February 20, 2013

What Do We Do When Jesus Is Mocked?

Djesus Uncrossed 2

By Luke Moon (@lukemoon1)

Once again we have an opportunity to respond to an irreverent portrayal of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Over the weekend, NBC’s Saturday Night Live had a skit featuring Jesus as an angry killer dutifully exacting revenge on Romans who crucified him. This revenge fantasy supposedly flows from the violent mind of Quentin Tarantino, who most recently brought us “Django Unchained.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CknpHpmIJtI]

The reaction so far seems all too predictable. From the Religious Right comes the American Family Association calling on people to write the sponsors of the SNL–Sears, Kmart, and JC Penny–to let them know how outraged we are that they funded the mockery of Jesus. From the Religious Left comes Kurt Willems and others who seem convinced that this “American gun-slinging Jesus” is the result of militant Christendom–otherwise known as those who support the right to self-defense.

While it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy, I think it is important to keep a few things in mind as we process what pop-culture burps up.

First of all, the reason people will laugh at this skit is precisely because it is outrageous to think of Jesus ever doing something like this. That speaks a lot about how the general public views Jesus. People know that Jesus did not go around killing his enemies but commands his followers to love their enemies. People also know that Jesus did not lead a rebellion against Rome, but against the darkness of this world. I hope people have heard that Jesus did not kill or abandon those who abandoned him, but offers restoration and forgiveness–then and now.

Rather than take the time and effort to show how offended we are at the portrayal of Jesus as revenge-seeking murderer, why not take the moment of airtime to affirm what makes this skit humorous. This is an opportunity to say, “Yes, the reason this is funny is because Jesus would not do something like this. In fact his words to those who were crucifying him were, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.’” This is who Jesus is and that’s the Jesus people need to know.

Secondly, this is not such a bad depiction of how many of Jesus’ disciples thought that he would act. Many of the Jews were looking for someone who would lead the much-anticipated violent rebellion against Rome. Alan Storkey in his book, “Jesus and Politics,” writes of the political climate in the first century, “In Jesus’ time the nationalist [also known as Zealots] perspective was strong and burned in the hatreds and hopes of the ordinary people. The tax burden, Roman and Herodian soldiers, Herod’s viciousness and the disrespect of Roman culture for the Jewish God—all of these rankled the Jews.” In fact thirty years after the death of Jesus these Zealots would lead a revolt the sparked the Jewish War. While Jesus himself was not aligned with the Zealots, one of his disciples carried the title Simon the Zealot.

Lastly, the writers and cast of SNL have a constitutional right to offend me. The freedom of speech that we enjoy includes the freedom to be offensive. Christians, although the easiest and most popular targets of mockery and humiliation, should be the strongest advocates for this freedom. The message of the gospel is offensive to those who hate us most.

Recently, another short film was made depicting Muhammad as a murderous and perverse man. The riots throughout the world and especially in the Middle East led many liberal pundits to proclaim that it was time to place limits on the freedom to offend. The murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans at the consulate in Bengazhi, Libya was blamed on the maker of the film rather than the murderers. Now, I will refrain from stating the obvious contrast between the reaction to Djesus Uncrossed and the Life of Muhammad. But in both instances the right to offend must be protected. If the filmmaker is denied the right to offend Muslims, or SNL is denied the right to offend Christians, then it won’t be long before I am denied the right to be offensive. Don’t think I am exaggerating here. In 2010, a Christian street preacher was arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin, and just last year a street preacher was nearly arrested for preaching on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

So what do we do when Jesus is mocked? Let’s follow the advice of St. Paul, “Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”


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  • http://sheepdoggin.wordpress.com mlemccoll

    I am just sad, and feel my own voice shrinking. I dare not reply even though I should speak to it. The angry mob keeps tearing at me through attacking my public faith. I wonder how long it will be before Christians will be targeted. I fear and see that day coming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/palzee Paul Zesewitz

    I used to like Saturday Night Live. But no longer. Yes, it’s only comedy. But even NBC should have the common sense to draw the line and not want to offend some its own employees who are Christians. This was just downright tasteless! I am quickly reminded of Galatians 6:7–“Do not be deceived, for God is not mocked. Whatever one sows, that also will that person reap!” In other words, we Christians would be best to sit on the sidelines and watch and then laugh, while God gives these idiots what’s surely coming to them!

