Today’s image was posted on one of the group pages I belong to. Yes – it is a white Jesus on a parachute with the words “He Lives!” printed on the top of the parachute. Sure, it is a harmless toy. The problem is this: for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it feels perverse. Here is why:
First – Jesus wasn’t white. Most of you know that, but our history and practice tell us otherwise. From paintings in cathedrals to stained glass windows to Sunday school material still being printed, Jesus is almost always portrayed as white. Watch movies about him – he almost always has Nordic good looks; blue eyes, smooth white skin, light brown hair, and he is tall and thin and very fit. If you go deeper into the Evangelical world, he is buff and tan and ready to tussle if you mess with Him.
Second – Jesus being used as a toy is just wrong. I can’t fully define it intellectually or theologically, but to put Him in the same league as a toy bunny gives mixed messages to an already confused world. I’m not trying to be stuffy or old-fashioned, but the Church has a hard enough time teaching who Jesus was, and now kids get to throw him into the air and watch Him float down? It seems more than disrespectful – it seems heretical.
Third – The message of Easter has been perverted for decades, and part of that mistreatment is that Jesus (and all the fake stuff that goes with phony Easter) is being used as a tool of capitalism. Santa Claus is the same thing: his centrality to Christmas is purely about selling things and has nothing to do with Christmas. I can hear you now: “Blah, Blah, Blah – we’ve heard it before, you cranky old man!” Yes, you have, and I hope people like me will continue to speak to the disconnect. When churches go along with the commodification of our holiest days, we participate in the perversion of our faith. Easter Egg Hunts are a prime example. Unless the bunny is never mentioned or seen, and the prizes are Jesus-y, these hunts add to the idea that Easter is not about the Christian faith at all – it is a non-Christian activity focused on overindulgence.
Do I sound like a curmudgeon? Sure I do – if by that word you mean someone who is working desperately to keep Jesus in the midst of the church and our holiest days. I love to have fun, and I am not in any way a stick in the mud. I do, however, take my faith seriously. There are some things we just should not approve of if we are followers of Jesus, and plastic white Jesus at the end of a parachute is one of them.
By the way – I love jelly beans and chocolate. I love family get-togethers. I love Easter bonnets and full pews. I also love the week after, when all the hoopla is over and the crowds have gone back to brunch and soccer. It is that day (and every Sunday) that the faithful gather for what really matters – the new life in the resurrection. I hope you will be part of this coming week in a fully engaged week, so that the real Easter will shine through. See you soon.
Prayer – Help us, holy God, to keep Christ in the center of our lives, so that the message of new life comes shining through. Amen.