Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Was Jesus Born In Carbondale?
I was lucky enough to be invited to a pre-school graduation while in Northlandia last month. It was held in a Catholic church and I found myself, a friend of the family, far removed from the festivities, by choice. I grabbed one of the hymnals and found about three prayer cards inside. We lapsed Presbyterians don't remember having these cool items stuck anywhere so I became somewhat curious. The above is the front while on the back is a series of prayers, presumably if you are stuck one day and can't think of anything to say. Being dumbstruck, I would think, is a normal phenomena when we mere mortals are in direct contact with the Almightiest of Almighties. One even says it must be recited at 3:00 p.m. Not sure what time zone, though. I'm sure even God allows for some deviation especially if you are in the middle of Dr. Phil.
I have to tell you that I don't talk to the Prime Mover as often as I should. I have made several deals through the years that I have kind of backtracked on and I don't want to be reminded should I hear an angry voice on the other end. I pray when I fly Allegiant Air, when I have a Whitey's shake, and when I see a pretty girl. One is for safety, the other for thanks, and the last one is for a miracle.
The front of the card is Jesus appearing to be waving "wha's up?" with a back lit gold aura emanating from the back of his head and red and blue rays coming out of his chest. With his white robe we've got a very Americanized red, white and blue thing going on.
As I sat on that hard pew I started wondering about the image of the Christ artists and the church have provided us. He looks more like an aging graduate school frat brother from Carbondale than the Middle Eastern guy he really was. You know the type - addicted to the safe and hedonistic campus life so keeps milking mom and dad for tuition monies to keep taking classes that he doesn't need or will ever use - afraid that the big bad world and actual responsibilities out there won't be as much fun. And this got me thinking about how the Church satisfies our need to think of him as one of us - as a white guy with Anglo features. You know, handsome beyond belief, great bod, dreamy in a kind of heavenly Calvin Klein model way. Perfect as to accommodate all the walls, books and myriad other areas we need that image beckoning us for faith, adulation, guilt, joy or money, depending on the church and personal circumstance. And to let us know when it's 3:00.
What did he really look like? And if the truth were known, would we still fell the same way? Oh, I'm not suggesting that American-European Christians are so shallow as to remake Jesus in their image. No, I wouldn't do that. But how do we reconcile the very real fact that Jesus had more facial features akin to a Middle Eastern Palestinian glass blower than a Carbondale university student?
A scientific project attempted to reconstruct what Jesus would have locked like. They found a prototypical skull from the area and time frame and put flesh on the bones.
Did he have long hair? Jews of the day wore their hair short. In fact, men who had "shame" only had long hair, and carpenter's would certainly have had short hair so as not to get hair tangled in their work. He likely had a scruffy beard not the Hollywood trimmed look we have come to know.
A forensic scientist came up with this composite picture of what Christ most likely looked like, at least more so than the pictures we have today. Most reports said he was unremarkable in appearance and was able to blend in with crowds. So much for that starburst coming out of his head.
The Anglo-Saxon look came into vogue in the 4th century inspired by Greek and Roman gods. No such thing as an ugly god, right? So, how do we feel when our Jesus looks more like Yasser Arafat than Jeffrey Hunter? More dark than white - more ordinary than Hollywood heartthrob?
Presumably your faith extends deeper than the Anglicized image we have and that you will entrust your eternity with a man of words and not a man you want him to look like. But don't expect any historically accurate pictures or portrayals anytime soon. In Africa Jesus is black. In Mongolia, he looks, well, Mongolian. In Korea - he looks Korean and in Mozambique he looks a lot like Michael Jordan. You get the picture.
Now, what's that Holy Ghost thing?