Some folks have developed some weird notions about Jesus that in fact differ greatly from the Jesus represented in the books of the Bible (which were written many years after his death anyway). The Jesus I hear people talking about is feminized and sometimes even, dare I say, Republican. As Mormon Heretic pointed out yesterday, Jesus’ behaviour was often much edgier than we tend to think; he would suffer the little children to come unto him, even if there was no other adult present to chaperone them. He would talk to women one on one without making a big deal out of it or wetting himself out of fear of what people might think.
When I read about Jesus in the Bible, it’s hard to imagine a version of that person attending church. What would a modern Mormon Jesus look like? I picture Daniel Faraday from LOST, a skinny, edgy, nervous guy who is the smartest person in the room and unfathomable to the rest of us but with kind, soulful, discerning eyes. Or so I imagine. Of course, if he’s attending an LDS church, he will also have to be dressed and groomed like an Eisenhower era federal agent, and my imagination simply isn’t that good. So Daniel Faraday in a white shirt with a skinny black tie is the closest I can get.
What would Jesus do if he were attending a Mormon church? Based on what’s written about him, here are a few things I think we should expect:
- Anti-authoritarianism. The Jesus of the Bible is not kowtowing to church leadership. He’s going to call a spade a spade. I picture Jesus taking people down a peg if they are getting prideful or self-righteous. I don’t see him being non-confrontational whenever he sees anything that is hypocritical or needing correction. If people are offended, so be it. (see Matthew 23: 13-33)
- Rule breaking. Jesus loves to point out the stupidity of the rules. His disciples are breaking the Sabbath by eating corn out of the fields on a Sunday, when the Sunday School police (Pharisees) bust them for it. Does this mean Jesus would be heading to brunch at Chuck-a-Rama after the meetings end? He’s also going to break the rule about (see Matthew 12:1-8) I also think Jesus is going to break right through that “men need adult supervision with children” rule.
- What would Jesus wear? I am sure I’ve just seen too many pictures of Jesus in a robe and sandals, but I think Jesus is fairly casual. I have a hard time seeing Jesus looking like he’s on his way to a board meeting. When you’re traversing the desert by foot grazing on locusts, comfort is the watch word. I don’t see the guy who said “And why take ye thought for raiment?” getting hung up on a white shirt. Honestly, I don’t see a guy like that owning an iron. Well, based on some of the portraits, maybe a curling iron. (see Matthew 6: 28-33)
- Hanging out with outcasts. I don’t see Jesus sitting on the front row in Sunday School with his quilted scripture cover like some apple-polishing brown noser. On the contrary, I would think he’s cracking wise in the back row or hanging out in the hallway, chatting up the truants so they too feel welcome. Which would you do if you are Lord of the Sabbath? Conversely, he might just get up and take over the class, resulting in a substantial upgrade in the quality of the lesson.
- Tough questions. Instead of the same old boring questions that have the same old boring questions, Jesus is one to shake things up a bit. He doesn’t say what people want to hear. He says what they don’t want to be said. And he always says things in a fresh way that have multiple layers of meaning.
- Clever, unconventional answers. There is no way we are going to hear the cliched Sunday School answers from Jesus (“Say prayers,” “Follow the prophet,” “Read the scriptures.”). This is a guy who tells people to pay taxes to the person whose face is on the money, then pays his own taxes with money found in a fish! Gospel Doctrine would rock with stuff like that happening! (see Luke 20: 21-25 and Matthew 17: 27). At tithing settlement, I’m thinking he somehow pulls a check out of the bishop’s ear. It could happen. Honestly, though, I don’t see Jesus holding down a steady job.
- Really, really long talks. This is one reason I’m not super excited for the second coming. Jesus gave a sermon so long people actually fainted from hunger. That’s a long talk. I already thought Fast & Testimony meeting was kind of like that, but I suspect these desert-dwelling peasants had a lot more stamina than I do. I am still hoping for the 2 hour meeting block, but I don’t think the Jesus of the New Testament is going to institute that. Of course, his talks were pretty rich on content, so maybe that would be an upgrade. Still, with all the ADHD sufferers out there, I’m not sure we can handle this kind of thing any more.
- Random teaching moments. (see Matthew 12: 47-50). Apparently you can say the most random thing to Jesus, and he may unexpectedly turn it into a teaching moment. You might say something like, “Excuse me, where is the ladies’ toilet?” and he could come back with, “Don’t seek for the momentary relief of going to the bathroom for verily the relief which I will give to those who search will last forever.” Yes, but uhm, where is the bathroom?
- No more fasting! (see Matthew 9:14)
- Free temple clothing rentals. Not that they are expensive now, but I would not want to be the blue-hair on the receiving end of his money-changers in the temple diatribe. Scary! (see Luke 19: 45 – 46)
Honestly, I think this relates to how any founder or revolutionary would feel in the society they inspired or created; I’m not convinced the Jesus of the Bible would fit into any church’s worship structure (plus, whom is he worshiping? Himself? Awkward!). People who are revolutionary are not administrative, and people who are administrative are not revolutionary. When you’re creating a new church, breaking away from the old, you need to be able to cut to the chase, ask the tough questions, not be afraid to push against authority, etc. But when things are settled down, you really just have to administer. Yawn. Good administrators are lousy revolutionaries.
How do you think Jesus would fit in at an LDS meeting?