Farting Jesus

I spent the first 16 years of my life living with this picture of Jesus:

heinrich hofmann jesus

Heinrich Hofmann’s 1890 “Christ in Gethsemane” graced the wall of our living room (okay, okay, it was a somewhat murkier copy) for all the time I lived at home. I stared at it often.

Look at Jesus sitting there, earnestly and majestically looking to heaven, with heaven looking back and lighting up his noggin’. This is the image I had of Jesus almost the entire time I was an evangelical Christian, a quaint mixture of earthiness—the slightly unkempt hair and the scraggly beard—and godliness—he could command supernaturally-lit attention from on high.

This picture, using an ancient inconographic technique, tells us that despite the messed-up hair and the wayward beard, Jesus wasn’t really like you and me. He was holiness on steroids.

I couldn’t help wondering, though, as a kid, if Jesus did ordinary things, things like take a piss or, well, worse. And when I wondered those things I felt guilty thinking about them, what with that halo and all.

In any case, the Jesus that many of us came to “know” was in so many ways the Untouchable Savior, in the sense that we were told that he was one-of-a-kind, without sin and without blemish. Tempted? Yes. Just like us. But Jesus never failed the test. He passed every time. Every time. Who could really relate to that? Who could, in ways that we would call personal, really know someone like that?

In all the Sunday school lessons I sat through, and then later all the sermons I endured—a few I even preached—I never heard anyone go so far as to say that we should think about a farting Jesus.

But let’s face it. Jesus passed gas. If he didn’t, he wasn’t like any man I know (and some women, but they shall remain nameless).

Now, we don’t have to think that Jesus was such a man that would deliberately, just for laughs, spray his disciples with the vapors, but maybe he did. After one such episode, I can imagine the rowdy Peter exclaiming,

Oh my God, Jesus! You needeth prayer!

Or something like that.

If any of this makes you cringe, don’t blame me. I started thinking about all this again when I read a piece on CNN’s Belief Blog by a bona fide right-wing fundamentalist big shot from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. It was written by Johnnie Moore and titled, “Jesus was a dirty, dirty God,” and it began like this:

Jesus was a lot more like you than you think…

In order to make Jesus more you-like, Moore had the nerve to suggest to his “astounded colleagues” at Liberty that Jesus “might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.” I know why his colleagues were stunned because I am sure there are lots of people who can’t imagine Jesus taking a dump, let alone having severe diarrhea.

He wrote,

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

Yes, that’s pretty much the way I pictured Jesus, thanks to Heinrich Hofmann and essentially a fundamentalist upbringing. But Moore had more:

The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem…

This dirty, sweaty Jesus is not the Jesus you meet in Sunday school, at least in the churches I attended. He’s been cleaned up for American consumption, and for American exploitation, ultimately for Republican-American exploitation. The Jesus of the evangelical right, which was once my Jesus, and the one who presumably endorses the GOP platform, is not a farting Jesus.

Oddly, in his portrayal of a gritty savior, Moore let this slip:

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century.

Ah. Economic insecurity. Jesus knew and understood that, says Moore. And thus it’s fair to ask, since economic insecurity is also common here in the twenty-first century, does Jesus still know and understand it?

Liberty University, the place where Johnnie Moore works—he is a “professor of religion and vice president”—invited Mitt Romney, a man no one would seriously argue understands economic insecurity, to speak at last year’s graduation, right in the middle of a presidential campaign, despite the fact that the theology taught at the university clearly excludes Mormonism from the ranks of Christianity. Why would the university welcome him to speak?

But more than that, why would a Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping Christian university invite Donald Trump to address their Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping students last September? In fact, why would any university worthy of the name invite him to speak on any topic?

But speak he did, after he was reportedly introduced by Jerry Falwell, Jr., as one of the “greatest visionaries of our time.” I’m sure that made both Trump and GOP Jesus very proud.

Trump did not disappoint. Toward the end of his speech he told the more than ten-thousand gathered youthful Jesus-worshipers:

Don’t let people take advantage. Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they’re going to say, ‘You know, I’m going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I’m going to let them alone because they’re tough customers.

Get even.” You know, in a weird sort of way, Trump has stumbled upon a great truth. “Get even” is God’s message in the Book of Revelation. But I digress.

