Back in the 1980s that famous phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” seemed to hold potential to revive a certain sort of mainstream Christian hope that youth would embrace the man we call the Son of God. Yet it too died of overexposure.
Which means we’re left with a Post-Modern sort of Jesus to leverage into cultural memes. That has produced a wide range of beliefs about Jesus and versions of his ministry and message to consider.
Here are a few versions alive and kicking today:
The Evangelical Jesus
The word “evangelical” means to share the word. So evangelicals in the Post Modern world have spread themselves thin trying to promote their version of Jesus to the world. The Evangelical Jesus is now part Economist through evangelical promotion of the Prosperity Gospel. He is also part Politician through alliances with conservatives during election cycles. Finally, the Evangelical Jesus also functions as the Great Decider in situations where Evangelicals determine who should and should not be included in the Kingdom of God. That means the Evangelical Jesus can be used as a tool for discrimination. So if you happen to be black, or gay, or female, or poor, depending on the whim of Evangelical Jesus, you might not get to come to the party. All this is justified under the umbrella of sharing the Word as evangelicals see it.
The Evangelical Version of Jesus keeps quite busy these days trying to separate the wheat from the chaff of society.
The Fundamentalist Jesus
It’s a little hard to separate the Fundamentalist Jesus from the Evangelical Jesus at times. The watershed between the two can typically be found in the confessional language of fundamentalism. This is sort of a code language formed around key Bible passages, but it all has a shortcut that usually starts with the phrase, “Are you a believer?” From that point a stream of confessional words should tumble out of your mouth in cornucopia fashion. “He is my personal savior. I believe Jesus is the Son of God, who died on the cross and was raised from the dead after three days. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God and will come to judge the evil and the dead.” Of course there are subtle variations of The Fundamentalist Jesus at work in the world these days, but the principle priority is to teach and require this confessional language and use it like a Morse Code to recognize all those who want to be embraced by the Fundamentalist Jesus.
The Fundamentalist Version of Jesus spends most of his days listening to Moody Bible Institute broadcasts where silky-voiced radio hosts spew confessional language into microphones.
The Creationist Jesus
Way back when the Bible was written and Jesus was just a twinkle in the Holy Spirit’s eye, God somehow decided that things in the world should never change except by cataclysmic events such as floods, plagues and genocidal Kings who followed the Will of God to the letter by savaging entire populations of people who worshipped false idols. This rather fixed version of history in which nothing happens by chance is how Creationist Jesus prefers to conduct business. That means he was actually there in some form when God commanded Adam to name all the animals, plants, insects and other living things on the earth, which all apparently grew and lived in the Middle East so that Adam could name them properly. Then they all reconvened for a reunion with Noah so that he could rescue sample DNA from around the world while the flood deposited millions of fossils of deceased creatures in neatly organized layers so that humans could discover them a mere 10,000 years later. The Creationist Jesus also apparently hung out with dinosaurs.
The Creationist Version of Jesus has been busy raising money for a temple to creationism built in Kentucky.
The Conservative Jesus
There are some who believe that one cannot be anything but a conservative and a Christian. That would be a really great thing if only Jesus himself believed it. Because Jesus spent the latter part of his earthly ministry castigating the conservatives of his day for their rigid, legalistic belief systems that turned scripture into law and caused people all kinds of suffering. That leaves us with a really interesting figure to worship these days, and the Conservative Jesus as a result is little more than a figurehead for a doctrine that claims supply-side economics, sexual abstinence, distrust of science and a brand of fascist newscasting are indicators of a true belief in Christ. Conservative Jesus would not recognize the acts of the Good Samaritan because one never knows who is really disguised as a Muslim. Conservative Jesus might have a few black friends, but most of them would sit silent in social situations like Clarence Thomas or else crow about the liberation of a few wealthy blacks as indicators that there is no such thing as racial oppression. Conservative Jesus might even secretly wear a Confederate tattoo on his right buttock and engage in Concealed Carry in case those Democrat Pharisees show up to take away the guns of him and his disciples.
Conservative Jesus is a badass with ripped abs and a glock to boot. Don’t cross him.
The Republican Jesus
Every two to four years, the Republican Jesus is trotted out like a Cigar Store Indian to raise money for anti-abortion candidates and people who like to de-fund science and programs that benefit the poor. Republican Jesus waves the flag a lot and tends to like wars because they benefit the economy and a few very well situated white men that have ties to companies with catering services for the military. In some case these companies actually become the military, in which case the Republican Jesus leads rallies to convince both the real military and the mercenary military they are fighting for the honor of Republican Jesus, who really likes a Good War and knows a Bad War when he sees one. Which isn’t very often, because all wars started by America are necessarily Good Wars. Republican Jesus also tends to ignore the cries of the poor because the Bible clearly states that one shall not spoil the child by denying them the opportunity to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. And if that doesn’t work, Republican Jesus uses those bootstraps to whip the poor into shape.
Republican Jesus really can’t be bothered to see you right now. There’s an election in 2016 you know.
The Democrat Jesus
On the surface, Democrat Jesus seems to side with many of the principles held dear by liberals who read the Bible. Social programs that help the poor and elderly are often supported by Democrats. So Democrat Jesus looks much like the real thing. Yet in many cases Democrat Jesus is a bit more like the confused disciple Judas, who was a traitor to Jesus by turning him in for a bag of coins. This confuses people about Democrat Jesus, and makes them question the faith of men like Barack Obama, who speaks pretty clearly about helping the poor and the disadvantages, but then spends time at the country club or patting the heads of Wall Street bankers who want to turn government into a collection station for annuities. Instead of flipping the tables of the tax collectors in the temple like Jesus did, Democrat Jesus shakes hands and asks if the temple is too big to fail. If the answer is yes, Democrat Jesus turns to his followers and says, “Let’s move on! Nothing to see here!”
Democrat Jesus is occupying Wall Street, but only for lunch with a few Jewish bankers and the opportunity to stay in a house out on the Hamptons for the weekend.
The Liberal Jesus
Well, we always seem to be getting somewhere when Liberal Jesus rides into the town on the back of a donkey. Liberal Jesus wants to genuinely help the poor. Even to the point of re-distribution of wealth, Liberal Jesus calls cultures to account for their sins of ignoring the neediest. Yet even Liberal Jesus gets a little distracted sometimes. It’s really confusing for Liberal Jesus to figure out the abortion issue, for example. No one likes killing babies of course. So Liberal Jesus suggests using birth control, but the Bible has plenty of warnings about the dangers of casual sex. So Liberal Jesus has to do all kinds of verbal gymnastics about that, and about gays as well because the Bible has traditionally been interpreted to ban adultery and teens feeling each other up (and more) in the back seats of cars. So Liberal Jesus is constantly busy trying to convince the world that he actually stands for something other than doing any bloody thing you want to do.
Liberal Jesus is alternately cringing and praising the books of Bishop John Shelby Spong.