In my grade four class, we were asked to write our autobiography in a paragraph. It was a tough exercise to do. How do you sum up your life, even when your nine years old in just a few words? How do I describe myself in such a way that takes in my physical appearance and emotional makeup in just a few words? I don't think any of the students in our class found it easy.
Now some 48 years later, the task might be a bit more of a challenge. I have had many experiences. I have changed. Hopefully as I have matured, I have become more complex in many ways and simpler in others. Hopefully I would have had more time to reflect on who I am. I have had a few more years to know where my strengths lie and where my weaknesses exist. I think during life we discover and learn more about ourselves and our place in the world but hopefully I know a bit more about who I am 48 years later.
Many years ago, I was doing a project on how Jesus was depicted in art across the world in terms of art. It was indeed interesting project. I got to see photos of nativity scenes from countries all over the world- Ghana, Japan, Fiji, Aboriginal, Argentinian, and Norway to name a few. There was also depictions done of Jesus as he would have looked like in Colonial Days, as cowboys, and as a motorcycle enthusiast. Even though the subject was the same, Jesus and the Holy Family, each depiction took on the culture of the area. In the Japanese depiction, Joseph and Mary wore kimonos and had distinctly Japanese features. In the Fijian depiction, sarongs were worn and Joseph and Jesus had dark hair which was pulled up in the hairstyle worn by modern day Fijians. In the cowboy Jesus, Joseph and the wisemen are all wearing white stetsons. What this project taught me is that all of us, in some way, construct Jesus in our own image. We try to imagine Jesus as someone who we can relate to'; Jesus is someone just like us.
It shouldn't surprise me then, that in our divided world right now, two very depictions of Jesus are being presented. One is a Jesus who stands with the gun lobby, who stands with those who are in favour of the status quo, who is in favour of detention camps, the border wall, and the Make America Great Movement. The other is a compassionate Jesus who stands with the poor, who is with the immigrants, who cries when anyone gets shot (whether they be black, white, yellow, or red). Both of these differing factions believe that they have the true representation of who Christ is and what Christ represents.
I'd like to say that Christ is just like I think he should be like. I'd like to say that I am totally right and the other side is completely misguided. I'd like to think that I am standing on the right side of history and those poor misguided souls who feel differently are way off base. No I can't imagine a Jesus with the AK 47 assault rifle attached to his back going into a local Starbucks or storming a state capital. But sometimes in the scriptures, Jesus isn't always immediately welcoming to those who are different- he struggles with the idea of helping the woman with the daughter born with a demon because she is not Jewish. He actually needs the mother's persistence and prodding before he offers her his prayers of healing for that sick daughter. In my mind, Jesus would have healed anyone no matter who they are. In that realization, I guess I am as guilty as the red hatted gun lobbyist of placing Jesus in a certain box. Although I like to assure myself that I am closer to the truth than others (I have studied, I work for the church), I know that there would be some who have also studied and have come up with totally different interpretations than I do about who Jesus is.
I think that's the way it should be. Jesus is more than can be summed up in four gospels, or in Sunday School lessons or in a sermon. Jesus is more than a red hat lobbyist or a United Church preacher's ideal. As with all ideas, it is up to us to talk to those who have different ideas, share with each other, learn, debate, and grow. Like those 300 images depicting Jesus in so many different ways, none were totally correct, none were totally wrong. Some may be closer to the truth but all are just a brief glimpse of the total picture. Blessings.