After Trump’s remarks were criticized by offended true believers, some of them students who actually believe Liberty University stands for something spiritual, who actually believe that Jesus stood for something other than revenge, Trump’s spokesman, Michael Cohen, told ABC News:

I conferred with Johnnie Moore at Liberty University and questioned whether Jesus would ‘get even.’ The answer is ‘he would & he did.’ Johnny explained that the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees and Christians believe that Jesus even got even with Satan by rising from the dead. God is portrayed as giving grace, but he is also portrayed as one tough character – just as Trump stated.

So now we know what Johnnie Moore really meant by his “dirty Jesus” claim. Not only did Jesus have dirt under his fingernails; not only did Jesus take a messy poop now and then; not only did Jesus get mad at the money changers; he actually got even with his enemies and, well, he apparently was a lot like Donald Trump!

Thus, here in twenty-first century America, we can see why Mitt Romney and Donald Trump were invited to speak at a fundamentalist university in an election year. The kids had to be introduced to the Jesus who endorses predatory capitalism, who endorses revenge, who endorses the contemporary values of the Republican Party.

And what better way of doing that than by introducing the kids to a couple of Republicans—both claiming to be Christians in good standing—who just happen to be very rich and who just happen to be unable to know or understand what Johnnie Moore said the biblical Jesus knew and understood: economic insecurity.

But the Republican-American Jesus knows nothing of that economic insecurity. He doesn’t sweat all that much, except at the gym. His fingernails are clean. There are no calluses on his hands. He is comfortable in board rooms and in corporate suites, the kinds of places where high-powered people meet to plan their next vulture capitalist adventure. He’s okay with folks who slander our black President as not being an American.

And when this Jesus farts, he often does so in bathrooms in buildings with TRUMP stamped all over them.

He too is a “dirty Jesus.” He just has a different kind of dirt on his hands.

20 Comments

  1. Troy

     /  January 13, 2013

    Indeed my family can relate to that “dirty Jesus” when it comes to gas. Lol. My brothas need a lot of prayer…….

    Like

    • To paraphrase the Big Guy,

      Thou hypocrite, first cast out the stench out of thine own; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the stench out of thy brother’s.

      Like

  2. What a post, Duane. Holy crap! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    This reminds me of some of my own irreverent thoughts when I was still wrestling with my discomfort with organized Christianity, thoughts I actually touched on in an adult Sunday-school discussion once. How, I asked, can we reconcile the material world that is so much a part of us with the notion of Heaven? Here in this material life, the nitty-gritty is so much a part of who we are. Take for example the feeling of my wallet in my back pocket, the ring on my finger, the watch on my wrist. None of that in Heaven, I assume. Habits, like shaving, bathroom functions, driving, reading, sleep. Will there be naps in Heaven? Blogging? Hardly seems likely. How about the need to exercise, feeling tired, getting sick, eating for God’s sake. All gone? If we excise the material world and become spirits, what is left of us? Perhaps nothing but the smile, like the Cheshire Cat.

    Perhaps even worse, what of those Christians who are in good Grace but who are inarticulate or, let’s say, not intellectually gifted? Or, if everyone gets automatically smart when they die, how will they feel about their former material life? Will there be resentment that their given talents were few? What if the Mormons are right, that the Blessed go on after death to rule individual planets? Would that be a vicarious activity designed by God to take the place of our former material involvements? And is it part of some master Morman plan that some planets be relegated to the care of a minor God less capable or less empathetic than others? Or do we all become intellectually and spiritually equal after death? If that’s the case, then would we still be the same person? So many questions, so few answers.

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    • Jim,

      I too have struggled with the heaven thing. But a few years ago. I stubbled upon a Buddhist website and an essay in there that really hit me. Here’s an excerpt from “Salvation Versus Liberation, The Limitations of the Paradise Worlds:”

      “In a paradise, the individual is a kind of slave to the deity. Many of the deities are quite nice, but there is no tolerance for rebellion. If you do not worship the deity, you are out. Some gods are notorious about requiring constant worship, and they are very sensitive about any concern for or loyalty to other gods.

      “Paradises are very good places to meditate and pray. However, they have limited options for creativity. These paradises already exist, and are decorated and furnished. They do not need creativity and change. And there are limited options for helping the suffering. If you are in a paradise, you cannot help them. You are too busy pleasing the deity or pleasing yourself.

