Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vanilla Jesus

Last night I got to see a local church’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I bumped into some acquaintances there, and they wanted to know what brought me out to see the show, if I happened to attend that church. “Nope,” I cheerily replied, “I’m friends with Judas.” That’s probably the only time in my life that I’d be able to say that. In a church, no less. Awesome.

I am indeed friends with the actor who played Judas, he was in my 2005 production of Zig Zagged Ostrich, and while I didn’t know he could sing, he’s a talented enough guy that it did not surprise me at all that he rocked the house as Judas. He was easily the best thing about the production, which was typical church produced fare, complete with little Sunday School kids waving palm fronds during “Hosanna,” a gazillion extras on stage, and a staged tableau of the Last Supper.

What was striking about this show was that the actor playing Jesus was so….. bland. Vanilla. Quite possibly the most Vanilla Jesus I had ever seen anywhere in TV, movies, art, stage, books, anywhere. No facial hair, no chest hair, nerdy looking and the most trim haircut this side of a military barrack. He frankly looked androgynous, if not neutered.

And not compelling. Right towards the end, Jesus is receiving his 40 lashes, and around lash 17, I leaned over to my friends and said, “Wow, Jesus is taking this awfully well.” Because there was literally no reaction from Vanilla Jesus onstage. It’s not shock, it’s Failure To Emote.

In any good story, your villain has to be as compelling as your hero, every good writer knows that. But that implies that your hero IS compelling.

Jesus is not supposed to be Vanilla. He’s not Buddy Jesus. Sure, everyone know about Jesus wrecking the moneychanger’s tables in the temple, but Jesus cursing the fig tree also cracks me up.

So much of what we see about Jesus in culture presents him as beatified, beautiful, holy, cleaned up, eyes focused on heaven, blah blah blah. These presentations of Jesus are frankly, kinda boring to me.

I wouldn’t choose this kind of Jesus, this kind of Jesus doesn’t look like he has a thing in common with me, there’s no way he’d be able to know my struggles, he doesn’t look like he EVER struggled. Like dirt doesn’t stick to him.

I prefer Non-Vanilla Jesus. Jesus wasn’t white, everybody knows this, right?
There’s a well-known Popular Mechanics article theorizing what he might have looked like and they came up with this:

However close to the truth it is or isn’t, this guy looks waaaaaaay more interesting. This guy looks like he’s got ISSUES. This guy looks like he’s struggled. I totally wanna hear what this guy has to say. This guy could totally kick Vanilla Jesus’ ass.

Says me. ☺

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Guess What We Forgot To Do?

You guys! We totally forgot to celebrate this blog's FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! I suppose it's par for the course. We never seen to be on track with anything around here, ha ha ha.

But yep, this here blog was born on January 2nd, 2006. Can you believe it!?!?! Five friggin' years of wrestling with God and being a Christian screenwriter who occasionally drops the f bomb.

So I was thinking about creating a Hall Of Fame section over in the sidebar of some of the more famous (or possibly infamous) posts of the past five years. If you've got a favorite, let me know.

Happy Belated Anniversary, little ole' bloggie o' mine!!! :)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Fun With Talking Body Parts in Scripture

So I got the email in the middle of this week asking me if I wanted to read Scripture at church this week. I haven’t done this since 2007, where I took a picture of the proceedings, and I was convinced by doing that, I was put on some invisible Do Not Let Her Read Again list.

But either there’s not that list, or nobody remembers that I’m supposed to be on it, or everyone else passed and I was at the very bottom of the list. Regardless, I said yes, sure, no problem, I can read.

I get the scripture on Thursday, and since we’re still studying 1st Corinthians, we’re up to the fun part (well, there’s a bunch of fun parts in 1st Corinthians) but this is chapter 12, verses 12 – 31, where “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” …. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ and the head cannot say to the feet ‘I don’t need you!’

Oooooooh fun! Fun fun talking body parts fun!

We’ve got a lot of talking body parts here, actually. Feet, Ears, Eyes, Heads.

And we all know how I roll. When I see an opening to make a joke, I can’t NOT make the joke. I can’t. I CAN'T! At Small Group this past week, our Group Leader was talking about her mom getting re-married, and everybody’s nodding their heads about how surreal it is that she will have a five-year-old step-brother, and I blurt out, “You’ve got bigger problems. Your mom is having sex again.”

