Monday, December 11, 2006

Jesus vs. Jesus


When I first saw ads for the new movie "The Nativity Story" I really did think to myself "Oh good! They're Middle Eastern!" And now Newsweek has an article on the history of the white-Jesus phenomenon.

Christians of all sorts build up a Jesus in their own image. The movie Dogma proclaims that Jesus was a brother, and I have seen all types of statues with Jesus on the crucifix.

A few years ago, Popular Mechanics had a good cover-story on the "real" face of Jesus. In reality, it was a reconstruction of a face from the the area and time of Jesus. I'm not sure how much I buy that either, because I am of the persuasion that, if there really was a Jesus, he may have been half-Roman.

I've always considered the crucifix & many images of Jesus idolatry. My one grandmother had a picture of Jesus in her house to watch over her, and that always struck me as odd; isn't Jesus supposed to be watching everybody anyhow? And in the Catholic Church people kneel before the host (the little piece of bread that is supposed to actually be a piece of Jesus' body) but the host is often in front of (or under) the crucifix. I wouldn't go as far as the Muslims that absolutely forbid any images portraying Mohamed, but I do think that many Christians look at the crucifix or picture of Jesus in their home and pray to that as an idol. I understand the origin of picture-stories in the Church, to teach the illiterate, but it can be misleading. There was a crucifix hung above the door in my house growing up, I always thought it was for luck, like a horseshoe.

I'm not sure what the fascination with the religious icons is. I was just wondering this weekend what a young Jewish couple from the middle east 2000 years ago would think about the lighted display that surrounds us these days in celebration of their son's birth. Apparently, since he was probably the first to re-create the scene, it's all due to St. Francis that so many lawns around my neighborhood have glowing crèche, or other assorted displays.

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