from April 2006, with a new UPDATE
Welcome to the United States of Rapture.
Can there ever be enough Jesus? Having won their War on Christmas (yes, we are happy to report, it will be held again next year) and signing up their flocks in Republican voter drives, and enlisting all those happy, shiny evangelicals as "Marriage Protectors" (not to be confused with Athletic Protectors), Christians in America are straining under their persecution.
It is a persecution that comes from living in a country where false religions are unpunished by public burnings at the stake, where science is still taken seriously, where the death prayers and earthquake fatwahs of the Reverend Pat Robinson have become -- shock! -- a national joke!
Because Jesus is simply not ubiquitous enough, not embedded in art, books, movies, songs and gift-shop brick-a-brac enough, Nightcharm lists some rare but recent sightings of this obscure First Century Deity -- hard because in America, his hidden catacomb cult is relegated to megachurches, cable networks, and weekly councils with the President.
Here then are our favorite moments in Jesus USA.
Oops, we forgot. First a prayer from the Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Please bow your head ...
Amen. And take it away, Jesus ....
Jesus as Fashion Model
Yes, the Prayer Warriors have taken to the runways (praise!) and our brave Jesus look-alikes even wear designer crosses around their necks, like our gorgeous hunk Anderson Dornelles at right, soon to be martyred, no doubt, by movie offers from the TBN network.
Our Lord appears also on the covers of male fashion magazines -- like the one above, where Jesus seems to be getting a mudpack -- or is it a skin peel? Readers?
Naturally, Vman magazine can't admit they're referencing the Nazarene. They're liable to be put on the payroll of the faith-based arm of Administration Bush. But the angle of the head, the beauty in suffering of the expression, and the telltale blond highlights are secret signs that any Pentecostal can read (when not examining tortillas or weather stains).
Jesus Among the Ballerinas
O, suffer the little ballerinas to come onto the Christian gift shops, which have sprouted up secretly in every corner of every mall in this sinful country.
There they will find Our Lord of the Ballet, as well as Our Lord of the Wrestling Mat, Our Lord of the Gridiron, and Our Lord of the Little League.
Also available are scripture candy bars, Trivial Pursuit -- Revelations Edition, God Knows All About You bumper stickers, and, of course, those gruesome 3-inch crucifixion spikes from The Passion of the Christ (what a beautiful film!)
Can I get an Amen somebody!
Our God is ripped and 'roided and ready to kick butt.
But first He has to save the world and do his cross thing. Watch it with the flexing, JC, or you'll ruin everything.
This absolutely sincere painting by fantasy artist Boris Vallejo went for a King of Kings' ransom when it was auctioned last year on eBay. Never has the Prince of Peace looked less like a peacenik. Proof, in the words of Dr. Dobson, that Jesus "was no fairy." Even the Breck Girl comb-out is working.
Yo, JC. If things go south on that Rapture deal, there's a Pay-per-View WWE Smackdown in your future.
Paging Johnny Nitro.
Oh, Sweet Jesus! (2007 UPDATE)
And Jesus so loved the world he now melts in your mouth! Compare Vallejo's Muscleman Jesus to the Chocolate Jesus of artist Cosimo Cavallaro, at left.
Suspended eerily in air with knees bent and arms spread, My Sweet Lord has the conscience-wracked face of a Max von Sedow and a full-frontal chocolate penis that Anderson Cooperr on CNN assured us was "anatomically correct."
"I felt the body of Christ, the meaning of Christ, was about the sweetness," the artist told our boy Anderson. Citing the precedent of church altarpieces that feature nude or near-nude Christs, Cavallaro said his intention was not to shock the viewer but "to have people taste and feel what they're looking at, in their mouth."
We're down with that. In our mouth, you say? Kewl.
Predictably, though, an irate blowhard from the Catholic League confronted the artist on the CNN show, calling the piece "hate speech." Though Cavallaro insisted, perhaps a touch too coyly, that the piece was intended "to celebrate the body of Christ in a sweet, delicious, tasteful way," the Catholic League spokesman went off, as he usually does, like a drunk in an Irish bar, snarling and frothing in a bravura display of hyperbole. (Don't miss the video.) This, despite the practice of his own church where the body of Christ is thought to be literally consumed in the form of a communion wafer.
But back to our comparison. Against the unabashed Americana of Vallejo's Harly-Davidson Jesus, Cavallaro's figure brings to mind the anguished, sour-faced Christs of the Northern Renaissance.
