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 Religious News Service: “A painting of a dark-skinned Jesus has been chosen as the winner of the National Catholic Reporter’s contest to update the image of Christ for the year 2000. The magazine calls the winning image ‘a more gentle Jesus, modeled on a woman, rather than the muscular male image of the Renaissance.’
“’Jesus of the People,’ which garnered the $2,000 first prize, was chosen by Sister Wendy Beckett, an art expert who was host to the BBC television series. ‘This is a haunting image of a peasant Jesus—dark, thick-lipped, looking out on us with ineffable dignity, with sadness but with confidence,’ she wrote of the winner.
“Entries for the contest ranged in artistic media from oil to cloth to computer creations to burnt toast. They depicted Jesus as a carpenter, a clown, and a death row inmate, and placed him on television, dancing in the streets of Jerusalem with an Arab, and sawing down his own cross.
“Sister Wendy acknowledged choosing one image was a challenge. ‘Let me emphasize that each of these works truly speaks of Jesus to our age,’ she said.”
Tom: Dave, we’ve addressed this in bits and pieces before regarding an image of Jesus—what that means. Now, some people may be offended by this politically correct character who’s now a “Jesus.” But it really affects a lot of people and how they view Jesus, and it’s not biblical.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s not biblical, because Paul said, “Though we’ve known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we him no more.” So Jesus does not look the way He looked before He was crucified. That’s what Paul was saying: “Even those of us who knew Him then.” We don’t go back to try to find some image—there are no photographs of Him. He looks now as John described Him in Revelation 1—indescribable. And John fell at His feet as dead.
So, it’s not biblical, but, Tom, it’s not logical, and again, I guess—I’m trying to not offend people, and I don’t know exactly how to say it. But what is the point of trying to make a painting or a picture, and I would just like to address this to maybe some of the Christians out there who have a picture, their favorite picture, on the wall or in their Bible. And you say, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, look, let’s say then in my wallet I carry a picture of Marilyn Monroe. And somebody says to me, “Do you have a picture of your wife?” And I say, “Yeah!” I pull it out, and it’s Marilyn Monroe. You say, “That’s Marilyn Monroe. That’s not your wife!” “Well, it’s a woman, I mean, can’t you just imagine that this is my wife?”
You say, “That’s stupid.”
Tom: Well, that’s the way—I mean I’m not saying this, really—but that’s the way if you’re carrying something like that, that’s the way you see her. That’s your image of Ruth, your wife.”
Tom: Not that she’s going to be happy about it, which is an important point here.
Dave: Right, but Tom! This is not my wife, okay? So now we’ve got all of these kinds of depictions of Jesus—none of which we have any assurance looks like Jesus. Now we’ve got one sort of fashioned after a woman—it’s more effeminate than Jesus. What is the point? Two questions here: What is the point? I have a picture that I don’t even know looks like Jesus. Now to whatever extent that influences my thinking about Jesus, and it isn’t accurate, I’ve been led astray. Furthermore, why am I trying to get to know Jesus through a picture that isn’t even accurate? I have no reason to believe that it’s accurate. Is that really the way to get to know Jesus? No! That’s not the way to get to know Jesus. Or the Bible, the original manuscripts, would have had a picture of Jesus.
I get to know Him through His Word. I get to know Him in my heart. I get to know Him by faith as I walk with Him, and so forth…
Tom: Because that’s God’s revelation—not our own imagery or our own ideas. Dave, this is really interesting, because the prize was offered by the National Catholic Reporter. Now that’s a pretty liberal Catholic magazine. But Our Sunday Visitor picked up on it, and they weren’t too happy about it. I’m reading from Our Sunday Visitor.
Tom: Right. “Janet McKenzie’s ‘Jesus of the People’ is a politically correct, gender neutral cross between Oprah Winfrey and Bob Marley, complete with dreadlocks and flanked by a native feather and a yin-yang symbol.” I mean, this is totally politically correct! “McKenzie said she used a black woman as a model to ‘incorporate, once for all, women who had been so neglected and left out’ into this image of Jesus. The resulting image, she said, is ‘a man whose features reflect feminine elements.’”
Now, this is so far from God’s Word and what it says, but here we have two Catholic magazines, but the problem is more foundational than a liberal Catholic view vs. a conservative Catholic view. The Bible condemns it.
Dave: I’m not to make an image of deity.
Tom: Correct. If they believe Jesus to be God, they’re going right against the Scriptures.
Dave: Yeah, we have people—Christians, Christian psychologists visualizing Jesus, or having their clients visualize Jesus, in their mind “as you imagine him to be.” It would be an insult, you know, if my wife—I’m visualizing her as I fantasize some woman—other woman—to be…No! She is who she is. Jesus is who He is. Jesus is God. And we don’t come up with some painting that isn’t even accurate, and then that’s going to be somehow my contact with Jesus? It’s an insult to Jesus, and it’s leading people astray! And I’m concerned, but, Tom, even as we say this, then we’re labeled as fanatics who are down on pictures of Jesus…
Tom: We’ve heard that before, Dave! All we’re doing is crying out for what God’s Word says. That’s what’s going to lead people into truth and set them free.
Tom: And not what they think about us.