      “People in paradises take the easy way out. They could be struggling and striving for enlightenment, and instead choose a feathered nest without responsibility or maturity. For the sake of temporary happiness, they renounce knowledge and freedom. They then have no choice but happiness. Their growth is stunted like a child who will never leave his mother’s lap, no matter how old he gets.

      “Some paradises require an entrance fee. It may be your total love and devotion, and it may be a renunciation of spiritual maturity. In some cases, the individual must offer (the) jewels of light – the light of his or her past kindness and good deeds. They are taken away as the individual enters, and if the individual should turn his or her back on the god, he will be left with nothing.

      “Liberation is not easy, but it is the birthright of every person. Frittering away time in the heaven worlds may be enjoyable, but it is a form of spiritual gluttony. You are fulfilling your own desires and those of a powerful and often egotistical deity, but what are you doing to help the universe?

      “Paradises are places for the weak and traumatized, who need shelter and cannot take life’s intellectual challenges. This is why paradise deities emphasize love [as opposed to knowledge]. Only those who cannot go forward will choose to stay back forever. And paradises fulfill a valid need – the world is full of people seeking shelter.”

      This a philosophy of the afterlife that makes all kinds of sense to me. But if there is no paradise, no shining city on the hill, no there there, then where does the soul go after death? Well, to me, the afterlife consists of the collective memories of those who loved you and befriended you, and knew you, and, if you were a parent, in the genes you passed on to your descendants, and, as Clarence, Angel Second Class, showed George Bailey, in the changes you made in the world by your being a part of it; whether you had a “Wonderful Life” or not.

      Christians, take note.

      Herb

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      • Thanks, Herb, for that perspective on the paradise aspect. It feels cathartic, knowing there are others who actually think objectively on this and on religion in general. True of the four of us on this page so far, and for all I know, millions of Buddhists. That there are only three comments to Duane’s post so far, however, would seem to indicate that most people are comfortable with a childlike take on the subject. Too bad. Of course, it might have helped if Duane had eased into it with a somewhat less edgy title, eh? But that’s our Duane. 🙂

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      • Herb,

        Thanks for the interesting observations, via the Buddhist website.

        Perhaps my favorite part of the Bible was this famous passage:

        And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

        He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

        That was from the otherwise fiery Book of Revelation (21:4,5).

        Now, as nice as that picture of God is, and as comforting as I once found it, something about it began to really bother me as I thought more about it. If God could ultimately create such a state—and this is not the kind of “slave to the deity” paradise your Buddhist writer pictured—why didn’t he create such a state from the beginning? You don’t know how many times I wrestled with that thought. Why put us through all the death, mourning, crying, and pain?

        If those negative things were necessary, as some theologians argue, to get us to a place where we could “freely” love God, then, I wondered, how would we keep freely loving him in their absence? Didn’t seem to make much sense. And if all the suffering that human beings have ever undergone could be “made new,” if an existence without pain and sorrow could be fashioned at some future date, indeed, if even such a world is possible for God to make, then it sure seemed odd that he chose to do it the way he did: first putting us through bloodshed and agony and what seems to be superfluous suffering—and with the outcome that most of us would suffer and die and still not make it to this new world.

        These are trains of thought that eventually led me away from the evangelical Christian station.

        Duane

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        • Duane,

          Your comment reminds me of what comedian Julia Sweeney (late of SNL) once pondered: “If God created us as imperfect beings, then why does he punish us for being imperfect?”

          In any case, the concepts of heaven and hell were devised to maintain order and to force allegiance to a particular belief system; e.g., control behavior by an invisible and unprovable threat. The idea of heaven (Paradise, Nirvana, Jannah, etc.) goes back thousands of years before Judaism and Christianity. Almost every religion in the world has some variation of it.

          On this point, there is contradiction between the Old and New Testament (one of many, of course). Consider Genesis 3:19, where God tells Adam: “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” This is the old “dust to dust” metaphor. Doesn’t go over so well with the Jesus crowd, though. Kinda ruins the basic Christian ethic of eternal life, doesn’t it?. Well, unless you’re a grain of dust.

