SNL’s ‘DJesus’ is a pacifist compared to Tim LaHaye’s lethal Death Jesus

Here’s the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, as envisioned by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in The Glorious Appearing [note: this is R-rated graphic violence]:

Rayford watched through the binocs as men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood. It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.

… Tens of thousands grabbed their heads or their chests, fell to their knees, and writhed as they were invisibly sliced asunder. Their innards and entrails gushed to the desert floor, and as those around them turned to run, they too were slain, their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of the glory of Christ.

… Their flesh dissolved, their eyes melted, and their tongues disintegrated.

… And Jesus had killed them all.

Jesus Christ, killer. Mass-murderer. Spiller of blood and entrails. He crushes his enemies, sees them driven before him, and revels in the lamentation of their women. (That quote is from the Bible, right?)

This is received not as the most pernicious blasphemy imaginable, but as wholesome, biblical, family-friendly entertainment for good evangelical Christians. It’s seen as edifying. It’s part of a beloved and phenomenally popular series of books, published by a respectable evangelical Christian publishing house and sold in every Christian bookstore chain in the U.S.

But the following video, on the other hand, has been denounced as an outrageous sacrilege — not by Tarantino fans, but by American Christians. Quite a few American Christians who have no problem at all accepting, enjoying and celebrating Tim LaHaye’s gory Jesus in the Left Behind series nonetheless pretend to be horrified by Saturday Night Live’s spoof “DJesus Uncrossed”:

Is this possible? Is this at all believable? Can anyone credibly claim to find that video offensive, but not be even more offended by that scene from The Glorious Appearing?

I don’t think that is believable at all. It seems like indignation-addicts just seizing on one more excuse for getting high on offendedness.

It’s understandable if someone thinks the SNL skit goes too far — that’s what it’s trying to do. But the premise of the sketch is far more reverent than the premise of Tim LaHaye’s scene of mass-slaughter.

LaHaye revels in gushing entrails and melting eyeballs, his blood-smeared face breaking out into a pious grin as he cheers. “This,” he says, “this is what Jesus Christ is really like! This is the real, true Jesus!”

The SNL skit, by contrast, presents itself as offering the most over-the-top, ludicrous idea it could conceive. “Nothing,” it says, “nothing could be more absurd than to imagine Jesus like this.”

James McGrath has a thoughtful response to SNL’s skit, drawing on this quote from Brian McLaren’s book Everything Must Change:

This eschatological understanding of a violent Second Coming leads us to believe that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion.

… If we remain charmed by this kind of eschatology, we will be forced to see the nonviolence of the Jesus of the Gospels as a kind of strategic fake-out, like a feigned retreat in war, to be followed up by a crushing blow of so-called redemptive violence in the end. The gentle Jesus of the First Coming becomes a kind of trick Jesus, a fake-me-out Messiah, to be replaced by the true jihadist Jesus of a violent Second Coming. This is why I believe that many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

(post updated to add content note at top)

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  • Could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE warn for the extremely violent, extremely detailed scene of carnage by Jenkins and Lahaye? I didn’t expect it to be THAT violent, that reveling in blood and pain. I almost threw up. I think I still might.

    On another note: What does Jesus have against the horses?

  • Leila

    It’s based on one of the OT prophets about how God will judge and deal with Israel’s enemies, Zechariah 14:12-15.  As far as the series goes, maybe it was because the riders were still on them or to keep others from using the horses to flee…

  • Jurgan

    I knew Jesus ended up killing people in the end, but I didn’t really think it would be that graphic.  I’ve always been half-convinced by your contention that these books offer readers a chance to relish the thought of their enemies’ deaths, but that passage proves it.  There’s no way you include all that if you’re not getting a sick, sadistic thrill from it.

  • Foelhe

    My first thought: I actually don’t doubt for a second that Christians are offended by this. It has nothing to do with making Jesus violent, and everything to do with making him ridiculous. Sure, you’d argue that this guy has nothing to do with Jesus’ actual teachings, but why spend time on teachings when we can focus on the guy’s nifty crown of thorns and the way he flings people into Hell?

