As a struggling Christian (because I sure ain’t levitating), I have to admit, it was disconcerting to watch.
Am I glad it got enormous ratings? Well, sure. Is it good that it probably prompted lots of theological and philosophical discussions within families? You bet. But what really bothers me is, well, as embarrassing as it is to admit ...
I’m just not comfortable being physically attracted to the God I worship.
Why does Hollywood (I’m pointing my bony finger at you, Roma Downey) insist on casting the character of Jesus Christ as a gorgeous 6-footer who, quite frankly, looks like an early member of the Doobie Brothers? This doesn’t seem to happen with other religions. (Have you ever seen the statues of Buddha? Not a hottie.)
Whether it be in past mini-series, “The Passion of the Christ” or the most recent, “The Bible,” Jesus is, by far, the most attractive of the historical figures represented. And I’m wondering, what does this say about us, particularly as North Americans, to keep trotting out this ideal?
Googling fiercely to find respected studies of how Jesus might have looked led me to some fascinating reading. I’ve always found religioustolerance.org to be level-headed and objective regarding such matters, and here, I found a couple of intriguing points of view.
It seems the rather hunky Jesus of “The Bible” series and several portraits is “based on the image of the Shroud of Turin, which is believed by many Christians to be the burial shroud of Jesus. It is of a man estimated to be 5’11” to 6’2” tall.”
So there ya go.
Ah, but then there is this completely different take by Richard Neave, a retired medical artist from the University of Manchester in England who, along with Mike Fillon, continued the research, determining that Jesus probably resembled a typical peasant from the first century, and based on archaeological evidence from skulls of that era, described “a person with a broad peasant’s face, dark olive skin, short curly hair and a prominent nose. His height would have been on the order of 5’1”; he would have weighed about 110 pounds.”
And did Jesus have the long, flowing hair we find familiar in our Western images?
Good points are made about this, as well. As the website pointed out, would Paul have written, had he seen Jesus (and there is no biblical indication that he did), “If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him”? Or, as a rabbi who followed the custom of never cutting the sides of his hair or beard, would Jesus have displayed long, draping locks? I have no idea, because then again, biblically, Jesus’ hair is also described as “like wool.”
At this point, you might say, “Well, who cares? What difference does it make?”
Exactly. But do Christians really feel that way? Honestly?
Would Christians – would I? – embrace a televised portrayal of, frankly, a physically unappealing Jesus? Instead of the tall and, yes, sexy, Portuguese actor who played him in “The Bible,” would audiences stay tuned for a historically likely version that appeared far more like a young Danny DeVito or Dustin Hoffman?
Around the world, Jesus Christ has also been portrayed as black, Hispanic and Arab. And we know he lived as a man. Furthermore, many believe that “man was created in God’s image.”
But which man?
I’m guessing all of them.
Are you listening, Roma? Maybe next time when it comes to casting Jesus, think Jack Black. Or even Jon Stewart. Seriously – I’ll be watching.