“I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-shirt. ‘Cause it says like, I wanna be formal but I’m here to party too. I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.” -Cal Naughton, Jr. (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)
There is a church in Topeka, Kansas that refers to itself as an “Old School (Primitive) Baptist Church”. Honestly I don’t want to share their name because it seems to me that is really what they are after, press and recognition. I am sure some of you are familiar with them; they are the congregation that pickets the funerals of our fallen soldiers and even threatened to show up at the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims memorial services.
When I read about this church for the first time several years ago I thought “why is my God so different from their God?” Their God is a God of vengeance, retribution and from my point of view, hate. They are truly what I would consider an Old Testament church through and through, yes they believe in Jesus Christ, yes they believe He is the Son of God, and yes they believe He died on the cross for the sake of their sins but Jesus’s arrival and his message of compassion, forgiveness and love hasn’t softened their God up one inch, He is mean and a bully.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40
For those of you familiar with the movie Talladega Nights you know that Ricky Bobby preferred the concept of the Baby Jesus to Cal’s partying Jesus. This dialogue, though quirky and irreverent highlights the varying images many of us have of the deities we follow and worship. What does your Jesus look like? How does your God lead you? Is it conceivable that there are so many varied and vast images of God and Jesus and what do these different viewpoints say about the cohesiveness of the Christian faith?
In Thich Nhat Hanh wonderful book Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers he states that “It is said that God has created man in his own image. But it may be that humankind has created God in the image of humankind.” In my mind, there are as many images of God and Jesus as there are personality traits of the humans that worship and follow them and certainly I include my own viewpoint in this logic (a Christian with a Buddhist tint). So who is right? For one church in Topeka, Kansas there is no question in their mind, they are. The following is part of their rational to picket a neighboring church; “This nation is sprinting to her destruction on the backs of the so-called Christians. (This Church) in particular has perverted the word of God by allowing women to preach and by allowing divorce and remarriage among their members. They water down and twist God’s word so as not to offend anyone (in order to keep the money flowing) and thereby turn the Lord Jesus Christ into some wimpy, effeminate fool in their lukewarm faith.”
If you are searching for answers I hope that you will allow love, compassion, forgiveness and respect to be your guide. It is a well-worn path, honestly it is.