    • http://terrapolitica.wordpress.com Luke Moon

      I don’t think we are to simply ignore what SNL did. I am largely interested in how we respond. Yes, God is not mocked. But sitting on the sidelines saying, good riddence goes against our calling to be ambassadors for Christ–calling people to turn their mockery into praise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cindy.v.lanning Cindy Vetters Lanning

    Wow, a tasteless SNL skit. Didn’t see that coming. They actually intended to mock director Quentin Tarantino for making two movies (Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained) that rewrote history in preposterous ways. That they are mocking movies is clear in the jab at Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. You correctly perceived that the SNL writers were trying to think of the most unlikely historical figure to have a different ending to his life story. It shows that they know quite a bit about the gospel story and they expect most American viewers to be able to pick up on details of Christ’s death and Resurrection. I agree completely that what makes the skit funny is that Jesus is well known for being the opposite of revengeful. What the devil intends for evil is usually turned to God’s glory. I hope and pray this crude skit will provoke thoughts and conversations that draw lost sinners to the Son of God who could forgive even his torturers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005188201179 K.a. Smith

    I think SNL was mocking Tarantino, not Jesus.

    • S.D. Kelly

      My thoughts exactly. This had more to do with the excesses of Tarantino than anything else.

  • http://autumnsgarden.wordpress.com Autumnsgarden

    I did not see the show . . . but am intrigued by your question, esp. in light of recent comment by Janie B. Chaney, “The Last Laugh” – WORLD Magazine

    “. . . Mocking leads to contempt, and contempt to anger: “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet” (Proverbs 29:9). Notice the fool rages and laughs—not one or the other. Both forestall productive conversation. With apologies to T.S. Eliot, is this the way the world will end? Not with bang, but a snicker.”

    I believe a soft answer is a more powerful “weapon” than a diatribe – and prayer for those who use us is a more effective use of time. But am challenged to examine why so easily laugh at stuff – I wonder if Paul would have laughed at the incongruity of the skit’s premise?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sallyclay.smith SallyClay Mainly Mark Smith

    Luke, I totally agree with your assessment. The reaction by from both sides of the theo-political spectrum is more amusing than the skit itself. I understand that young and naive people may be a bit mislead by these kinds of portrayals, but any intelligent person who takes SNL seriously is out of touch.

    There was a movie out some years ago, The Life of Brian, which was a spoof, in part, on folks hyper-imaginatively reading hidden meanings into events that were never intended as such. I think the reaction to this skit is what we may be seeing here.

    In a sense it is a compliment that SNL would do a skit with the full confidence that they would not evoke a violent reaction (though I am quite sure they are happy about the attention and controversy engendered).

    Yes, I will risk being offended as a Christian in order to preserve MY right to free speech. The reaction to such things in much of the Islamic world should serve as an object lesson for all of us, especially our friends on the Left.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tabitha.bowers.5 Tabitha Bowers

    To be frank, the only appropriate response to Jesus (and all other superstitious claptrap) is mockery.

  • http://skpirie1.wordpress.com skpirie1

    Tabitha – If I thought Jesus Christ was “superstitious claptrap” , I wouldn’t waste time reading articles and blogs written about Him and then writing comments. You are free to disbelieve in Jesus, but your disbelief is not really freedom at all. Your disbelief is a prison to your soul; whereas, faith in Jesus will bring you true freedom. I know. I was once where you are. If you really believe that Jesus does not hold the key to your freedom, then open the door to Him. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. “Seek and you shall find…”

  • http://twitter.com/nathanmileslund Nathan M. Lundgren (@nathanmileslund)

    This sketch is brilliant, and here’s why. All humor is based on incongruity; a dog wearing a hat is funny because (as we all know) dogs do not typically wear anything, much less hats. That people laugh at this sketch means that there is broad understanding that Jesus is nothing like the violent avenger depicted here. Speaking both as one who loves Jesus AND is frequently distressed by the ways he is misrepresented by those who claim his name, I find it incredibly heartening that SNL would produce this sketch.

    Jesus is not being mocked here. The target of the sketch is Christians who are enamored with the violence and death (the “myth of redemptive violence”) that Quentin Tarantino and plenty of other entertainment-makers depict as harmless fun.