Who Do You Say Jesus Is? Liberal, Conservative, Hyper-Fundy, Pop, or Some Other Inadequate Stereotype

Jesus asks Peter: Who do you say I am? Peter answers: You are the Messiah, the son of the living God!  Good answer.

It seems to me that there are several ways that people attempt to answer this fundamental question.  I’m going to attempt to summarize this by creating unfair stereotype-based categories.

Liberal Jesus

This Jesus is hip.  He walked around Galilee sportin’ Hebraic dreds and eating mysterious-yet-kosher plants that gave him moments of groovy wisdom.  “Man, you should totally give stuff to the poor, bro.”  “Those religious leaders are just a bunch of squares.

And yes, Paul was being quite literal when he invited us to take the fragrance of Christ wherever we go.  This is because Jesus didn’t wear antiperspirant.  Not because it was unavailable in the first century, but because it’s bad for mother earth.  And the only reason Jesus was cool with Mary Magdalene pouring that perfume on him was because it was certified organic.  Jesus smelt just better than the one who “dealt.”

Jesus walked and talked like a miracle man.  His presence made people feel as though they were healed and so folks started telling stories as if he actually had magical powers.  These healing abilities even helped him out when he was crucified – for sticking it to the “man” I might add – so that after he was buried in the ground it was like he had healed himself through his legacy.  This healing was the memory of his unorthodox life that continues to inspire the inner spirit of many people today.

Conservative Jesus

This Jesus was all man all the time – wild at heart, some might even say. This kind of Jesus could kick some @$$.  When he was P.O.’d, he’d crack a whip.  He was rugged, smelt of B.O. from working a job in construction, and man-ish to the extreme.  This is the guy you would want in your corner during a tag-team Ultimate Fighting Match.

Lest we get too close to heresy, let’s remember that this manly man also walked on water, healed people, died a penal substitutionary death on a cross, and resurrected – all to prove that he is in fact God (just to be clear, the second person of the Divine Godhead).

And as for teaching – well, he had that one saying: “the poor will always be with you.”  Never mind that the “you” was directed at specific people in the first century, but apparently these poor people will *in all places and at all times* be with “you” and so don’t waste too much time fighting poverty.  (Question: Are these same poor people from Jesus’ day still around and if so, are they immortal?)  The goal of the game: sinner’s prayers recited, even if the pagan turned sanctified saint never becomes part of a community of faith.  After all, “once saved always saved!”

The only important teachings we need to remember are: 1) don’t drink alcohol (after all, our Lord turned water into grape juice), 2) don’t dance (or rather, remember that sex leads to dancing [I may have that bit mixed up]), 3) don’t have sex unless you plan to pro-create, 4) don’t vote for a democrat, and 5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or IsraelEvery other teaching in the Gospels yields commentary on these five areas.

Hyper-Fundamentalist Jesus

This Jesus is the conservative Jesus after drinking several gallons of Hater-aideHe likes to blow sh!+ up… literally.  Abortion clinic… caplow!  HIV / AIDS hospital… deleted via homemade pipe bomb put together by a dude named Cletus (the only thing he learned from Chemistry class).  Looks more like the unabomber and less like the peace-filled Jesus of the Gospels.

Ok, not every fundy blows stuff up.  Lots of them, picket at inappropriate places and times.  Billy Graham… boycotted.  Gay pride parade… attended by fundy men (certainly not those who are insecure about their masculinity… not at all) to hold signs: “Jesus hates f@g$” and “f@g$ die God laughs.”  Still wondering how a Jesus who identified with the marginalized in society would hold up signs like this? Well, so am I.

Pop Jesus

Yes, you guessed it: Jesus is your homeboy.  He’s a hipster who wants to “kick it” with you.  He walked around two thousand years ago and tried to show people a good time.  When you feel down, his goal is to give you a hug of optimism.  When times are tough, he’s conveniently the name that you can call upon (sometimes via the curse word) to make sure everything is gonna be alright.  When times are good, he’ll keep his distance and not interfere with our pagan-esque sex drive, materialism, and occasional “puff of the magic dragon.” Besides, Jesus exists to make sure we’re all happy campers, right?

King Jesus

The Jesus I know from the New Testament and by the work of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t fit any of these labels.  He’s not a liberal, conservative, hyper-fundy, or pop Jesus.  He is King Jesus.

King Jesus, the one who arrived as the resolution to the broken story of Israel, is God come in the flesh.  In fact, when we look at Jesus Christ, all of the confusing images of God from the past come into perfect focus.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God had, is, and will come on earth as it is in heaven.  This kingdom is what the world looks like when God is king. The poor are made rich, the lowly are raised up, the powers of evil are defeated, oppressive rulers are dethroned, humans are made whole as their alienation from God is breached, people create Holy Spirit guided missional communities, and all things become new.

The life of King Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to be fully human.  The death of King Jesus shows us how to expose the powers and authorities for what they are – parodies, and how sin is ultimately dealt with – Calvary shaped love.  The resurrection of King Jesus shows us that the new creation kingdom of God was inaugurated, opening fresh possibilities for the people of God to join in the mission of God for the sake of the whole world.  Jesus is king, and to this king we must give our undivided allegiance – against all others.