Sorry Boris but when it comes to art, serious will always trump sincere. While the Vallejo work is kitsch and fun, the Cavallaro, for all the postmodern irony of its chocolate medium, has the sting of real art.
Jesus on Hollywood Boulevard
Lift up thine eyes, O Lord.
Jesus and the Same-Sex ... What!
God works in mysterious ways. Some more mysterious than others.
Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love by Will Roscoe reports that Jesus practiced a secret rite of one-on-one baptism with other men. It involved nudity, the transference of "spirit" ... and, when the wind was blowing just right off the Sinai, really hot, headbanging sex.
And maybe just maybe that's why Jesus was crucified.
According to the Secret Gospel of Mark -- a gnostic text that appears in no official Bible but is the source for Roscoe's book -- Jesus is caught in the Garden of Gethsemane just as a naked boy escapes into the bushes.
Apparently Our Lord was "baptizing" the boy in a mystic ceremony that was a metaphor for what it felt like to enter heaven. We kinda get the picture. But the Roman guards hadn't meditated that day so they were totally lost.
Signs and wonders, children. Signs and wonders.
What Would Jesus Play?
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."
That's not scripture, brothers and sisters -- that's Shakespeare. In other words, Man plans, and God laughs. He can be a hardon like that.
How can we -- poor, banished children of Eve that we are -- possibly please HIM? How about an iPod, the 60 gigs number. And we'll put together a playlist, a little mash note from -- remember us? -- your fallen Claymations on Earth.
Here you go, Lord. Just press this thingie over here, and kick back, dude. Say what? Oh just some things we cooked up, things like
- Mr. Wonderful (That's You)
- Caught Up in the Rapture (With You)
- Every Little Thing You Do (Is Magic)
- Heaven (Must Be Missing an Angel)
- Love Child
- Gloria (Laura Branigan Acid Mix)
and of course,
- Play That Funky Music (White Boy)
Jesus Appears as Francis Farmer
With God, all things are possible. So why not appear as Francis Farmer, the troubled movie star from the 40's? One human envelope as good as any other to cloak the mystical body.
In the work of Karen Whitehill -- a favorite Nightcharm artist -- Jesus is always female, a striking concept but done from a reverent impulse.
Rather than the traditional Italianate Jesus, the 20th Century body of a female movie star startles our expectations, stresses the universality of God, a God that transcends natural reality and is beyond such earthly measurements as time, age and sex. Like an irrational number, Whitehill's Jesus can not be divided, has no square root, is beyond a final decimal point.
Hence her use of long dead (and thus, no longer litigious) movie actresses: the famous face that is both familiar and remote pasted upon iconic Christ poses -- carrying the cross, preaching to the multitude, rolling back the stone. The impact of Francis Farmer crucified, for instance, is at first humorous, after a moment surreal, then finally sublime.
Behold, I show you a mystery!
Perverts and Secularists are trying to bring down the People of God! "Sides are being chosen," Tom Delay warned the faithful who gathered in Washington for a conference on "the War Against Christians" last month (February, 2006). "And the future of man hangs in the balance!"
Coincidentally -- and certainly this must be sheer happenstance -- Tom Delay's future hangs in the balance as well. Currently under multiple criminal inditements but introduced as "a man that God has appointed" to Congress, Delay praised Jesus profusely.
After the standing ovation, one of the podium ministers declared "God does his best work after a crucifixion," referring to Delay's abrupt departure from Congress under a cloud of corruption charges. "I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ."
Among those who despise the cause of Christ, in the view of the conference, which styled itself as a "wake-up call for America," were gay activists, evolutionists, stem-cell researchers and the husband of Terri Schiavo. Verily, verily, Jesus must have wept.
But that has not silenced the minions of Satan!
Dominionists [hardcore evangelicals] preach that Jesus has called them to build the kingdom of God in the here and now ...
America becomes, in this militant biblicism, an agent of God ... the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, Creationism and â€œChristian valuesâ€ form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all...
Some Dominionists would further require all citizens to pay â€œtithesâ€ to church organizations empowered by the government to run our social-welfare agencies, and a number of influential figures advocate the death penalty for a host of â€œmoral crimes,â€ including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and witchcraft.
The only legitimate voices in this state will be Christian. All others will be silenced ...
I canâ€™t help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when we were his age ... we would all be fighting the â€œChristian fascists.â€
He gave us that warning 25 years ago, when Pat Robertson ... began speaking of a new political religion that would [take] control of all major American institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire.
At the time, it was hard to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts.
Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.