          But that passage in Genesis really underscores the difference between believers, especially Christians, and non-believers – believers live life for death, non-believers live life for life. I believe as a non-believer. You’ve only got one shot at the life you live so you better make the best of it. Fantasizing about an afterlife as being, in effect, one long orgasmic experience, will only get you a big fat pile of dust.

          Herb

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          • @ Anson, you said,

            By and large the quest for peace, individually, is a spiritual matter. Politics is a path to govern in the real world. Why in the hell do we try to mix the spiritual and the reality of life on earth??? What is wrong with “live and let live”, spiritually and govern with an emphasis on liberty and freedom to the greatest extent possible, to allow all to live as they so choose?

            I’ve made promises with myself to avoid discourse with those who view dialogue as combat, but this appears to be one of those exceptions which might inform others of the readership. By the above statement I think you likely speak for many, so I am moved to offer an answer.

            One group to whom you should direct your question is the evangelical fanatics in the Tea Party. In the recent primary and presidential election they consistently placed religion, including women’s health and the abortion issue front and center. Another group of course is Islam, which has its own right-wing fanatics. Please let me know when you figure out how to lay those issues aside.

            Throughout the entire written history of the world, including Jesus’ own time when Herod killed all the male babies in the land, and including when the Nazi’s exterminated millions of Jews, politics and religion have been intertwined. To blithely suggest we now separate them is very nice, but it ignores reality. But then, that’s what religion, or “faith” does, it ignores reality.

            As the conversation on this page makes clear, at least to me, the choice is between an objective view of the world as it is or a child-like view that has zero verifiable or repeatable evidence to support it. I know this is not obvious to you or to millions of “believers”, but from the demographics I read, that could be gradually changing.

            Like

    • King Beauregard

       /  January 13, 2013

      These are the sorts of questions that make me believe either there is no soul / afterlife, or we reincarnate and the “I” that I perceive this time around is largely tied to this particular incarnation. On the other side is a meta-KingBeauregard expressing itself through a clumsy meat vehicle in the early 21st century, and also being influenced by experiences that the meat vehicle undergoes. Eventually the meat vehicle fails and meta-KingBeauregard wakes up on the other side, ideally a better soul for the most recent round of The Dream Of The Meat.

      King Beauregard is a royal heretic.

      Like

      • Right, KingB, self-awareness is both blessing and curse, eh? When I try to look at life as it is from outside the box, seeing the evolution of the human brain and the ability of humans to vocalize and communicate, self-awareness is exactly what I would expect it to be – confused wonderment. One could almost extrapolate from such analysis that the evolution of religion parallel to intelligence was also logical.

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    • Jim,

      As you might imagine, as I wrestled with my Christian beliefs I came across all kinds of conceptions of the afterlife, all, seemingly, derived in one way or another from the Bible (of course, one can derive all kinds of things from the Bible, if one has the imagination to do so).

      I never really had a clear conception of what life in heaven would be like. There were too many conflicting images. I do, though, have to admit that I like the idea behind the term used (only three times) in the New Testament, parádeisos. It has been rendered in English as “paradise,” but, according to Strong’s Greek dictionary, is:

      an ancient Persian word meaning “enclosure, garden, park.”

      Doesn’t that sound nice? Who wouldn’t want to die and spend a long time in a nice park or have a loooooooooooooooong walk through a garden? It is this word Jesus uttered to the repentant “thief” while on the cross:

      Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

      Growing up I wish I had heard more sermons on this garden-park.

      Duane

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      • Yes Duane, it does sound nice, the park, but I think Herb’s Buddhist’s passages apply. The subsequent loooooong walks would be increasingly boooooooooorrrrrrrrrring. 😀

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  January 14, 2013

    To all,

    I too have “lived with” that picture for a lifetime. But today, I see it in a very different perspective than in my younger years.

    That man with a beard reflects, to me, serenity, “peace”, God’s grace, “the peace that passes understanding”. He preached on his suggestions for how to achieve such a state of mind while still firmly resting on earth, then or now. The picture to me says nothing about heaven or hell or any afterlife. It is simply a picture of a man at peace (call it “heaven on earth”) while that man remains on earth living life on life’s terms. Is there anything wrong with such a picture when viewed with such perspective?

    Does any man “fart”? Of course he does. Some will even suggest that Jesus “screwed around” with Mary Magdaleen (spl?). So what, in my view?

