My Jesus Can Beat Up Your Jesus

By Norman, Tony | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), July 10, 2018 | Go to article overview

My Jesus Can Beat Up Your Jesus


Norman, Tony, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


One of the most theologically insightful statements ever made about American Christians was uttered in Woody Allen's 1986 film "Hannah and Her Sisters."

Max von Sydow's character, a cynical old artist named Frederick, complains about "a very dull TV show about Auschwitz" he has just watched. He mocks the pundits in the documentary for asking how the Holocaust could ever have happened when, given human nature, it was astonishing it didn't happen more often. "It's been ages since I sat in front of the TV just changing channels to find something," Frederick says. "You see the whole culture - Nazis, deodorant salesmen, wrestlers, beauty contests, the talk show. Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling?

"But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers - third-rate con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak for Jesus and to please send money. If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up."

Rarely has there been such a succinct and devastating commentary on the role of preachers - and by extension, the American Christian community - in popular culture.

But Jesus throwing up in response to how his radical message of love and redemption has mutated over the millennia into its opposite is more than a clever line about spiritual alienation. This is essentially the hard truth that now confronts American Christians about themselves in the era of Donald Trump - a golden calf of a president who solicits public adoration with all the subtlety of the priests of Baal running wild until Elijah arrives.

In what can only be called "The Faustian Art of the Deal," many Christians believe that meeting Donald Trump at the crossroads at midnight and selling their souls for a season of "winning" isn't too high a price to pay for access to an elusive elixir called power.

The fact that not even two years into his first term, Mr. Trump gets to appoint a second justice to the U.S. Supreme Court is all the confirmation that many need that his is a God-ordained presidency.

There has been much commentary about how the nearly 90 percent support for Mr. Trump in the white evangelical community can be traced to his promise to appoint judges who will undermine abortion rights and reverse many of the losses suffered by what was formerly a Christian consensus regarding gender roles and LGBTQI issues.

There's something to the theory that many white American Protestants have felt so besieged that they are happy to have an unrighteous ruler in the mold of King Cyrus or King David fighting for them, even if the result is an unseemly ethno-nationalism that is overwhelmingly white and hostile to the values Jesus clearly espoused. …

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