateful e-mails.

    I think that believers, on the whole, need to try to play the “I’m offended” card less, or not at all. Yes, we should call people out on their b.s. (as many [believer and non-believer alike] have done over the upcoming move “Agora,” which is full of blatant errors) and correct falsehoods where we encounter them. We should have no tolerance for slander directed towards ourselves or anyone else. But our faith should no more be dented by “dress-up Jesus” than it was by “The Da Vinci Code” or by PZ Myers driving a nail through a communion wafer. Our faith doesn’t need the “respect” of others any more than it needs the endorsement of the state. The gospel was here before us and it will outlast us.

    Sorry for the ramble.

  • Schlegs

    Checked "too offensive" because I just wondered to myself, "Why?" Sure, the irreverence can invoke giggles, but I guess I just don't need to go there.

    The thing I wonder is, "How much attention would we give if we dressed up Mohammed – the site would be blocked in the -stans, there'd be calls for this guy's head, literally, and he'd be on the lam, and we'd even see CNN (okay, Fox News for the conservative Christians out there) cover the conflict over the web host's proposed solutions.

    As it stands, there's just this simple survey. Not a bad response by legions of believers to something frivolously blasphemous. In fact, could Christians actually be asserting grace?

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    I find it offensive, but also silly and pointless. I mean really, is this making any kind of statement? It looks to me like somebody’s way of saying, “Look at how edgy and irreverent I am.” Some people love them some attention, don’t they?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wow! Another terrific string of comments. I really SHOULD start a group blog; with writers/thinkers like you guys, we’d go huge. Anyway, thanks. Great chow for cognitizing.

  • http://none Don Rappe

    I think Brian makes some good points. I couldn't resist dressing the icon in its correct thorns and INRI sign when I realized I could not remove the whitie tighties and my sense of the story became offended. But, I didn't have to click the link, just as I don't have to click to the porn or racist sites. So, I issue no fatwa against the author of this site.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore
  • http://mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com/ craig bennett

    Disrepectful. We heard many stories in your previous post how people have had poor experiences in regards to being treated with dignity and respect.

    Jesus treated all with dignity and respect…he did get angry with the self righteous though.

    I think respect needs to go both ways…can you imagine the outcry if someone was to do this with Allah, Bhudda, etc..

    • Matthew Tweedell

      While I completely agree that it smacks of indignity and disrespect, I have to take issue with this idea that it's so much better tolerated because its target is Christianity.

      You meantion Buddha: There doesn't seem to be much of an outcry over this:
      http://entertainment.webshots.com/album/556998371
      And as for Allah, how are you to play dress up with a spirit? Now, with Mohammed you could, but Westerners' depictions of Mohammed are old news by now, unlikely in any particular case to garner much attention from those who find that stuff offensive (unless aired in a major media outlet, which, let's face it, would also cause a firestorm in the case of Jesus Dressup). Nevertheless, it's worth noting that apparantly there was once a similar game with Mohammed that has now been taken off-line for whatever reason…

      • Matthew Tweedell

        I've found that it's still possible to locate and play the Mohammad version, but as Paul wrote (1 Cor. 10:32, KJV): "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." So I guess not to Muslims either; thus I'm not giving the link here due to the chance that promoting it might lead one of our Muslim brothers to stumble. I just wanted to point out though that it does exist still.

  • erika

    funny, but i still laugh when some one farts

  • Tim

    I think I have a pretty good sense of humor…but sensibilities about what is and isn't funny is about as subjective as what is and isn't art, music, literature, film, etc.

    I found the clothing appliques on the initial page mild enough. It was when I clicked the reset button and started to see some very disturbing alternate pages that went beyond the pale.

    I also agree with the poster who commented about making light of the visage of Christ during the single most crucial moment of His earthy life.

    Reminds me of that joke about what do you throw a drowning rock guitarist……..A Marshall Stack….plugged in!

  • mark

    @ Mary Linda, et alii

    A few events and/or situations you may have heard of:

    …..The Crusades…..The Spanish Inquisition…..Witch Trials…..The Reformation….."GOD HATES FAGS"…..The Conquest of California…..

    All conducted by (self-identified) good Christians…..

    {Actually, you may not have heard of the last one—It hasn't gotten a whole lot of publicity}

    When the first Spanish explorers landed at what is now known as San Diego, they found a native population that was ignorant of Christ and Christianity…..The good Christian friars immediately undertook God's work to convert the heathens. Those who did not 'voluntarily' convert were crucified, with nails.

    If the Romans had crucified the historic Jesus (or rather Yishua, since neither Aramaic nor Hebrew had hard 'J's or 'Z's in their phonemes), the spectacle would not have lasted more than a few tens of minutes, since both the hands and the feet would have torn away from the nails embedded in the Cross. And since the Romans liked their shows, especially the really cruel ones, and would have wanted the various crucifixions they imposed to last as long as possible, the depictions of J.C. as presented on DJU.com and elsewhere are historically inaccurate, which means, of course, that said depictions are NOT of the death of Christ, and thus not blasphemy. Basically, they are cartoons.

    Oh, and J.C. was an ethnic Jew, NOT a European male!

    • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

      Wow. Thanks for telling us things we already knew.

      I think you'll find that the Christians here will soundly condemn every example you listed. You overlooked Manifest Destiny, White Man's Burden, the African slave trade, and the Divine Right of kings.

      To be perfectly honest, blaming all of Christianity for the "God hates fags" crowd is like blaming all African-Americans because you got mugged by a black guy once. They're a very, very tiny group that is soundly condemned by every mainline, and a large number of conservative, church(es).

      Jesus was Jewish? Really?

      If you spend some time looking here, you'll see that this post doesn't exist in a vacuum. Yes, some of us think that it's appropriate to show respect to Christianity, whether you believe it or not.

      We also tend to think that people should be respectful of non-believers, other-believers, and everyone else. That's kind of the idea behind John's book "I'm Okay, You're Not."

      But, then, you'd have to read something to know that, wouldn't you?

      I realize that it's not trendy in the bloggy world, but before insulting a whole community of commenters, it might be worth looking to see what else we have to say on things.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Stud!

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    At first I giggled inside. Then, when I read the comments distinguishing Jesus on the cross from Jesus doing something other than hanging on the cross, it made me think a little bit. I think I'd like it better if he were, in fact, doing something other than hanging on the cross.

    But I still giggled inside.


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