This is how I begin to answer Jesus’ question: Who do you say that I am?

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    I like the King Jesus best, myself.  Even though I chuckle when my friends say, “Jesus was a liberal,” I also cringe because Jesus doesn’t fit into any of our political boxes.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @tmamone:disqus … I feel ya on this…

  • Keaton

    It’s a beautiful thing when we can celebrate what unites us, especially when there are those who want to use it to divide us.

  • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

    The problem, of course, is that depending on what’s going on around me, there are times when I want a Jesus who blows up stuff. Or the Jesus who kicks a**. Rarely does the idea of an effeminate Jesus appeal to me. I need a God who wears combat boots, willing to go to the front lines. But as L’Engle so eloquently states, the liberal Jesus would walk past the leper as goes about his “cause” of caring for the leper. 
    We like our food artificial and our Jesus, too, it seems. 

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @karenzach:disqus … I understand this feeling completely.  What I know about Jesus and who my impulses want him to be dont always match up. Certainly not a sissy Jesus… we need an enthroned King!  Thanks for your comments friend!

  • Joel

    I think this deity, no matter [if/what] [he/it] [is/was/will be], as portrayed in the King James version of the New Testament, would be disgusted with the world as it is. However humans view him, Christ’s teachings in those books can be summed up to one statement: Be nice to each other. A simple rewording of the Golden Rule.

    In the past 2,000 or so years, has humanity listened? I think the simple fact that there has never been a period in which there wasn’t a war over land, money, religion, or some other artificial notion going on during that time, is the simple answer. Jesus?I don’t know for sure if there really was one or not, but if he did return, he’d be a very disappointed deity. 

  • Annasue

    Jesus is who He says He is. Son of God, son of man, Bread of Life, Creater of all things, He is God. Word of God made flesh. Look to the Bible and you will know who Jesus is. YouVersion.com

  • Notinmyhouse

    Wow. What an irreverent piece of drivel. Can I have my 2 minutes back.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Satire.

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      You *REALLY* didn’t expect irreverence when you saw the title???

    • Charlie

      Notinmyhouse, I liked the piece precisely because I know or have known people who operate under misconceptions of Jesus our Lord that have many of the elements of Kurt’s characterizations.  It is those misconceptions I see as irreverent even though they are truly believed by their holders.  The King Jesus Kurt describes is closer to the Jesus I know from the Gospel and the Epistles. 

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    King Jesus kicks a$$ too, but it’s the self-righteous “religious” who think they have him all buttoned up that’ll feel the boot!

    Good stuff Kurt!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Yes.. he did indeed… :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickyferdon Ricky Ferdon

    It’s like some folks are shocked to be told that Jesus was not a Christian! Nor was he a white anglo saxon protestant.

    • Joe McClurg

      Didn’t have blue eyes & blond hair either..don’t think he spoke Elizabethan English or had a british accent

  • Lawrence Garcia

    Outstanding article! After all, the satire is needed to show up the parodies for what they really are. The tendancy to create Jesus along the lines of our own socio-political affiliations is an daily pitfall for most Christians. Our parodies, our narrowing down Jesus to fit our mode, is akin to Israel’s golden calf incident, and according to Paul, we are likewise in the wilderness. Great piece.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @d36a490a265b81b048a81cfdff8d20d3:disqus … thanks for this comment bro!  Couldn’t agree more with your commentary.

  • Anonymous

    How about “The Heavy Metal Jesus”?

    Jesus is loud and when needed very loud. In fact, he was so loud that today his words still echo. His amplifier was set at 11+. He bucked the establishment and called for change in the system. He was seen turning over tables, and was known for saying all sorts of subversive things in the days when he was walking the earth.

    When he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he was greeted by large excited crowds. This was but one part of his world tour. He rocked crowd after crowd with new songs of heaven.  With his long hair and his challenging message he railed against the man. He made it clear that the man needed to change his path.

    Rock on Jesus, rock on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.dubuque Ray Dubuque

    If you are interested in REAL INSIGHTS as to why Jesus of Nazareth should best be described as a “liberal” in today’s America, then read my http://LiberalslikeChrist.Org/ beginning with my very clear definition of what we mean by the terms “libertal” vs “conservative”.  (as opposed to the silly, superficial  use of those terms in this article

  • http://www.facebook.com/ZachERock Zach Emerson

    “I like to think of Jesus like with giant eagles wings, and singin’ lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd with like an angel band and I’m in the front row and I’m hammered drunk!” ~ Cal Naughton Jr.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Conrad-Schweizerhof/722928651 Conrad Schweizerhof

    5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  5) kill, kill, kill all who oppose the USA or Israel.  
    Yes, now pardon me while I go beat my head against the wall for a while… I would never of guessed that I would find “Conservative Christians” to be some of the most un- Christlike people I encounter…

  • Charlie

    I finally got the chance to read this, Kurt, great piece!  I feel similarly about your characterizations of the misinformed stereotypes and the true King Jesus.  Thanks!


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