In my previous posts this week (including yesterday’s), I have argued that The DaVinci Code’s success can be attributed to an (often) inadequate depiction of Jesus in post-Christian culture. I think that people believe there is “more” to Jesus than they are being told, and The DaVinci Code plays off of that suspicion, attempting to fill in that void with quasi-credible explanations about how the “real” Jesus got lost in history.
This explains more than the success of Brown’s book, by the way. It explains why there is such a high degree of hostility toward Chrisitans in some corners: people believe Jesus has been co-opted, so to speak to serve the political, economic, and personal agendas of Christians and their leaders. Thus, poll after poll will consistently reflect that people like Jesus, but dislike Christians. Why? Because they don’t perceive that we teach (or even understand) what Jesus was really all about.
To borrow from Jesus’ teachings, what I’m suggesting here is that the ideas that are presented in The DaVinci Code are, by comaprison to other matters, a mote. The beam – the thing that requires self-examination before another is judged – may be our own conception and presentation of Jesus in culture.
Here are a few things that I think are missing from the typical depictions of Jesus that are found in popular culture:
1. Jesus invites us into a way of life – a way that seeks to transform the world around us into a different, better place. This is the central message of Jesus’ teachings – “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Christian spirituality, therefore, is about a beautiful, different way of living. It is not merely about securing a “get out of hell free” pass.
2. The way of Jesus invites us to care for the downtrodden and oppressed, and even for God’s creation. It invites those who have to share with those who do not have, and to be responsible in the way we relate to the earth. We care about these people and things becaue God cares about them.
3. The way of Jesus speaks out against injustice and religious hypocrisy, even when the consequences may lead to death.
4. The way of Jesus is inclusive – it invites people of all races, social standings, cultures, and languages to become part of his “kingdom.” It does not seek to denegrate and shame those who are outside, but to invite them inside.
5. More specifically, the way of Jesus is inclusive of women. Women are not second-rank citizens in God’s kingdom. They are loved and valued as coequal participants.
6. The way of Jesus looks to a day when this world will be made “right” again. Rather than seeking to escape this world into another, it looks to the day when everything can be renewed. Incredibly, the way of Jesus anticipates that this renewal includes even the reversal of death itself – leading to the resurrection of those who have perished. This, I believe, is how God is a “saving” God – he works to reverse everything that is “wrong” about our world, and invites us to be a part of that process.
Tomorrow: Why the divine is feminine (and masculine).