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April 2, 2004

Jesus: More than Just a Friend

Providence Journal contributing editor M.J. Andersen has, by observing reactions to The Passion of the Christ, come across the conflicting trends between believers in what I've previously counterpoised as Metrosexual Jesus and South American Prison Jesus. Somehow, I'm not inclined to disagree with Andersen's observation that the former is more simplistic:

In a recent New York Times essay, Prothero speculates that Gibson's Jesus, and his film's immense popularity, could signal a return to a Jesus from whom Americans are more estranged. Gibson's suffering man-god may be harder to comprehend than the admirable guy many Americans thought that they had come to know.

Probably without realizing it — for reason of the piece's focus on Jesus — Andersen touches on what the two trends ultimately represent. The less comprehensible Jesus is, well, God. "Jesus as pal" is not (or, at least, might not be). The latter, being (above all) likable, is more prone to reflect that which we like, particularly in ourselves. The former will sometimes decree realities that conflict with our preferences.

This one difference, however we wish to phrase it, carries through the entirety of those beliefs and impressions that constitute a worldview. And the line between the two distinct camps cuts across denominations, which explains what Andersen seems to consider a mystery: that American Protestants are "flocking to the movie" even though "Gibson is a conservative Catholic who rejects the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II" and whose "focus on the physical agony of Jesus flows directly from Catholic devotional tradition." The line between Catholic and Protestant isn't any longer (or is less and less) the single greatest dividing line in Christendom.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 2, 2004 2:03 PM