Was Jesus Homely?

There was a piece in a Times Union blog written by high school student Allison Moss a few weeks ago, addressing the question “Was Jesus Gay?” This was based on something singer Elton John reportedly said. Well, Jesus Christ Superstar suggests that he (or He) was bisexual. Of course, as much as I adore JCSS, I never considered it theologically authoritative.

It was that question that prompted me to revisit the notion, “Was Jesus homely?” As I understand it, we really have no idea about the physical characteristics of Jesus. He was not depicted in art until decades after walking the earth. Looking in the Bible, there appears to be no description whatsoever, except an interpretation of Isaiah 53:2, which says, “He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him”. If this is in fact referring to Jesus, and the subsequent verses of the chapter are used in Messiah (Handel) as Jesus verses, then this Jesus fellow was rather plain-looking.

There’s a lengthy Wikipedia description about the depictions of Jesus, which I don’t treat as gospel either, but it IS interesting. My favorite section is on this point: “But when the pagan Celsus ridiculed the Christian religion for having an ugly God in about 180, Origen (d. 248) cited Psalm 45:3: ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, mighty one, with thy beauty and fairness.’ Later the emphasis of leading Christian thinkers changed; Jerome (d. 420) and Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) argued that Jesus must have been ideally beautiful in face and body. For Augustine he was ‘beautiful as a child, beautiful on earth, beautiful in heaven’.” So humans, using their own sensibilities, created the appearance of Jesus in their own image of what he (or He) must have looked like. The beard and long hair was copped, ironically, from the image of competing “gods”.

In other words, early depictions of Jesus suggested that He was plain-looking, but other religionists stuck their thumbs in their ears, wiggled their fingers, and chimed in a sing-songy voice, “Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah, nyah, nyah, your God is ugly!” So Christians made THEIR manifestation of God look more like OTHER people’s manifestation of the gods. Given the Biblical directive way back in Genesis that God made humans in God’s image, it seems as though people feel compelled to return the favor.

Moreover, He was probably short. How else does he evade the madding crowd that wants to throw him over a cliff?

So eventually, Jesus started looking, more or less, like this guy:

Theologically, it would make more sense to me if Jesus was less than handsome. It is now well documented that tall, handsome people fare better in social interactions than others. What would be the theological point if Jesus were physically appealing? One might ask if people were following Him for shallow reasons based on His countenance rather than for his message.

When images of “black Jesus” became popular four or five decades ago in some households, people were shocked, SHOCKED. “THAT’S not what Jesus looked like!” Maybe, maybe not. He probably looked more like that than this, given the geography:

I think this Time magazine cover is a fairly accurate representation of what Christ, and indeed Christianity, looks like; it depends on the point of view.

***
Yes, this is a rewrite of a post from six months ago. It just felt like a Holy week piece.

ROG

Doing Away With Dewey

There was an article in the local paper last week that the Albany Public Library was going to do away with the Dewey Decimal System in favor of a system that’s more like a bookstore, as I understand it. I have mixed emotions.

On one hand, I see why the library would want to utilize a system like that which the book-using public is used to. While I grew up using the Dewey Decimal System in the Binghamton Public Library, where I worked as a teen, it’s not as though I’m wedded to it. Indeed, the books in the special library where I work uses the Library of Congress classification, an alphanumeric system even more arcane for the casual user than Melvil Dewey’s categorization. Also, when I was going to library school, I quickly tired of the jokes about my devotion to the DDC.

On the other hand, the conversation suggests that DDC is complicated and that the bookstore model is “better”. Maybe it’s me, but I always find what I’m looking for in a DDC or LC library, while I’m more likely to have to ask for need help from a book store clerk. That’s because the categories in some bookstores are not as helpful as they might be.

The example that immediately comes to mind is Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon. Last month, the Writers Institute and the Friends of the Albany Public Library sponsored Doug Blackmon to speak at APL.

For those of you not from the Albany area, the Writers Institute was co-founded 25 years ago by William Kennedy. Bill Kennedy is THE most noted writer to come out of Albany, and his fiction about Albany has been award-winning. I happen to particularly enjoy his nonfiction book, O Albany!

