Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from The Associated Press, March 3, 2004, with the headline: “Jesus Dress Up,” Philadelphia—The creator of the controversial Jesus Dress-Up refrigerator magnets being sold at Philadelphia area stores spoke exclusively to NBC 10. The man, who goes by the name Normal Bob Smith, says he is doing nothing wrong. Jesus Dress-Up is a magnetic crucifix with a variety of clothes and accessories. Many people are outraged by the product, but Smith says he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. ‘I don’t think there’s anything wrong with religious satire,’ said Smith. ‘People have got to learn to laugh at themselves. It’s part of human nature.’
Smith, who claims to be an atheist, says he’s making money the same way Mel Gibson is with The Passion of the Christ. Smith has sold more than 5,000 of the magnets over the last four years.
Tom: Well, Dave, I can see how people are outraged by this, but, you know, they’d better get used to it because the more “popular” Jesus becomes—what Jesus? Jesus who? Any Jesus. You know in the last, I’d say, the last three weeks I’ve seen feature films on TV. They’re pulling them off the racks here because of the popularity of The Passion of the Christ. But let me ask a question. Is satire appropriate for religion in general?
Dave: Well, first of all, Tom, the man says we’ve got to learn to laugh at ourselves. This is not laughing at ourselves. This is making merchandise. It’s worse than that. It’s not just a satire—I would say it’s blasphemy. Christ on the cross? Well, He hung there naked. Now you’re going to have dress-up clothes for Him? You might just as well say, “It never happened. He doesn’t exist. He wasn’t crucified. [It’s] certainly saying He didn’t die for my sins. So, satire? That’s not satire. That is blasphemy.
Religious satire? Well, I don’t know.
Tom: We do do a lot of things Dave, men in the flesh, whether they be believers or not, we do do a lot of things that are not biblical and worse.
Dave: I’m trying to think of—there are no examples in the Bible of satire. The closest you might come to it would be Psalm 2, where it says, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision.” That is derision of those who “why do the heathen rage? The people imagine a vain thing.” They think they’re going to take over from God. But there are some, I think, appropriate—do I dare call them, jokes? No, I’ll call them illustrations with a bit of humor in them that do illustrate, sometimes, the folly of mankind. But that’s not what this is, Tom.
Dave: This is an atheist mocking—mocking God, mocking Christ. The thing that disturbs me the most is not that this man, Normal Bob Smith, has done this. He says he’s done nothing wrong. But that he’s sold more than 5,000 of these things. What does that say? There must be a lot of people out there who likewise want to mock Christ; want to mock the crucifixion. Otherwise what would be their motivation? A magnet on a refrigerator, I guess, should have a slogan or place where you would write down notes. I can’t think of—we don’t have any magnets on our refrigerator. But if you did, I imagine that would be it. But to have something, a magnet, that just puts Jesus up there and you put different clothes on him—Jesus hanging on the cross?
Dave: Tom, that’s…
Tom: It’s just pure mockery, you know, you hit it, Dave.
Dave, but it reminds me, in seeing The Passion of the Christ, and comparing that with the Scriptures—I’m not going to get into a whole big thing about it, but I notice in reading the Scriptures…I don’t have them before me, Dave, I wish I did…Jesus was mocked continually. The scripture says, with regard to what He suffered, there are less than ten terms. He was scourged. They took Him off to be crucified. That’s it. But there are number of other details with regard to them mocking Jesus. The crown of thorns—that was mockery. The putting the robe on Him—that was mockery. I remember—giving Him a reed to hold as a king’s scepter. In other words, throughout, Jesus subjected Himself not just to the physical abuse but also to the mockery.
Dave: You know, Tom, as we mentioned last week, I think it’s a mockery to have any misrepresentation of Jesus Christ. An artist’s picture, me carrying in my wallet a picture of some other woman and saying, “Oh, look, it reminds me of my wife.” I don’t think Jesus is pleased. Even with the artists’ portrayals, let alone some actor pretending to be Him in a film. Now we already mentioned that. But I think it bears repeating. I cannot fathom it. And to me it is a mockery.
You remember the picture of the androgynous, anybody “Jesus,” the Catholic…
Tom: …Contest, National Catholic Reporter.
Dave: Right, right, their contest. I think about—what? 1900 entries—and this was…
Tom: 1900 entries.
Dave: And this was incredible!
Tom: The winner, an effeminate character with dreadlocks, backed up by the yin and the yang symbol, along with Indian feathers.
Dave: And this was the one they picked…
Dave: As Jesus! Tom, how can you do that? This is not Jesus—but any picture is a misrepresentation. Anyway, it’s a tragedy. And this is a mockery that this man is promoting; that 5,000 people have bought them. Tom, it just tells us what kind of a world we live in.
Tom: Yes, but it also tells us how loving a God that we have, because God died for this Normal Bob.
Tom: Christ paid the full penalty.
Tom: For him.
Tom: And for you and for me.