Thursday, April 22, 2010

Portraying The Lord In Art.


While serving an internship year as a deacon, I ran across an item in the paper about ethnically appropriate Jesus dolls. There was Asian Jesus, White Jesus, Black Jesus, and Hispanic Jesus. I almost choked on my oatmeal. I read the article to the pastor who just shock his head and added, "How about Jewish Jesus?" They didn't have one of those.

One of the greatest temptations of our age, and I suspect of all ages, is to tailor Jesus and the Faith to fit our preconceptions; Cafeteria Jesus as it were. This spills over into the depictions of Our Lord in art. Around the year 2000, the Distorter had a contest for a Jesus for the New Millenium. The winner would best have titled Ambiguous Jesus; ambiguous both in race and sex. The so-called Christian Identity movement picks up on the Nazi non-sense that Jesus was part of an Aryan colony around Galilee that resisted the evil Jews. They liked the blonde haired blue eyed Jesus of many of last century's holy cards. Then there is the Black Jesus behind the altar of St. Sabina in Chicago. The list could go on and on. The fundamental reality of Jesus is that He was truly man and His human nature was genetically Jewish. And this is how he should be depicted in art. Mind you, this leaves a lot of room for variation. However, I doubt He looked Swedish, Sub-Saharan African, or Chinese.

While we are on the topic, let's remember that Jesus was an historic person. 'Modern Dress' (or as I like to call them Leisure Suit) Jesus' are not at all appropriate. Don't get me started with the portrayals of Our Lord in "Godspell" or "Superstar". Jesus is God in human flesh. He is not a figure for entertainment, social critique, or even satire, which is my favorite form of humor. (The "South Park" portrayal makes me especially nervous.) Our Lord should always be treated with the utmost respect and reverence and in a manner as close to the Gospel accounts, informed by good history, as possible.

What did Jesus look like? No one really knows, though, being a believer in the Shroud of Turin, I suspect that He looked like that. Moreover, traditional Byzantine iconography depicts Him in a very similar fashion.


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