There was a dinner before the Blackmon presentation, and for reasons unknown to me, I had the pleasure to sit next to Doug Blackmon. We had a very interesting talk. One point that he made, relative to this current discussion, is how well or poorly his book sells in a given store depended, to a very large degree, on where his book was placed in said bookstore. If it was placed in the American history section – and the story certainly is an American story not often heard – then it sold all right. But if it were placed in the ghetto of the black history section (“ghetto” is my term) – as though the story were only important to, or applicable to black people – then it tended to do less well.

Now, a library book is not sold by the institution. But how often a book circulates certainly effects whether or not other books on that topic and/or books by that author.

I have no inside information just how this “bookstore” model is going to look until the Pine Hills branch – MY branch – reopens next month beyond what I’ve read here. But I’ll be very interested to find out.
ROG

April Ramblin’

I briefly attended that vigil for Binghamton yesterday. Would have stayed longer but for the fact that it was cold, occasionally rainy, and I had the child, who has been sick recently, in tow. She may not have understood the point of the gathering, attended by about 45, including Albany’s mayor (who, not incidentally is, running for re-election), but I still wanted her to be there. That event, along with the story in question, probably prompted this response from me.

THE best television newsperson to come out of the Capital District of New York State, Ed Dague, is in chronic pain. Touching story. I met him at least twice, which I should write about sometime, I reckon.

Greg finds legislation he just can’t get behind.

Gordon touts Robert Johnson, as well he should.

They are remastering the whole Beatles catalog. Given the fact that I’ve already bought it all about thrice (US LP, UK LP, CD), do I want to buy this AGAIN? No, yet the Past Masters package sounds annoyingly intriguing.

Ken Levine talks about Point of View, one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H. Did the TV show House steal it? Didn’t see the House ep, but I have my doubts.

15 free downloads to pep up your old PC, which I haven’t tried yet, but I figure if I post it, it’ll remind me.

I’m getting fairly obsessed with getting the Denver mint state quarters. All I need are Hawaii, Washington state, Missouri and, most problematic, Pennsylvania, the eldest. Oh, and the District of Columbia; just got the Philly mint version this week. Haven’t seen the Puerto Rico quarter yet.

My good buddy Steve Bissette discusses, in great deal, including 27 8 by 10 color glossies, Saga of the Swamp Thing #20, the transitional first issue by Alan Moore, John Totleman, and himself that starts off the neat book I just received.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Speaking of Swamp Thing, the co-creator of, and later Steve’s editor on, the title, coping as well as one can, given the circumstances, but there’s a movement afoot to replace the comics he wrote or edited and, to that end, for people to contribute to a Len Wein comics checklist. I always liked his work during my days of reading Marvel Comics.

So THAT’S what happened at the Albany Comic Show Sunday, before I got there.

ADD’s Eisner picks. I’ll take his word for it, since the only thing on the list I own is Mark Evanier’s Kirby book, though Coraline has been on back order for about a month.

Evanier tells A Story You Won’t Believe about Spike Jones.

I’m so pleased: Two weekends ago, we went to the in-laws for their 50th wedding anniversary. Last weekend was Lydia’s 5th birthday party at the State Museum. Next weekend is something else again. This coming weekend, Easter, the wife and her mother were trying to come up with a plan to get together. The final resolution – we’re all staying in our respective homes and resting; I mean we’ll go to church and all, but no travel. I for one am exhausted, and so is my wife, so this is a good thing.

Nik from Spatula Forum celebrates five years of blogging by talking about…

Arthur from AmeriNZ celebrates both his 100th blogpost and two years of podcasting.

ROG

Chuck Lorre and I are LikeThis


I was reading Ken Levine’s column last month. By sheer circumstance, I may have been one of the first people in the country to notice the now-famous Chuck Lorre placards:

Times Union Section: LIFE & LEISURE
Page: D7 Date: Wednesday, October 1, 1997
`DHARMA & GREG’ HAS HIDDEN MESSAGE
ROB OWEN TV/Radio writer

The new TV season is only in its second week, but already there has been a noteworthy sighting of minutiae — an insider’s joke during the end credits of ABC’s “Dharma & Greg.”