    Aaaand then I got to McLaren’s quote. So now I’m not sure which is worse: that I keep giving conservative Christian’s the benefit of a doubt in spite of everything they’ve done the last few years, or that “benefit of a doubt” means I assume they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when they’re actually digging their way through Earth’s mantle.

  • Jessica_R

    To be fair, my ideal prayer is a mix of Neibuhr and Conan “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and if you do not, then to hell with you!” 

  • aunursa

    CONTENT NOTE: Additional violent deaths courtesy of L&J’s Jesus

    “Jesus is Lord!” the condemned shouted. “Jesus is Lord!”
    Gabriel stepped forward as Jesus returned to the throne. “Silence!” Gabriel commanded. “Your time has come!”
    Rayford watched, horrified despite knowing this coming, as the “goats” to Jesus’ left beat their breasts and fell wailing to the desert floor, gnashing their teeth and pulling their hair. Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and a yawning chasm opened in the earth, stretching far and wide enough to swallow them all. They tumbled in, howling and screeching, but their wailing was soon quashed and all was silent when the earth closed itself again.

    Rayford felt sick to his stomach at the sight of such carnage caused by the one to whom he had pledged his devotion.  Suddenly he bent over and threw up onto Chaim’s head realized that all those who were left were believers, worshipers of Christ, and that he himself was among those who would populate the millenial kingdom. 

    From Glorious Appearing

  • aunursa

    My first thought: I actually don’t doubt for a second that Christians are offended by this. 5-star reviews of Glorious Appearing

  • SisterCoyote

    I always kinda figured God has a sense of humor. Jesus did, at least. The SNL sketch is pretty funny – L&J is just horrifying. Especially the whole “reading-it–as-family-entertainment” thing. I usually more joke about the fact that my parents considered Left Behind too secular (and too much of the wrong theology) for us to read as kids, but I suddenly find myself incredibly glad of the fact.

  • Grey Seer

    …I found that passage fairly neutral, to be honest, which says a few mildly disturbing things about my mental state. However, this is because I’m a long-time fan of Warhammer 40,000, which has a whole line of hundreds of novels fleshing out it’s universe. And virtually all of these books will have horrible violence in them at some point, because, well, they’re 40k books.

    But when your gloriously returned Jesus cheerfully commits atrocities that wouldn’t look out of place in a 40k novel, you are doing it wrong. When the Millenial Kingdom you envisage as the ideal future nation of the faithful starts looking like the Imperium of Man, you are likewise doing it wrong. And when the rhetoric you find yourself spouting about oppression and vigilance and god’s holy wrath and righteous authority starts to outdo that of the Ecclesiarchy (which, for all it’s faults, is literally faced with the task of protecting the faithful from the numberless hordes of soul-eating daemons woven from children’s nightmares), then you are DOING IT WRONG.

    Seriously, people. This should not be a hard concept to grasp.

  • WalterC

     It says a lot that, if Nicolae Carpathia had actually won the final battle, that scene would probably turned out much the same, except Carpathia would have killed far fewer people (his followers outnumbered Christ’s by about a 100 million-to-1 ratio).

  • MikeJ

    even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion.

    Look what you made me do!

  • tatortotcassie

    My guess is that, as Fred has repeatedly pointed out, for these guys it all comes down to intent.  That’s why it’s ok that the Tribbles do nothing whatsoever to thwart the Anti-Christ and actually go along with his plans — because they do so reluctantly and sulkily and pull off kindergarten passive-aggressive stunts like making Nicky fall down in an airplane.  It’s not that they WANT to do it.  That would make it WRONG.  Hence:

    Glorious Appearings — Intent: show the mighty power of Badass!Jesus -> good
    SNL DJesus– Inent: mockery of Badass!Jesus -> bad

    (Oh, and what Lliira said about the horses?  That was one of my first thoughts too.  I mean, it’s not as if the horses had any choice whether or not they went along with the followers of the Anti-Christ.  . . . unless L&J argue that the horses’ intentions could have been more pure, and they could have bucked off their riders in a show of kindergarten passive-aggressivenss, just to show how unhappy they were with everything?)