I HAVE TO MAKE THE JOKE, PEOPLE! I HAVE TO! You know that’s what everyone is thinking. And that’s another way of how I roll – I usually will say what everyone is thinking, but nobody else wants to say it. Sure I’ll say it. Why not? Somebody has to. Might as well be me.

So here I am facing a situation where I’m reading a scripture passage featuring no less than four talking body parts and what the hell am I supposed to do!!!!

So I practice the night before. I don’t really have a fear of public speaking, but I do have a slight fear of certain Elders at our church who might give me a verbal smackdown if I don’t take this seriously. No fear of public speaking, but I do have a fear of public shaming.

Let me be clear, it’s not that I don’t take this passage seriously. But read the passage:

1st Corinthians Ch. 12 v. 12 – 31.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

First of all, that’s a long ass passage to read in front of a church body. Second of all, it’s kind of hilarious. PAUL IS WRITING ABOUT TALKING BODY PARTS! Yes, there are some serious things going on there (we are all diverse but necessary parts of the body of Christ), and some excellent points being made (your baby-making parts are covered in modesty, yet are no less honorable.) And yet. Paul’s using humor to make a point.

Sidebar: whenever I read this passage in the past, I always wanted to shout I AM GOD’S SPLEEN! TREASURE ME, THE LOWLY PANCREAS! Talk about lowly body parts that are completely necessary for everyday life.

I show up for church today, ready to behave if called upon, but also wanting to see how much I can get away with. That’s what rehearsal is for, ho ho ho.

Luckily, I’ve got a fairly zen stage manager, and I’ve known Pastor Diet Slice since the church started six years ago, and when it comes time for me to get up onstage and start reading, I let loose with my interpretation of what a talking foot, ear, eye and head would sound like. I’ve made the editorial choice that they’re all spoiled brats who wanna take their toys and go home, since they’re not an hand or an eye, so they obviously don’t belong to the body (insert eye roll) and the eye telling the hand “I don’t need YA!” and the response back, “YEAH!? Well I don’t need YOU!”

And the staff is standing in front of me, checking the slides behind me to make sure the text matches up, and I hear them start laughing. I stop and say that I can ditch the funny voices if they want me to, but Pastor Diet Slice says I should go for it. Yay! Pastor Approved Funny Voices!

Once I finish rehearsal, Pastor Diet Slice takes the time out to compliment me on my reading skills, with or without the funny voices, and then also says that the Scripture passage is too long, and they’re going to cut it in half, since Pastor Diet Slice’s sermon isn’t going to touch on anything past verse 20 anyway. “My funny voices cut in half?” I say. “No, no, you still got…two of them.” Pastor Diet Slice assures me.

Well. Okay. I mean, it’s GOD’S WORD he’s cutting, so you know, if Pastor Diet Slice wants to take it up with God, he can. HA!

So for the first service, I do the two voices (Foot and Ear) in the same kinda of semi-snotty way I did for rehearsal. But I notice that during the sermon, Pastor Diet Slice is characterizing those verses as having not so much as a sullen Because I’m Not A Hand, I Don’t Belong To The Body (So THERE!) theme, as they are a sadly envious Because I’m Not A Hand, I Don’t Belong To The Body (Insert Sad Face) theme.

Ah yes. Clarity. Whenever you start to feel like a dumbass, you know God’s at work in you.

Of course it’s not about sullen body parts. It’s about SAD body parts. About Feet wishing they were Hands so they could be accepted into the body of Christ. It’s not about snottiness, it’s about sadness.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that, hmmm? Don’t know.

So I change the characterization for the second service, and make it be more about sad body parts wishing they were accepted for what they are not (so that the lesson can be learned that you don’t have to be something you’re not in order for Christ and God to accept you.)

It’s this characterization that ends up on the podcast. I don’t think that’s an accident.

They do edit out the part of the second service where I took a picture before I started reading Scripture. The idea was that I would post the picture here on the blog, and compare it with the picture I took in 2007, so faithful readers o’ the blog can see how much this little church has grown and changed.

I got a fancypants new Iphone last week, and thought this fancypants camera that came with it would do the trick.

Behold the result:

Nice, God. Nice.