Mean Jesus (not a cagefighter)

I like this.

A lot.

In [Flannery] O’Connor’s description, what Parker goes back to is “the haloed head of a flat, stern Byzantine Christ with all-demanding eyes.” Parker decides it’s for him. Once completed, the tattooed image affects people in the most alarming ways. A single glance, with the help of an angled mirror, is enough to drive Parker himself to the corner for a pint of whiskey. Later, when he shows it off to his old cronies, their laughter drives puts him in a rage, which he expresses with his fists, leading to his ejection from the bar. When she finally gets a look, Sarah Ruth, claiming not to recognize the figure as God, damns Parker for an idolater and thrashes his back with a broom, raising welts on Jesus’ India-ink image and driving Parker out of the house. He ends up “leaning against [a pecan] tree, crying like a baby.”

I am all but convinced that this particular representation of Christ did not come from O’Connor’s imagination. Nor is it a one-off from some crumbling church in the Near East. On the contrary, it is a stock image called a Holy Mandylion, and is very popular among the various Orthodox communions.

It’s got Flannery O’ Connor,
Philip Roth, Aryan conspiracies and more. Let us find our fun where we can!

RELATED: Jesus is not a cagefighter

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Rhinestone Suderman

    For those used to the more gentle—even rather kitschy—depictions of Christ, His mother and the saints in Western iconography; golden hair, rolling eyes, effeminate features, Eastern Orthodox art can come as a bit of a shock.

    The eyes of Christ in Eastern icons are usually demanding, or deeply sorrowful; the warrior saints carry swords and spears, the colors are bright and deep, the faces are stern or thoughtful.

    There is an icon of Christ, the teacher, at my church, painted by a prisoner in jail, in the Orthodox style; it is extremely powerful.

    Ethiopian Iconography is very powerful, and beautiful, too. And if you’re interested in Far Eastern representations of Christ, and the Virgin, you might want to try googling, “Our Lady of La Vang.”

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I do think, by the way, that there is a problem with some churches becoming to “feminized”, and pushing an image of Jesus that is both overly nice, and androgynous. Part of it might be that, in many churches, the female congregants are the ones who end up being in charge of things such as the Altar Guild, the Feed the Homeless programs, the Sunday School and other programs; a lot of this is due to default, of course—the women do it, because the men don’t. (Guys, you might want to get more more involved in these things.) Another reason might be—it might be strange, but bear with me—general Christian discomfort with much of the Old Testament—which is definitely masculine, and not always “Nice”; unfortunately, you can’t really have the New Testament, without the Old.

    I also think the idea of seeing Christ as one’s “spouse” or husband, can cause some problems for men. And, of course, it’s really not the only way to see Him; Flannery O’conner herself stated she related to God more as “Father” than “Husband”.

    In my experience, it’s groups such as the Altar Guild, the Ladies Aid Guild, the choir (usually containing mostly women) that run churches; the feminists are waaaaay off base, when they insist that female priests/ministes are the only way women can have true power in the church. Catholic or Protestant, they already have a great deal of it!

    (Contrariwise, many feminists push Wicca/witchcraft as empowering for women; um, sorry, but every “coven” I’ve met was usually run, quite heavy-handedly, by the one or two male “Warlocks” in charge, while the “witches” adoringly went along with him/them—putting up with nonsense that Mary McGinnis, head of the Ladies Altar Guild and president of the Sacred Heart Society at St. Dwimildina of York’s Catholic Church, wouldn’t put up with from any male for two seconds!)

  • Manny

    All I can say is that Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back” is one of the great short stories of the century. Definitely worth a read.

  • Teresa

    Yes anything that Flannery wrote is definitely worth a read!

  • Anne B.

    I always thought Flannery was referring to the Christ Pantocrator, as in this photo:

  • Lawrence S. cunningham

    My guess is that she was inspired by the Christ of Georges Roualt which was depicted on the cover of Guardini’s book THE LORD. She knew that book well.

  • Jacob A.

    I don’t think you have encountered very many Wiccan covens then, I’ve been in 4 covens and the women were always seen as equal and held in equal respects as the men. In fact in Wicca some traditions are female based and totally feminized.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em, Jacob.

    In all the ones I encountered, the men, not the women, called the shots.