  • Baby_Raptor

    I remember reading somewhere a long time ago (I was into these when I was in high school, so probably ~12 years) that the horses being shamelessly murdered was tied into that one story in the Old Testament where God got his rear handed to him by people in chariots. 

    I guess it was “Curses on your family line” taken to the most extreme extent ever?

    Leila’s theory makes more sense, but I figured I’d offer mine as well. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yeah. Turbo-Jesus is so awesome that he causes disembowelment just by talking. If I recall correctly, he was quoting the bible. 

    This is their porn. It was sickening and terrifying to me even when I actually believed some of it. 

  • Worthless Beast

    Horses?  Okay, I understand exploding people, because people suck, but those horses are innocent!  If the poor things have to die, there are more humane ways of putting them down. 

    I don’t need to click the video.  I saw the skit on SNL and thought it was hilarious – a parody of historical retcon bloody revenge movies – And it was funny precisely because it was *wrong.*  There is a special kind of humor that comes from something being or being perceived as *wrong.*  Much of the humor of Family Guy runs on it, as have many jokes on The Simpsons. 

    Thank you, once again, for reminding me why it was very, very good that I stopped reading the books after book 6 or so. 

  • TheDarkArtist

    I really hope that I’m not the only one who would pay $10 to go see a full length “Djesus Uncrossed” in the theater.

  • Darkrose

    I’m clearly missing something: why does a modern army have horses?

  • Worthless Beast

    It probably has something to do with passages in Revelation or one of the Old Testament books these guys use for prophecy I forget… You know, taking decriptions of armies in ancient terms literally, forcing them into the modern.

    Horses are still used for surprising purposes in modern life – such as mounted cops in cities because manuverability and whatnot, but I don’t know any modern army that uses them in force like in ancient times.

  • Ben English

    Holy shit, I’m glad I lost interest in the LB series before Glorious Appearing.

    Speaking of:

    I’m afraid to go too far with Buck’s homophobia because he hasn’t been an RTC for THAT long…

  • Yeah. L & J show astonishing lack of creativity when it comes to trying to relate the story of Revelation in modern times.

    Eeesh, I mean, when *I* used to believe in this stuff I never read material that gloried in the deaths of unbelievers and certainly the Second Coming of Jesus was to be heralded as a general worldwide cessation of hostilities, not as a last-gasp orgy of death and destruction.

  • Jessica_R

    I love Christoph Waltz so I loved that sketch, especially that the best joke was the critic blurb “It’s like a less violent Passion of the Christ!”. It makes fun of that abysmal dick swinging form of Christianity, of course the religious right are going to be taking their fainting couches over that.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Because prophecy. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Being a slightly different isotope of gaming geek, LaHaye and Jenkins’ TurboJesus always makes me think of Exalted‘s insane, rage-fueled Divine Tyrant, Malfeas. 

    Of course, in that universe, he turned out not to be quite omnipotent enough, and got _beaten_.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     The thing about the horses is that people like L&J don’t believe
    that animals have souls, and therefore don’t matter. They’re just
    objects, possessions to decorate human life, and their deaths are
    utterly meaningless.

    I’m confused.  I thought you were trying to show that L&J think animals are _different_ than humans….?  That’s pretty how much how they treat every living thing in their stories that isn’t a main character.

    Or a phone.

  • Which, come to think of it and given the snippet in the article, is also how they think of non-Christians…  or people in general.

  • nichevo

     that last quoted paragraph is the ultimate portrayal of a narcissistic monster. a perfect thumbnail of ray-ray.

  • I think that the difference in indignation by Real True Christians between these two depictions of Christ-as-Killer, is that in L&J’s case, they quite clearly believe (with !PASSIONATE SINCERITY!) in this version of Christ-as-Killer and treat it as absolutely serious, while in SNL’s case they quite clearly do not believe in Christ-as-Killer, and treat the matter as absurd.  

