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”:

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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)

  • GDwarf

     

    but even the very first book had plenty of blood and gore.

    Confession time: I kinda enjoyed the first book. But yeah, it still had lots of stupid:
    A medieval society banning *fire*? Seriously? Yes, I get it’s a straw-man argument about gun control and safety regulations, but even at the time I was struck by how utterly preposterous and stupid that was.

    Then there was the fact that 1/3rd of the book was suddenly BDSM almost-porn. I *like* BDSM, and still thought it was out of place and weird. Especially when the protagonist starts going on about how his torturess was really loving because she learned about how to hurt him the most and etc. It was weird and creepy.

    I also still remember how one character discovers another died a noble death by tasting the ashes left behind by his self-immolation. Yeah.

    Really, the more I remember of that book the worse it seems. It had some good ideas (I liked that magic only works if its target can potentially understand it, though that does raise the question of why one can, say, burn down a tree with spoken magic…) and the writing wasn’t bad. But it also had lots and lots of issues just under the surface.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The worst of which being that wonderful scene where a child loses her tongue and nearly dies. By the protagonist, who we’re supposed to identify as good and righteous and, literally, the best and wisest man ever to live (considering he gets literally deified at the end of the series). Even better, even with his sneering contempt, we’re apparently supposed to view this attempted murder as better than the alternative (letting her grow up to be an evil woman).

    …wouldn’t her motive be revenge on the person who cut part of her out and tried to kill her?

  • AnonymousSam

    She eventually does do that. We’re supposed to see her revenge effort as yet more proof of her evil nature.

  • AnonymousSam

    In fact, you can summarize the books’ morality as “Anyone who does something against Richard or someone he likes is bad and deserves death. Anyone who disagrees with Richard is a stupid fool at best and probably deserves death. Anyone who believes in a philosophy that Richard doesn’t like is a stupid fool who definitely deserves death.”

    Throughout every book — all twelve of them — there is not a single character who crosses Richard and survives, I don’t think, and there is not one single person of greater intellect, including his grandfather, one of the greatest mages to have ever lived — Richard spends a good ten pages in book 11 (if I recall) ridiculing the man for being too stupid to realize a simple truth about the world.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What.

  • AnonymousSam

    Okay, full story. This is what I can remember, at least. It’s been awhile.

    The character in question is the snotty, spoiled, selfish daughter of an evil queen. Her favorite hobby is bullying and mistreating her serving girl. The first time Richard encounters her, he’s playing the part of intimidating bodyguard to Kahlan, who we’ll just call a sorceress for simplicity’s sake (her true power is indicative of Goodkind’s view of women and is not great). When the princess makes some kind of snide comment about Kahlan, Richard threatens to cut out her tongue.

    At one point when the story takes a dive into a twisted BDSM sideplot as Richard is captured by a dominatrix, she encounters Richard playing the part of torture pet and is interested in getting some revenge on him. The dominatrix invites her to come torture Richard, which she accepts.

    We eventually come to Richard, tied up, being tortured for the bajillionth time since this sideplot began. Here comes the princess, who starts experimentally poking at him while badmouthing Kahlan. This makes Richard angry, so he breaks his bonds and kicks her in the mouth, severing her tongue. He utters the words “Promise made, promise kept,” sneering at her.

    The girl barely survives and a witch regenerates her tongue. Years later, coming into her own sorceress power, the princess has become queen and seeks revenge on Richard. This backfires and her old serving girl is able to turn her spell against her, leading to her gruesome death.

    The moral lessons here are… not great.

  • vsm

    I’ve considered reading the books just for all the absurdities, but I’m guessing twelve volumes of Objectivism would be a bit too mcuh for me, even for evil chickens and the righteous slaughter of pacifists.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, back up, this inspired Legend of the Seeker? Am I gonna have to take that off the to-watch list? The show’s treatment of Cara and Kahlan as described by trustworthy friends of mine is what put it ON the to-watch list.

    As for what you describe…ugh. I don’t have any better words than ‘ugh’.

