Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Jesus we don't want

Here are a few of the opening lines of a chapter (The Apocalyptic Jesus) from the book we (David Capes, Randy Richards, and I) are working on, "Rediscovering Jesus."

If Jesus were a cartoon character, what would he look like?  That question may seem a little odd since most of what has been written about Jesus (whether canonical or extracanonical) is set before the reader as “the real Jesus.”  This is what he said.  This is where he lived.  This is what he did.  Therefore this is what he means.  These writers try to make Jesus come alive, giving a human face to his ancient voice so that readers would know him, admire him, follow him, perhaps even worship him.  We all seem to be looking for a recognizable Jesus, one that matches our mental images of him with the power of his personality.  He will always say the right words, always do the right things.  He must be charming, endearing, witty, smart, passionate, gentle, warm, and downright embraceable.  In other words, we want a likeable Jesus, a familiar Jesus, a “take-him-home-for-dinner-to-meet-mom” Jesus.  Everyone should be able to relate to the real, flesh-and-blood Jesus because, after all, he is one of us. 

That’s why the seer’s view of Jesus in the Apocalypse is so shocking, so disturbing, so disorienting.  In this “revelation of Jesus Christ,” Jesus doesn’t appear to be human at all.  Instead, John sees a heavenly man with eyes of fire and a sword-like tongue—a terrifying figure who is not pleased with the Church.  He sees a comic-book lamb with seven eyes and seven horns—a silent creature who stoically unleashes devastation on earth.  This is not the Jesus we have come to know and love.  Rather, John’s vision of Jesus seems like a nightmare, and many of us would rather look away and pretend as if that Jesus never existed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dry Bones Dance Podcast

Several years ago, my friend Tom Jones decided to produce a podcast that would encourage listeners to engage the Scriptures through thoughtful questions.  The goal was to help us see that sometimes having good, unanswered questions is just as helpful to our faith as well-crafted sermons that pose to solve every riddle of the Christian life.

Tom loves a good conversation, especially about the Bible.  He invited me to join him in this venture, focusing our conversation on the gospel of Mark.  I'm really proud of Tom's work.  I think the podcast captures the spirit of what we wanted:  two guys wrestling with the ambiquities and teasing nuances of the loaded story that we call "the gospel according to Mark."

Anyway, we got about halfway through the gospel when Tom had to set the podcast aside for more pressing, important matters (he told me it takes several hours--I think he said at least 6 hours--to edit every half-hour episode).  Now, after a five-year hiatus, the podcast is back.  We've already recorded several conversations and Tom has posted two newly edited episodes.  I've included the link in the lower right-hand corner of this blog in case you want to take a listen.  You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes as well.