    Can any human, a man if you will, find peace, at least occasionally? My experience is yes he can. But how he, any man achieves such peace (from time to time) while living on earth, is that not a very personal and private choice to be made on his part? And who are we to criticize any man for seeking peace? And who should try to force his methods to achieve such peace on anyone else?

    The only physical force every used by Jesus, based on stories written by men, is the “moneychanger” story, as I recall. And yep, Jesus may well have farted while whipping those men. So what?

    Every human wants peace and the different paths to achieve it are probably infinite as well, for any given man. Christians promote the Golden Rule. If they and everyone else followed such a rule well,…….? Telling someone they are “going to hell” if they don’t believe as others believe, well that is NOT following such a rule in my view. Neither does partisan politics, either, however or writing “stuff” with a title calling for someone to be, well, try “smashed like a cockroach” or other familiar terms slung around all the time, politically.

    By and large the quest for peace, individually, is a spiritual matter. Politics is a path to govern in the real world. Why in the hell do we try to mix the spiritual and the reality of life on earth??? What is wrong with “live and let live”, spiritually and govern with an emphasis on liberty and freedom to the greatest extent possible, to allow all to live as they so choose?

    Anson

    Like

    • And by the way, Anson, one more point. You don’t have to be religious to embrace the notion of the Golden Rule, even though all religions I am aware of have some version of it. There is strong evidence that it is in our genes, at least on the tribal level. What the world needs is to embrace bigger tribes.

      Like

  4. ansonburlingame

     /  January 15, 2013

    Jim,

    I have been vehement in criticism of politicians that cater to the religious right and never have or will vote for them, as such. Had it been an Obama/Santorum race I would have voted for Obama. I in fact voted for McCaskill, against Akin, for that very reason.

    So when it comes to politicians voicing such nonsense, I opin with my vote and sometimes write about it.

    But rarely do you hear me thrashing evangelicals as such. Let a man believe and speak as he wishes. I only attack the politicians, again, for such “trash”.

    My position, which is contrary to ones in this blog, is simply that RELIGION (or spirituality at the individual level) has no place in political discourse. Duane views it as an important element of such discourse and writes, polemically and frequently, about such matters. I understand his concern, that the country will be “taken over” by religious zealots, which I oppose for sure. As well Duane “repents” over past associations. To bad to repent over being a former zealot by becoming a zealot for the other side, or so it seems to me.

    Leave it at this. God does not MAKE anyone do anything. God MAY have some kind of “will” for the right path to follow in life, but ultimately a man’s choice is just that, a choice by a man. Good people use religion to make the “right” choices to follow the “right” path. Nothing wrong with that in my view as long as it is individual choices that cause no harm to others (the Golden Rule, however it is written or suggested, relgious texts or otherwise). I suspect from my brief reading of Rawls that that “rule” is imbedded in his political theory but not as a religious dictate. Rather he suggests it as the “right” politcal direction to follow based on his intellect and not simply because the “Bible told him so”.

    Anson

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  5. This whole discussion makes me think a bit of one my favorite biblical characters, who’s mostly ignored in favor of her sister Mary Magdalene: Martha.

    She grows annoyed with Mary for making gogo eyes at Jesus rather than helping get a meal ready. She also comments before the raising of Lazerus (roughly): “but Lord, he stinketh!”

    She’s always seemed like one of most real characters in the Bible, and I expect she noticed if Jesus had gas too.

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  6. By the way is Michelle Bachman on the far right??? She looks hot in a kind of hot in a neo -fascist way.

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  January 16, 2013

    Bruce suggests he might be a “neo-facist” because of a “male” reaction to a woman being “hot”. Well I suppose Palin and Bachman can be described as “hot” in the eyes of many men. But so can left wing Hollywood women be so described as well and they sell a lot of movies by showing their “stuff”.

    I on the other hand do not believe that the size of a woman’s ….. or shape of her legs has anything to do with her political views. I could also suggest that the melanine content of anyone’s body has nothing to do with politics either!! But we sure do “talk about it” all the time in this blog!!

    Anson

    Like

    • OMG. That book sounds fantastic. Exactly the kind of book I would write if I were smart enough to write it. Definitely gonna try to get a copy. Thanks, Juan.

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