  • AnonymousSam

    I only watched a few episodes of Legend of the Seeker and read the synopsis of a few others, but it honestly felt like what they did was take a list of all the proper nouns in the entire book, get a person who had only read the book once to summarize each one in one sentence without using adjectives, and then wrote the scripts on that. The characters were, at best, only loosely related to their novelized counterparts.

    I recall there’s at least one part where the script writers obviously had to assgrab and retcon plot points because they had just written out something vital to the storyline and had to get it back in by making up material from scratch. The ending of the first season is also… completely out of left field. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the book’s ending..

    So it might still be good. I don’t know. Once I discovered that basic character relations had been completely rewritten from the ground up, I couldn’t watch it because it kept clashing with what I knew from the book. I think the very first episode establishes that Darken Rahl is Richard’s long lost twin brother — when in the book, Darken Rahl is Richard’s father. It’s hard to ignore that kind of discrepancy, but it might actually work in your favor, since you’ve never read the books.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s actually more like six books of objectivism, four books of fantasy with Unfortunate Implications, and one book dedicated to the evils of the Clinton family, but yeah. They’re terrible.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    FWIW, I watched the LoS show and enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure, and never read the books. AS’s summary doesn’t really match the show, though there is rather a lot of soft-core torture-porn in both. By the standards of television fantasy, I’d say LoS is OK, but that’s not exactly earthshattering praise.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    FWIW, I watched the LoS show and enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure, and never read the books. AS’s summary doesn’t really match the show, though there is rather a lot of soft-core torture-porn in both. By the standards of television fantasy, I’d say LoS is OK, but that’s not exactly earthshattering praise.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Good to know, thanks, Dave, AnonymousSam.

  • vsm

    the evils of the Clinton family
    Oh wow, I read what happens to them. I’m pretty much forced to read these now.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Tea Party sends out (and quickly retracts) an ad photoshopping their target into a Nazi uniform. The kicker? The target is Karl Rove. 

    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/20/opinion/avlon-gop-family-feud/index.html

  • Turcano

    How many books can end well with the protagonist being deified?

    I don’t know, Vlad Taltos seems to be on that trajectory.

  • http://twitter.com/KeroseneBitumen Christina Nordlander

    “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?)”

    You know, Fred, the expression “wins the internet” gets tossed around lightly a lot these days, but this time…

  • alfgifu

    Like Madhabmatics, I always read the eternal superiority of Tolkien’s elves as the result of seeing their story filtered through their own legends, combined with:

    a) legends passed down by surrounding cultures that benefitted from scraps of elvish technology etc (rather as the Anglo-Saxons revered the Romans) and

    b) the happenstance that most of the genuinely nicest elves were the ones willing to put their love of Middle Earth, a broken and fallible place, over the paradise in the West. These just happened to be the elves that most of the legends and stories revolve around, so of the entire species they were the ones most likely to genuinely deserve admiration.

    (A slightly less handwavey thought: who can blame an author who experienced a whole ton of pain and misery for falling in love with a vision that sums up to him everything that is potentially wonderful about the world? Even if it is inconsistent and problematic.)

  • http://twitter.com/DataSnake DataSnake

    The funniest part? One of the first groups to express “outrage” was Mrs. LaHaye’s Ladies Against Women: http://thehill.com/video/in-the-news/283717-concerned-women-for-america-blasts-snl-djesus-uncrossed-skit

  • MaryKaye

    [Spoiler warnings for _Second Darkness_ from Paizo]

    The roleplaying game company Paizo  had an interesting debacle with elves in one of their six-month Adventure Path series, _Second Darkness_.  The whole motivating purpose of this adventure is to save the elves from destruction.  But Paizo is pretty tired of elves as the Best Race Ever, so they depicted elven society in remarkably negative terms:  passive, ungrateful, treacherous, full of veiled internal conflict which prevents it from getting anything done, and so xenophobic that even non-heartland elves are treated as subelven scum. Either one of these ideas has merit on its own, but putting them together was perhaps ill thought out.  From the message-board comments, a lot of groups’ attempts to play this Adventure Path ended in player revolt along the lines of “never mind the Second Darkness, we’re just going to kill the elves ourselves.”

