The most attention that I ever paid to the world of Jesus was through Christopher Moore's book,
Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.
Now, don't get all in a sweat. Moore's book, though generally funny, is historically accurate as far as Jesus's age and location as he grows up, and is poignant where it needs to be. I love the book because it told the story, but didn't make me feel like shit. I didn't have to be afraid, and I didn't have to feel guilty. I felt bad for Jesus, but didn't sense that I was a despicable piece of garbage when I was born and had to spend the rest of my life suffering and repenting because of it. I grew up as, what I call, a hesitant Quaker. This self-realized moniker wasn't because of the religion, exactly. No, it was more to do with our family and the extra ladels of guilt that I got just living under the same roof, but that's for another time. Or, never, but because of it, my spidey-senses can see guilt coming a mile away and I clock my perspective, slightly. For example:
Recently, I found myself in a church for an event, and as it unfolded, I found myself gazing at the sculptures of famous religious icons positioned evenly along the side walls, and in larger scale, at the front and above the stage. I sensed the purpose of this: Anyone finding themselves daydreaming, or tempted to shift their focus from the activity up front, discovers Jesus in varying stages of pre-death, near-death, death, and post-death, surrounded by groups of concerned apostles, all swathed in flowing tunics. I imagined the sculptor running into his store room to grab yards of fabric to gather and lay across Jesus to get the balance right and add a splash of colour; maybe something that brings out Jesus's eyes, or the highlights in his hair while he posed in whichever terribleness he was enduring. I could clearly see a side-view of Jesus's thigh, torso, or arm in each display that reminded me of a client sliding off of a massage table. I was too far away to be able to describe the look on his face here, but the throng of attendees showed great skill at improvising whatever angst, sadness, surprise that the sculptor needed.
"Okay. You in the back with the mint-green sash, eyes up please. Stop checking your phone! ...thank you...aaannnddd, break for lunch everyone!"
Up front, from above the stage to the peak of the arched ceiling, was a wood carving of God who had his hands raised in such a way that I imagined him listening to Snarky Puppy's We Like It Here, on his earbuds. Below him were various characters, angels, agents, involved in the story. I imagine posing for the artist carving out these figures would have resulted in some stiff necks as they were turned at odd angles, like faces pressed against the windows of a very full bus.
Directly in the middle, was a larger-than-life, 3-D wood carving of Jesus cowering under his friend's raised hand pointing up to the Dad. Jesus's Dad. The God Dad. I don't know who the friend was. Big fella. Reminded me of Paul Bunyan in a very nicely tailored dress. Looked to me like someone was in trouble, like maybe report cards were sent home and, well, you take it from there. Nothing like having an enormous, clear depiction of FEAR in the centre of the stage, you know, in case you weren't sure.
One icon that I do have great respect for is Mary, because, not only is she the mother of Jesus, but also the mother of God, and I will be confused about that forever. Am I the only one? She must be exhausted. The sculpture, almost life-sized, to the side of the stage, was beautiful. Her head was tilted slightly and her palms facing out as if to say,
"All I did was ask you to clean your rooms. Why is that so difficult? And who left their bike in the driveway?"
But in this zeitgeist, I could also imagine Mary saying,
"Whadda ya mean, you still have WAR and POVERTY? Just what the hell...and yes I said 'hell,' what don't you get about this whole LOVE dealio?"
Then, she would shake her head, go inside, and have a bracing cup of tea with God, who is her son, and the father of her son and I want to know who was in the writing room that day.
Balancing the statue of Mary was a statue of another Jesus on the opposite side of the stage. This time, Jesus looked healthy and relaxed; dressed in comfy-looking robes as if he had just had a long, hot shower and was now waiting for his hair to dry while he did the crossword (Three-letter word for Trump. Also, Mary rode one into Bethlehem.).
I won't tell you what I imagined him saying, but it was not terribly positive about the U.S. government and the morons supporting the NRA. OOPS! Didn't mean to let that slip. He's also irritated with constant iPhone updates. But mostly it's the NRA.
It was interesting to see these depictions. I don't want you to wonder if I am flippant about religion; that should be obvious. I do, however, like the idea of Jesus and Mary as real, wonderful people. (I do wonder if Joseph is in therapy. Between the immaculate birth and God, that's got to be hard on the self-esteem.) I'm not quite sold on God yet. There is way too much hate and suffering on this beautiful planet for me to swallow that story whole right now. But do I believe in LOVE?
That's the part I fully accept, once it's sifted out from all of the judgement, and damnation and hellfire, and guilt and more judgement. Me? I think it's all about love baby! For that, I don't need a carving, or a sculpture. That, I can feel in the centre of my chest, the moment I lay eyes on