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article imageYou take the high road and I’ll take the low

By John Rickman     May 31, 2007 in World
In Biblical studies the term “Christology” is shorthand for how much of Jesus was “God” and how much was man.
Wars have been fought over this question so let’s approach the topic as though we were handling nitroglycerin while suffering from a bad case of the hiccups.
The question of how much was “God” and how much was man is vital to our appreciation of the “sacrifice” of the cross. I believe that the larger share of man in Jesus, and the more attached to the things of this world that man was, the greater the value we may place on his decision to give it all up in his obedience to the will of God.
Consider this image. You are an adult and you are out horse playing in the yard with some small children. You are wrestling around and, being bigger than them, you could easily beat them but you are not a bully so you let them “win.” You have not given up very much but you have made them happy. This is “high” Christology. Jesus is “just playing around.” No harm no foul. Just a game. If this is the “sacrifice” of the cross then it is really no big deal, is it?
Ah but there is a darker side to this level of Christology. There are people in this world who work out their sexual fantasies by “giving up power” under strict rules, to people who are empowered to “torture” them for recreational purposes. It is called S&M and there is a great vogue for “crucifixion” fantasies in this world at the moment. How do I know? I am a photographer and it is my job to “boldly go where no one in their right mind would go before.” I have had a large cliental of dominatrix (dominatrixs? or dominiatrixi?) and was the staff photographer for the San Francisco Exotic Erotic Ball for three years running. Believe me, Sodom and Gomorra would blush.
There is even a nightclub in the City called “The Power Exchange” where entertainment like scourging, crowns of thorns and crucifixion would be considered foreplay. So if a “man” knowing that he is really God allows himself to be put through this sort of thing and even killed, knowing that he is going to rise in three days and ascend to heaven—well in San Francisco that would be called “edge play.” Not very dignified is it? And not really a sacrifice either.
But what if a man, knowing that he is special and perhaps even touched by God, but in love with the things of the world and as reluctant to give them up for the unknown world of death, as you or I, is asked to die for the world as an act of faith in God? He is, no doubt scared, he does not like what is being done to him one bit, and is terrified that it is going to be painful, humiliating and perhaps even futile. And yet he submits and says to God “thy will be done.” Much more heroic don’t you think?
That is why a “low” Christology is so much more “Christian” than a high one. The novel “The Last Temptation of Christ” by Nikos Kazantzakis, is often attacked by unthinking believers as being “disrespectful” of Jesus but is it? When Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness and is tempted by Satan a “High Christology” would make a mockery of this ordeal. Satan tempts him to turn the stones into bread and Jesus says—in effect “no thanks I have already eaten.” Or worse “Don’t be stupid! I’m God I don’t need to eat.”
Or when Satan offers him all the kingdoms of the Earth. A “high Christology” Jesus would be thinking “What a schmuck! Doesn’t he know I am God and already own this real estate?” I once tried to explain this to a group of Fundamentalist protesters outside the movie version of the novel but all I got was spat on and threatened for my troubles. There are none so blind as those who will not see.
But a man, a real man who, while filled with faith and love, is still only a man, might be tempted and then his strength in resisting temptation would be admirable.
And then there is sex.
This one always drives some people crazy but consider this. If God takes on the form of a human to experience his creation from this angle, and fails to have sex, then he rather missed the whole point of the exercise, didn’t he? NOTHING in the Bible claims that Jesus was celibate, it is just that the mental image of him having sex messes with people’s minds, rather like picturing your own parents getting it on-but you know that the must have or you wouldn’t be here.
This has nothing to do with “holy grails” or Da Vinci codes or any of that sort of thing, it is simply that for the sacrifice of the cross to be valid Jesus’ attachment to the world must be strong—or what’s the point? And the love of a woman, or a wife and family, and the fear of losing them, has been known to make cowards of even very good men.
Which brings us to the subject of naked images of Jesus. Some have found the recent chocolate statue of Jesus unsettling because one could see his “naughty bits,” but consider this, do you really think that the Romans would give him the dignity of a loin cloth? The ordeal was designed to be painful and humiliating and to deny any aspect of the full horror is to lessen and belittle the sacrifice.
So, what have we found out? Perhaps it is the notion that the higher the Christology the lower the value of the sacrifice on the cross. If that is the case I, for one, want my Jesus as human as they come. Some may think the high road is better but I say to them “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I get to heaven before you!”
I hope.
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