    When I wanted to run this I had ample warning of the problem, so we made the PCs all elves themselves, and part of the secret behind-the-scenes elven organization trying (badly) to deal with the issue.  We *still* ended up with an outcome in which the PCs infiltrated the drow city, learned how to stop the Second Darkness plan, and then started working on how to reunite elf and drow society because *the drow were in most respects preferable to the elves*.   (I agreed with them, too.  Contrast the abundant and beautiful, if bloody and dark, art in the drow city in part 4 with the complete lack thereof in the Elven fortress in part 5.  The elves are spiritually dead.  Also–spoiler–the architect of the elf-destroyer plan is in fact an elf by birth,  not a drow; it’s the elves who are driven by xenophobic hatred and malice, whereas the drow are pretty much  minding their own, admittedly drowish, business.)

    It has a reputation as Paizo’s most problematic AP ever, and in our hands this was richly deserved; without making the PCs all secret-society elves I don’t think I could have made it work at all. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    “Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In
    your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we
    are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours.”

    Yeesh. And Goodkind claims to be an Objectivist; the ones who believe that people should only live for themselves?

    Oh, wait, that doesn’t apply to other people. I sometimes forget that Objectivism amounts to “My Narcissism Is Totally Awesome, The Philosophy.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    One of the things I like about Warhammer Fantasy’s High Elves is that they are flawed but still pretty decent people, rather than the usual stereotypes of elves as Perfect Pretty People or Arrogant Self-Absorbed Assholes.

    They have the same potential for evil as anyone else. Warhammer’s Dark Elves are not a separate race, just the breakaway faction that embraced being sadistic assholes.

    The xenophobic asshole Wood Elves are another breakaway faction (and they at least have solid reasons for breaking away, and became xenophobic because they spent centuries isolated and surrounded by enemies).

  • Makabit

    I’ll just add that, coming from a Jewish perspective, the idea of armed uprising against Rome is, rather than being utterly out of place,  deeply satisfying. So while Jesus is clearly not the man for it, the scene of Peter doing his schtick is actually…appealing to me. Masada, and all. So, another take…

  • Alicia

     The Legend of the Seeker is to the original book series what Left Behind the Movie was to the Left Behind books. The writers of both adaptations were more or less just ordinary people; they didn’t have any bizarre sexual fixations on the violent torture and murder of political enemies, they didn’t have any especially radical political views to convey. Naturally, ‘Seeker’ prunes out almost all of the Objectivist nonsense (I don’t remember anything) and tells a straightforward swords and sorcery fantasy.
     
    It’s significantly better than both versions of LB but in terms of writing quality I’d say it’s on par with Xena – Warrior Princess or Merlin. Some episodes are good, others less so, but never nearly as horrifying as

  • AnonymousSam

    No, see, it’s totally okay because he tells them not to do it (even though they do it anyway). When he spits on people for believing in socialism, that’s his affirmation that he’s in the right. :D

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Actually, though it isn’t stressed it’s pretty clear in the Gospels that many of Jesus’ early followers were expecting exactly that: Jesus was going to lead the revolution. When it became clear that this wasn’t part of the plan, we’re told that many of them left him. Even the inner circle of disciples had trouble accepting that he had no intention of starting a war.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > I’d say it’s on par with Xena – Warrior Princess or Merlin.

    Yeah, I’d agree with that.

  • auroramere

     For some reason, what bugs me most about this scene is the ‘goats’ acknowledging Jesus before being swallowed up by the earth. I’d like to think at least some of them would tell this Jesus what they really thought of him, once they realized there would be no mercy.

  • Tricksterson

    Or L&Js Jesus is a sadistic life hating asshole?

  • Tricksterson

    I havent read “Glorious Appearing” but from what I’ve heard that’s just a taste.  It goes on for page after page after page like that.

  • Tricksterson

    Like women?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     It wasn’t clear to me, having only watched the first season, that Darken Rahl actually was Richard’s long lost brother, and not just lying.

    It was fun watching my wife, who has read the books, become increasingly apoplectic at the various things they changed.

