It is instructive that Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin (retired), who now works as the Family Research Council’s executive vice president, cares more about what Jesus looked like than what Jesus taught.
Boykin, another one of those who says Islam is not entitled to First Amendment protections, and thinks God, not the American people, chooses our presidents, told the audience of a Men’s Prayer Breakfast at William Jessup University, that,
[Jesus] was a man. He was a man’s man, but we feminized him in the church…he was a tough guy and that’s the Jesus that I want to be like. That’s the side that I want to be like. But we’ve feminized Jesus in the church and the men can’t identify with him anymore; not the kind of men that I want to hang out with, they can’t identify with this effeminate Jesus that we’ve tried to portray. He was a tough guy. He was a man’s man.
For Boykin it was bromance at first sight and perhaps a wee bit of latent homosexuality as he waxed over Jesus’ “big, bulging biceps…thin waist” and “strong shoulders” (Who knew Jesus was the Marlboro man?)
Boykin’s accidental outing of himself aside, we don’t know what Jesus actually looked like. But we do know that he was not the strangely Germanic blond guy of popular imagination. He was a dark-skinned Semite:
There is also no doubt that Jesus smelled bad. They didn’t have deodorant in the first century of the Common Era so Jesus smelled bad, Peter smelled bad, Pontius Pilate smelled bad, Caiaphas smelled bad, the guys who nailed Jesus to the cross smelled bad, and so did the two rebels he was executed with and the people who watched, including Jesus’ mother. We get that. But smelling bad doesn’t make you a man when everyone – women included – smells bad. This sort of reasoning is why Boykin is working for the FRC.
We get that too.
But it’s a shame Boykin and the FRC care more about what Jesus smelled and looked like than they do the important things, like what Jesus taught about the poor coming first and the rich, having sold their souls to the dark powers that ruled the age to become rich, coming last. That would be swell, but people like Boykin prefer the Weaponized Jesus of the twenty first century to the apocalyptic prophet of the first.
Jesus is often portrayed as a carpenter but he might well have been, like Socrates, a stone mason, since the word used, in Mark 6:3, τέκτων (tekton), means only that he made things with his hands; it does not specify which craft he practiced. So yes, he would have been a hardy, no doubt muscular fellow, though Geza Vermes, whom I often cite here, points out that the language used – “son of a carpenter” – is used in the Talmud to mean somebody who is “learned” and therefore might have simply signified that Jesus was wise. Of course, we already figured that out, given what he said about rich people chances of getting into heaven (Matthew 19:24).
He might have been big, strapping, smelly AND wise. We’ll just never know. And it really doesn’t matter.
And that is because most of us would agree that what Jesus said was more important than what he looked like. Think about the Beatitudes and Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and think about them particularly in terms of what President Barack Obama has accomplished with regards Iran and its nuclear program.
Because it is Obama the Republican response was automatically negative but their response should have been to remember Jesus’ words, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).
What we get instead is Bryan Fischer proclaiming that God will curse America for making a deal with Iran. Fischer forgets Jesus entirely and goes all Old Testament on us:
What he cursed us with are people like Bryan Fischer and Jerry Boykin and groups like the Christian America Patriots Militia, who have been claiming that Jesus and the Second Amendment together gives them the right to assassinate the president.
If Republicans really cared about Jesus, and what Jesus taught, they would be talking less about their Savior’s manly odor, flip open the New Testament that supposedly informs their beliefs, and realize that having done what Jesus wanted, Obama is blessed, not cursed, and that even if he does something you don’t like, you forgive him, not kill him.
It is too much to say that Jesus would say he wants his religion back. It was never his religion to begin with, after all. It is beyond contestation that Jesus was a Jew who preached an apocalyptic message to the Jews, that he ignored the Gentiles (Pagans) and not only ignored them, but told his disciples to avoid them, referring to Gentiles in true Jewish fashion as “dogs” and “swine” (Matthew 7:6).
Jesus did not invent Christianity. Christianity is a religion that was invented about Jesus, based, allegedly, on his teachings and not his appearance. But Jesus would certainly want those teachings heeded. He did not walk all over a Galilee infested with bandits, rebels, Herodians, and Romans, just for yucks. It was hot, dangerous – and smelly, after all.
We have to assume (assuming a historical Jesus in the first place) that he was serious about what he said.
He died for it, after all.
Whether Jesus was right or wrong about what he taught, whether he was an illiterate Galilean craftsman or divine, he died miserably and in great agony on the cross. And in at least one of the mutually contradictory versions of his death, he told his Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He did not say “nuke ’em till they glow” or “bomb them into the Stone Age,” like would a Republican.
We should respect that, Christian or otherwise.
But Jerry Boykin and his ilk have no genuine respect for Jesus. Jesus has become “weaponized” – a club used to bludgeon enemies. This is not at all what Jesus would have wanted, since he said to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and that if somebody steals your shirt to give them your cloak as well (Matthew 5:40) and to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
The only weapon here is love.
But conservatives hate that Jesus. Hate is more their speed. Old Testament wrath. A god who tosses nukes with his fingertips. That god profits them and their friends in the military industrial complex. That’s a Jesus they can get behind. That’s the Jesus Boykin really loves with all his manly man’s heart.
Unfortunately, that’s not the Jesus in the gospels, which is, after all, supposed to be a good message, not a bad.
The thing is, if Christianity is a religion about what Jesus taught, then these people on the Religious Right are not Christians at all. How much greater their crime if they claim Jesus actually created Christianity.
Yes, I do think Jesus would want his gospel heeded if he put in an appearance today. And I suspect he would have a few words for the dogs and swine on the Religious Right who have been masquerading as followers of the rabbi from Galilee.