Roger Green of Albany telephoned last week to point out the producer’s credit for Chuck Lorre Productions that included lines of type running down the screen in less than two seconds.

Green videotaped “Dharma & Greg” and by freeze framing it was able to read the statement from the show’s executive producer, which included the following:

“I believe that the obsessive worship of movie, TV and sports figures is less likely to produce spiritual gain than praying to Thor.”

“I believe that the Laws of Karma do not apply to show business, where good things happen to bad people on a fairly regular basis.”

“I believe when ABC reads this, I’m gonna be in b-i-i-g trouble.”

A spokesperson for the show’s production company said this type of credit is unusual, but wouldn’t confirm whether it will be different each week.

But the lightning-fast statement concluded with this hint: “Please be sure to tune in again to this vanity card for more of my personal beliefs.”

Set your VCRs tonight for just before 9 p.m. and prepare to freeze frame.

Here’s the complete message.

I recall specifically that I taped the new show only because I was about to watch it when my good friend, the late Lillian Johnson, called right at 8:30. So I taped the show on the VCR. Then I watched it immediately thereafter and had a “what was that?” moment.

It was three weeks before I saw the phenomenon mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, so I’m going to assume I was among the first to note it.

See all of Chuck Lorre’s placards, for The Big Bang Theory. Two and a Half Men and Dharma & Greg here. Apparently, he wasn’t doing the messages for Cybill or Grace Under Fire.

Not so incidentally, I can’t help but think of Jenna Elfman whenever I hear about the Dharma Initiative on Lost.
ROG

Obamatics


I’d been meaning to write about Barack Obama again ever since I watched Meet the Press back on Sunday, May 4 and saw Tim Russert’s interview spend THE FIRST 15 MINUTES talking about the Reverend Jeremiah wright. Lest you think I exaggerate, check out this. Given ABC News being ridiculed for doing a similar thing during the “debates”, Russert should have known better. This came up after both George Will and my local paper scolded Obama for not severing his association with Wright sooner; a related story generated mucho comments.

But assuming that Obama is the Democratic party nominee, the conversation shifts to who will be the Vice-Presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton shows up in the mix, of course, and her strengths (support among women and older, rural Americans, et al.) are as well known as her liabilities (generally, the baggage of being a Clinton), so that she’d be portrayed like this.
Gordon let me know about the buzz over John Edwards.
I’m still keen on Bill Richardson. In fact, I’ve been touting him since December of 2005, when I thought that Russ Feingold was running for President.

Obama’s Vision (30 minute video).

Tangentially, I was reading this quote on CNN yesterday:
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, an uncommitted superdelegate, said the delegate numbers are in Obama’s favor, but the popular vote is important to the people of his state.
“I think we see what happened in 2004, when Al Gore won the popular vote, and where the country has gone and the feelings toward government since then. I put a lot of stock in that,” he said on CNN’s “American Morning.”

I just had to know: did the governor of West Virginia really think that Al Gore ran only four years ago? No, the transcription of the video was wrong.

Tom Hanks Endorses Obama (video). Actually quite funny, I thought.

Observations from my favorite Albany grouch and my favorite American expat in New Zealand.

Finally, at the request of a good friend of mine, I was asked to comment on some specific comments about racism and the race in this dialogue on the Daily Kos. Part of the thrust of the conversation was about Hillary Clinton, whether her campaign engaged in racist campaign tactics. And I find I can’t go there. Those liberals fighting is far more irritating than the conservatives I check out, maybe because I care more. I must admit that while I sometimes read the stories, I seldom follow all the comments, especially when they descend into Sturm und Drang; they tend to exhaust me. But no, I didn’t think the comments you made were racist or even insensitive, but I’m sure some of the participants would disagree…

Photo courtesy tsevis’ photostream

ROG