    I just liked playing “Spot the former power ranger” among the guest cast.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah, it’s pretty much a whole whack of Bible quotes and Rayford being awed and enraptured at what he sees.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     The Objectivism is not well-preserved in the adaptation. 

    My wife loved those books, but after watching the first season of Legend of the Seeker, she went back and tried to reread them, now that she knew what objectivism was all about, and she was really taken aback by how morally destitute the whole thing was in retrospect.

  • Tricksterson

    The Revolution will eat it’s own.

  • Tricksterson

    The “Objectivist nonsense” wasn’t really there in the first few books.  It around “Faith of the Fallen” that Goodkind goes full bore gonzo on the Objectivism.  While I have no evidence, just by reading the books (and using my knowledge as a former Objectivist) I think he converted at some point.  The early books are really just Robert Jordan with heaps of S&M added.

  • Tricksterson

    Spoiler Warning from the books:

    In the books Darken was Richards father not brother.

  • P J Evans

     It’s going to be interesting to see how he gets there.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Yes. I worked that out from my wife screaming ‘Wrong!’ at the TV when he introduced himself to Jenssen as her brother. But it wasn’t clear to me whether he was actually meant to really be their brother or if he was meant to be no relation at all to them and just making up crap. My suspicion was lit up by the fact that he apparently claimed his father’s name was “Penis”. Though it turns out that’s actually canon accurate

  • AnonymousSam

    I seem to remember the very first episode making it canon. It’s been awhile since I watched it though. I really liked that they expanded on Kahlan’s sister right up front, but there were too many continuity clashes for me to stand even having it on as background sound.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Ah. Not having read the books, I just thought it wasn’t any good.  But it was nice to see so many former Power Rangers get work.

  • http://tobascodagama.com Tobasco da Gama

     Wait, you mean that Jesus ISN’T the God-Emperor of Mankind?

  • AnonymousSam

    The phrase “God-Emperor” just got me doing parallel comparisons between Turbo Jesus and the Lord Ruler of Mistborn. Thanks. ._.

  • Mark Z.

    “(That quote is from the Bible, right?)”

    Khan 3:16!

  • Launcifer

    Nah. I mean, sure, he’s technically a corpse on a throne and all but, seriously, the Emperor of Mankind actually does something what with the Astronomicon and whatnot.

    Damn, now I’ve imagined this bizarre French film where Jesus is a lighthouse keeper.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    If my dogs aren’t waiting for me in the afterlife then I’ve got no use for it.

    My dad adored his dog, and once asked our priest what the church’s position was on animals and heaven. The priest (incidently, a Franciscan) who tends to answer such questions from the best of the church’s expressed principles rather than its specific doctrines, said that if we are right in thinking of heaven as unfettered, ever-expanding love, he can’t imagine something that is the source and subject of so much love not being part of it.

    As it turned out, dad died a few years before his dog. We have a range of religious beliefs within my family (including none), but when the dog had to be put down we all liked the idea of him waking up to the most joyous reunion imaginable.

  • Makabit

    Well, that was what Moshiach was supposed to do. See also: Bar Kochba revolt.

  • Lorehead

    Bertrand Russell, in “Why I am not a Christian,” wrote that he considered the Buddha morally superior to Jesus, in that the Buddha showed moral consideration for animals, while Jesus slaughtered a herd of pigs for no good reason.  Surely he could have exorcized the demons without harming the pigs.

  • Lorehead

    Saying that animals don’t deserve moral consideration because they don’t have the unobservable, supernatural, irreducible property of deserves-moral-consideration begs the question.  What we do know is that at least dogs, horses and pigs have the capacity to feel emotions and pain, while at least dolphins and great apes have similar intelligence to human children.

    It gets particularly bizarre when people insist that nonhuman animals and human fetuses with similar brain development deserve nowhere near the same degree of moral concern.

  • Lorehead

    First chapter of Judges.  “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.”  Some atheists, more concerned with fighting Fundamentalist Christians in the present than with appreciating Judges as a historical source, choose to read this as saying that iron chariots are God’s kryptonite.


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