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How do we see Jesus? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Johnston   
Thursday, 05 November 2009 23:23

Depeche Mode sang in their song of, scarily, more than 20 years ago:

Reach out and touch faith
Your own Personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own Personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there

How often have you heard the expression that as Christians we are to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ"? It is a common way of describing the life of faith, and, of course, it is highly personal.

This morning on my way over to Hamilton to meet a colleague I was listening to BBC Radio Scotland and heard the phone-in on the subject of the vigil attended by some 300 Christians picketing against the play Jesus Queen of Heaven currently on a short run at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.

I was very tempted to phone in myself while listening to the radio show, but managed to resist - and couldn't find the phone number to call! [There's more...]

I haven't seen the play in question, and have only read a few reviews of it, however the coverage this morning did pique my interest to find out more although I see tonight that the play is sold out.

What was going through my own mind when listening to the discussion was a frustration that many of those who spoke in horror about the depiction of Jesus as transgendered were themselves portraying a particular image of Jesus that some other equally well-meaning and faithful Christians would not recognise.

Take a look at the images above. These are just a sample of the many images that I have in a highly recommended pack called "The Christ We Share" that helps to explore Jesus through the numerous different ways communities and artists have represented Jesus.

Here we have a laughing Jesus, which can jar when we think of the earnest and sincere perhaps even dour Jesus of presbyterianism; a gruesome depiction from Brazil of a tortured Christ; an image of a black Jesus from the Cameroon; and a clearly Oriental looking Jesus from China.

These are just 4 of over 30 images in the pack. Each image of Jesus is shaped by the community and the artist's experience and understanding of Jesus.

Rather like my earlier post of today recognising that sometimes we need to get a jolt from our comfort zones in order to see what is really happening around us, perhaps sometimes we too need a jolt from our Euro-centric view of Jesus.

We'll never know what the historical Jesus looked like. The man that walked the roads of Palestine and Israel one can assume would have been darker of skin than our usual view of Jesus, and no doubt would reflect his Jewish heritage, but we can never be sure.

And then there is what some call the post-Easter Christ of Faith, the resurrected Lord - the Jesus who is with us still. How can we picture the Christ of faith? Countless artists and followers of Christ have given their own personal takes, and we, in our own mind's eye, will do the same.

Any image will be incomplete and will reflect the relationship that the artist has with Jesus, and so the idea of getting upset with someone because they want to express what Jesus means to them is strange to me. Each and every one of us will picture Jesus in a subtly different way from someone else, because our view of him is shaped by who we are as much as by his presence in our lives.

My understanding of the play Jesus Queen of Heaven is that it is the personal work of the artist, Jo Clifford, reflecting on the image of Christ that is most meaningful to her - a transgendered woman. I wonder why this is any different to a depiction of Christ as Chinese or with black skin, or whatever that allows Christ to resonate with our own lives? Our own Personal Jesus.

I confess I am fascinated by other people's views of Christ, and desire to understand why they have that image of Jesus, and different images of Jesus can help us reflect on what is always the same about Jesus.

Without seeing the play myself, I cannot wholly confirm this, but from the blurb that accompanies the play it would appear that it is also a play dealing with the primacy of love and the acceptance of those who are often neglected and isolated in communities today.

Whatever the image we have of Jesus, these things remains the same.

Comments (1)add comment

Jo Clifford said:

Every now and again I dip into the terrifying number of comments and opinions my play seems to have provoked and was very touched by yours.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness

With every good wish

Jo Clifford
December 05, 2009 | url
Votes: +0

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