When I was a little boy, there was a “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”. I would pray to him every night and ask him to look after my Mum and my Dad, the dogs and the cats, our cows, our pigs and our chickens-- each animal by name.
In Sunday School I learned of a Jesus who loved the little children and spoke out against those who would do them harm. He healed the sick and comforted the sorrowing. He said to love your enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use you. Those were his exact words.
He taught us that God’s things were God’s things and Caesar’s things were Caesar's things, and they were not to be confused.
He became angry on the rarest of occasions, once when a mob of clergymen tried to kill a prostitute and another time when the clergy and the merchants made common cause to commercialize the Temple.
Our Sunday School room and our story books had lots of pictures of a strong, kindly Jesus, preaching on the mountainside, surrounded by little children, bearded men in long robes, and women with head-coverings. They looked quite Middle Eastern, but when I was a little boy that was OK.
He never reproached. He suffered insults and beatings without a whimper, and ultimately gave his life to reconcile a wicked world to a righteous God.
That was the Jesus of my childhood, the Jesus Who Used to Be. But he’s a thing of the past.
There’s a new Jesus in town, and he’s a very different guy. He’s hard-eyed and square-jawed and he packs a gun, even in church. Nobody’s going to mess with him-- no more of this weak “turn the other cheek” nonsense, the kind of talk that could get you crucified. And certainly no more hanging around with Middle Easterners, unless they’ve got lots of money.
The new Jesus takes firm action and he gets things done. He stands strong against the kind of people he doesn’t like-- people who were born in the wrong country or with the wrong orientation. They can just go to Hell, and it would serve them right.
But he’s also toned down many of the finicky old rules about stuff like adultery and lying and stealing and abusing the poor. Even torture and warmongering are OK so long as we’re clear about who the bad guys are.
But not all the rules are gone. While he might give adultery a mulligan, the new Jesus is pretty clear about the truly unacceptable. Like abortion and homosexuality. And bad words, especially the F-word. After all, there need to be some things to separate the good guys from the bad guys.
The new Jesus may have anger-management issues, but they’re certainly not directed toward the clergy, who seem to be prospering pretty nicely, thank you very much. I’m guessing they’ve got a deal worked out. This is the Age of the Deal, after all.
But while we’re waiting for the new Jesus to whip the world into shape, I still remember fondly the Jesus Who Used to Be, the one who helped me try to be a better little boy, to not lie to my parents, and to share my lunch.
“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -- The Jesus Who Used to Be
Norman Bowley writes, speaks and teaches about leadership, communication, decision-making, and occasionally about things that break his heart.
Norman Bowley is a communicator by passion, a lawyer and educator by profession. Thirty-six years of legal practice after ten years as an educator have equipped Norm to teach professionals how to communicate effectively and with power.