What Jesus and Barney Have in Common

Over the past year, our nation has been divided in ways that we haven’t seen seen since the Civil War. For who knows what reason, just a few days before our recent election, the folks at CNN decided to add fuel to the fire.

They published a piece entitled, “Do you believe in a red state Jesus or a blue state Jesus?

The author shares how a factor in how our citizenry is divided is theology. As the author of a book that describes that very phenomenon, I don’t dispute that. But I wince at seeing such an article right before an election. I felt that inviting readers to take the “special quiz” that they provided was an act of theological terrorism; i.e., throwing an unholy hand-grenade into the living room of an anxious, grieving, war-weary nation that is suffering from collective PTSD and intentional acts of super-pac sponsored polarization.

I took the quiz and as I predicted, I came out as believing in a “blue state Jesus.” But I found so many of the questions to not be either/or, but rather both/and! I was livid about the experience and for me it was the last straw.

When my feelings get moved, when someone steps on my theological toes, when someone pisses me off, I’ve come to learn that it’s best for me to channel things in poetry. I shared the following poem as part of my sermon this past Sunday, the Sunday after the election. I hope it can help unite us.


born with the dripping placenta from a young peasant’s womb,

my jesus is red

depressed with the wind knocked out of him when he learned that the head of his

cousin the baptist had been separated from it’s body,

my jesus is blue

blister-kissed too much by the sun from fasting in the wilderness for forty days to

prepare for his ministry with raw skin exposed,

my jesus is red

groaning with dismay and frustration that his disciples didn’t trust him about his

ability to raise lazarus, as well as grieving the death of his friend,

and turning his face toward faithless jersualem with tears in his eyes,

my jesus is blue

blood flushing his face with veins twitching in righteous rage as he flipped over tables and

chased out the money changers from the courtyard of imperial puppet herod’s bogus

transactional religiosity, and kneeling in an olive grove with no one by his side,

praying so deep that blood rained down from his eyes,

my jesus is red

aching from the bruises of being flogged and beaten after being arrested,

my jesus is blue

his life-force draining from his side, head, hands and feet upon ceaser’s cruel cross,

my jesus is red

but more than that…

more than crimson and cobalt,

more than scarlet and navy,

my jesus wears the plum violet robes of a king

he wears the magenta hues of the heart of the torn temple veil

he wears the eggplant cloth that lydia dealt in

my jesus is purple!


oh lovers of that magenta man from nazareth, let’s not wait until we’re old women to

wear it, let’s risk spilling the cup and dying our sleeves with the blended grape juice of communion

let us be the wine-stained body of christ!


Roger Wolsey is the author of kissing fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity.

About Roger Wolsey

Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He's the author of "Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity."

  • http://www.adamhamilton.org Adam Hamilton

    Great article, Roger and magnificent poem! Thank you. You’ve captured my sentiments and those of many others. Blessings!

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      Thank you Adam! Blessings to you too!

  • http://Facebook Dorothy Lippold

    Thank you for this terrific poem. It states how I believe. God bless you.

  • http://www.episcoveg.com Sue

    I shared your post on Facebook with some positive comments. But then I went to take the quiz. I’ll admit that I kind of glossed over the paragraphs above it. But I actually not only thought the questions were thought provoking, and was surprised by how I answered some of them, but I felt like the quiz might generate some understanding and mutual respect between sides if people could see side-by-side another valid way of looking at the world through the lens of their Christian beliefs. But maybe I felt that way, because even though I thought I was a very left-leaning moderate, it turns out that my quiz results were evenly split between a Blue State Jesus and a Red State Jesus. And as partisan as I enjoy being on Facebook, I was kind of happy to know that I have some things in common with people I didn’t think I did. So I ended up recommending it to my Christian Facebook friend. In other words, I consider myself a very biased person both politically and theologically. And I came away in a much nicer mood toward stereotypes I generally find intolerable. But maybe that’s only because I ended up adhering to a Purple State Jesus.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Faith

    Thought-provoking poem and beautiful! After reading the poem/article, it brought to mind a question someone asked at a community meal – “What does the color purple convey in the christian religion?” Think your article would help answer that question!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.butnotyet.com JoelR

    “Blended grape juice”? Your Methodist colors are showing, Roger.

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      oops…. apparently i forgot to include the word fermented… ; )

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

    Thanks for the feedback everyone! If you liked this poem, you might enjoy the previous poem that I submitted. “bolder” — it was written before the election, and after the hurricane…


    If you want to learn a bit more about me and my surreal life and very real insecurities, see, this blog about my being asked to pray before President Obama spoke at a large rally. “Puny Pastor Prays for President”


  • Carrie C.

    What a beautiful poem. Well said, sir. Well said.