    It is not about the works you do, it is all about what is in your heart as you do them, don’tcha’know.  Though why they prefer someone to seriously believe that Christ is a heartless figure of vengeful violence rather than see treating one of bravest pacifists in western mythology as a killer as absurd is beyond me.  

    Okay, that was a lie, it is not beyond me.  Altemeyer noted the authoritarian mentality tends to have a lot of pent up hostility and self-righteousness waiting to come out, it just needs approval from the authority it submits to (in this case Jesus and God) to vent that hostility.  

  • vsm

    I think I preferred the pope sketch. It’s based on the same idea of placing a holy figure in a very secular media product, but it’s a bit subtler and meaner and focuses more on Waltz’s performance.

  • nichevo

     i never understood that line of reasoning. if you posit that people keep existing after they die but animals don’t, to me that makes killing animals all the more monstrous since you are depriving them of their very existence.

  • AnonymousSam

    To these people, having nowhere to go after death makes life itself utterly meaningless. They make the ultimate nihilists.

  • That matches with what I’ve seen.  The number of times I’ve been questioned on how life can have any value if there isn’t an afterlife…

    It’s one of those questions I know that the asker doesn’t really believe, if they give it any thought.  I mean, if you really could look into the eyes of a beloved spouse/parent/child and say “if there weren’t a supernaturally immortal component to you, I wouldn’t care if you were flayed alive,” I don’t think the presence of said supernaturally immortal component would make a difference.

    But, it makes a great excuse for cruelty to animals.

  • I am with you on that Grey Seer.  For those unfamiliar, wholesale slaughter of millions happens all the damn time in Warhammer 40,000 just to underscore both the scale of the conflicts going on and just how horribly bleak the settings is.  And the kicker?  It is as often as not the ostensible “good guys” who are doing it (harsh decisions, sadistic choices, and “I did what I had to do”  rationalizations are all frightfully common occurrences in that universe.)  

    This is a good (quick) example of the kind of stuff we are referring to.

  • Random_Lurker

    Fred answered it himself, many times, in the LB series, so I’m confused that he thinks the outrage is not genuine.  It’s not about how evil the antichrist acts, it’s about who’s side he’s on.  If it was about actions, then GA Jesus would trump the poor antichrist without any real contest.  No, what’s at issue is the treatment of the issue: SNL is not portraying murderer-Jesus reverently.  Everything involving the J-man must be with hushed reverence, bowed prayer, or whatever and whatnot that each church deems appropriate.  SNL is using him in a joke.  That’s what gets them raw.

    Why they talk about the violence in their complaint is probably the same reason they say abortion is about saving babies, or “making a prayer request” for that poor young thing down the street who’s seeing THAT boy, and you just know where that is going to lead, and we pray it doesn’t lead to, ahem, challenging their walk with god…. anyway.  It’s because they know other people will take their comments more seriously when disguised properly.

    sort of related: Gandhi 2
    courtesy of Weird Al

  • AnonymousSam

    On the other hand, these tend to be the same people who believe that atheists and Satanists are the same thing and there’s nothing stopping them from deciding on a whim to go commit a few atrocities, because, hey, why not, it’s not like there’s a god, right?

    In fact, LeHaye describes (yet fails to consistently portray) the Earth descending into violence and chaos following the Rapture because without the godly to share their presence with the unbelievers, the unbelievers decide on a whim to run rampant.

    These are the people who say, unironically, “If it weren’t for God, what would be there to stop me from stealing and murdering and raping?”, which if you just think about it, is very nearly stating “If it weren’t for God, I’d be doing all these things.” It’s a scary thought.

    I’m a bad person with whom to discuss such things because thanks to my APD, I don’t have an empathic response when I hurt someone, so I have to make up for it by being conscious of everything I do and why and what effect it has on others. I can readily imagine people who would commit atrocities because they felt like it — if I’d turned out differently, that’d be me. I’m a literal sociopath.

    Now look at Rayford and Buck’s portrayal throughout the books. Notice how little they care about anyone else’s pain. Read the excerpt above, how people are horribly, agonizingly destroyed — and Rayford sees this as a great triumph and is glad for it.

