4.02.2009

following jesus - I


the problem:
The above video is a hysterical—if not uneasily so—commentary on a very real problem when it comes to the person of Jesus and following him. The fact of the matter is that all of us see Jesus through our own lenses. The blessing of postmodernity—if there is such a thing—is the admission that not one of us sees the world with perfect objectivity. All of us possess conditioning and prejudices that color our understanding of the world. There may be an objective world out there, but we understand it subjectively.

This is what we bring to our quest for Jesus. In many ways, we understand Jesus as we have been conditioned to understand him. In a more sinister way, we understand Jesus as we need him to be. Or even worse, we understand him as we want him to be for our agenda. “I like my Jesus to party because I like to party.” Of course, Cal’s Jesus is an absurd caricature (i.e., NASCAR Jesus), but even in the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus, one quickly sees that a PhD does not give a person an unbiased, un-invested, and objective view of the person. Whether at the academic or popular level there are no shortage of opinions, perspectives, and angles.

You have: Jesus, the ethical teacher. Jesus, the American. Jesus, the Jewish prophet. Jesus, the miracle worker. Jesus, the magician. Jesus, the Cynic philosopher. Jesus, the eastern guru. Jesus, the Republican. Jesus, the Democrat. Jesus, the Marxist revolutionary. Jesus, the homeless refugee. Jesus, the CEO. Megachurch Jesus. Monastic Jesus. Jesus, the hippie. Jesus, the Aryan. Jesus, the apocalyptic prophet. Jesus, the tolerant. Jesus, the intolerant. Jesus, the lover of sinners. Jesus, the hater of sin. Jesus, the teacher. Jesus, the son of God. Jesus, the bastard child of an adulteress. Jesus, the ghost. Jesus, my homeboy.

Ricky's Jesus is just an absurd commentary on what is a real problem. As one example, it is interesting to think about the fact that at the same time in history both Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of Ku Klux Klan, and Dr. Martin Luther King were committed followers of Jesus. Yet, their understanding of him and what it meant to follow him could not be more different. There is no one who is immune—no not one. To take it one step further, I would even go so far as to say that the four Gospels present Jesus from unique perspectives.

So, is there anything we can know about him? Are we, as some have said, unable to know anything about Jesus? Will our quest for Jesus always reveal more about us than it will about him? I think there is a way forward, but it begins with the question: “Do I really want to know?”

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