    The ideal RTC, LeHaye seems to be saying, is a sociopath with an extra dose of righteousness.

  • Chris Kern

    That single final quote shows how un-Christian and even “anti-Christ” the Left
    Behind novels are. All you need to know is that book 12 contains the
    phrase “And Jesus had killed them all”. How could anyone, much less a
    *preacher*, read the four Gospels and think that “And Jesus had killed them
    all” represents a true prophecy of what will happen?

  • heckblazer

    Good guys?  There are no good guys in 40K ;).  The Left Behind quote also immediately made me think of the setting, specifically how it totally sounded like something the chaos god Khorne would do.  He’s a divinity whose followers chant “Blood for the blood god!  Skulls for the throne of Khorne!” and whose best known worshiper’s famous quote is “Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn!”

  • flat

    The Djesus sketch shows how absurd this kind of thinking is, the same way the Ciaphas cain novels do to 40K

  • Baby_Raptor

    Oh, that’s easy. God said himself that “The wages of sin are death.” So anyone who sins but doesn’t accept Jesus’ sacrifice and forgiveness DESERVES the ultimate justice Turbo-Jesus is putting out here. God said so. /LaJenkins

  • There’s a joke about RTC’s distrust of the unorthodox, bronies and L&J being prophets here, but I can’t quite find a way to make it funny.

  • heckblazer

    Horses were used by American special operations forces in Afghanistan in areas where the terrain was too rugged for vehicles.  

    The last cavalry charge that I am aware of was successfully done by Polish lancers in WWII against German infantry.  During the war Poland, Germany and other countries also used horses for mounted infantry who traveled by horse but fought on foot.  Horses were also heavily used for transport by Germany in WWII.  While they were building rockets and jet planes most of their battlefield supplies were still mostly schlepped around by horse-drawn carts.

    If there was a shortage of fuel or parts or maintenance personnel as a result of the Rapture I could see horses still being used in combat.  Given that this is Left Behind, I doubt they thought things out that much so I expect it’s probably some prophecy thing.

  • Darkrose

    You are made of fucking win. That is absolutely brilliant. 

    And honestly, Buck strikes me as the kind of guy who’s massively homophobic because he’s afraid of acknowledging his true feelings about Rick Drywall–I mean, Rayford Steele.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    These are the people who say, unironically, “If it weren’t for God, what
    would be there to stop me from stealing and murdering and raping?”,
    which if you just think about it, is very nearly stating “If it weren’t
    for God, I’d be doing all these things.” It’s a scary thought.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen someone write EXACTLY THAT in an Internet Argument. 

    Scary thought indeed.

  • “Hither came Jesus the Nazarene; brown-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet . .”

  • Phwise

    It’s too bac the armies of the antichrist didn’t bring some chariots of iron along with their horses; it’s well known that scions of Yahweh’s line, like the big man himself, cannot overcome an army which uses chariots of iron.

    I wonder if it’s just chariots, or if God is somehow vulnerable to iron in general?
    Here’s a thought: In Exalted terms, God is an unshaped Raksha. His primary emanations are Father (Heart grace), Son (Cup grace), and Holy Ghost (Ring grace). Would explain much.

  • Thomas

     This cup is the new covenant in my blood. For the Blood God.I think we’re onto something here.

  • mhelbert

     Hey! What’s the trouble with Tribbles? They’re cute furry critters. It’s not their fault that they have an insatiable appetite for quadrotriticale.

  • Side note: The thing that never quite satisfied me is that if Jesus Christ came along and supposedly wiped away all our sins, past and present, why do we still die of old age?

    That, of course, implies that the “wages-of-sin” doctrine is still in force.

  • You DID see that scene with Kirk Cameron and Rayford in the movie? Where he’s all but leaning into Rafe’s space when they pray? X-D

  • The_L1985

     It’s even worse when you hear that sort of argument from your own father.

  • Seven87eight

     oh good, I was gonna post that if no one had gotten to it yet.