Friday, October 1, 2010

Rock Me Sexy Jesus





I can't stop watching about the last eight minutes of Hamlet2. From Rock Me Sexy Jesus until the end. And I have to tell you, every time I see it I like it more.

I can't help thinking about Jesus. I spent almost every waking hour of my youth imagining his disapproval and puzzling over all the strange things he said, which were, incidentally, the best part of the Bible - the book I was perpetually exposed to in my youth, mostly as proof that what I was doing was wrong.

In Hamlet2, Jesus and Hamlet travel back through time so they can forgive their fathers, and so that Hamlet can save Ophelia and prevent his mother drinking the poison. Jesus appears as sort of a Danny Zucko character, a teen idol, moonwalking on water and making everyone swoon with lust. It is probably a far more accurate representation of Jesus than the usual one where he looks like an anemic Wasp and has the sheep draped over his shoulder. I mean, look, the guy drew crowds, right? I think it's because Jesus was imbued with a lot more humanity than most people who ever lived on earth, he was so fully human.

The book Straw Dogs is the most important book I have read in a very long time and in it, the LSE prof John N. Gray: he really totally shifted what I think it means to be human. He really took us all down quite a few notches, actually, which is why I think people find his ideas difficult. He basically says that for our survival and the survival of the planet, we have to make being human no more or less important than being any other species. These ideas that humans have dominion over the earth, a divine right to exploit its resources - that stuff has no real foundation if you really don't believe that there is an external all-powerful God. Which, by the way, in my view is not necessarily incompatible with organized religion, but that's a story for a different day. (Considering how much I update my blog that day is probably never). It's almost like Gray has re-told the fall of man. Eating at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in his telling would equate to the biological (and inevitable) evolutionary turn into language, words, wisdom. The real problem there is that that's when humans invented God. And if sin is what separates us from union with God in the old story, in Gray's story, sin is this idea of humanity's divine right to put its individual flourishing above the flourishing of the earth.

So Jesus, one of the truly great humans, advises Hamlet to go back in time to rescue and forgive. The Gay Man's Choir of Tuscon stands in the round and sings Someone Saved My Life Tonight by Elton John as Hamlet rescues Ophelia, knocks the poisoned cup from Gertrude's outstretched hand, and the story becomes inadvertantly about the playwright's great desire to help, to stop hurt, to heal, which certainly seems to me to have been also Jesus's great desire. To love. Love is not unique to our species, by the way, as anyone who has known a dog can tell you.

Bernie Taupin's and Elton JOhn's haunting song about the fateful night Elton John decided to truly be himself weaves itself in and out of the last scene so beautifully. You are a butterfly. And butterflies are free to fly. What can you say about Jesus? That butterfly comment is just as good as any. In The Book of Bebb, Frederick Buechner imagines Jesus as Erol Flynn. At Wheaton I made up songs about Jesus being in the back seat of the car, and read stories about Jesus, Barbie- doll size, watching a sullen college boy take a bath.


So with this new view of humanity, look at Jesus travelling in that time machine to forgive his father. Instead of crying out Eli, eli, lama sabacthani, my god, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?, he whispers with pitch-perfect post-therapy earnestness, "Father, I forgive you." He dies at peace, much better than in the original story where he dies in anguish. And then he's just dead.

Last week I went over to a friend's for some delicious delivery sushi and she told me of the misery of sitting with her parents through a long wedding. I mentioned that to me the real point of Jesus's first miracle is: if you have to spend a lot of time with your relatives, especially at a wedding, you need to drink something. She laughed and said I was being silly.

But I was dead serious and I still am.

I think it's scandalous that so-called biblical scholars pretend that the first miracle of Jesus was not a grand coming-out, it wasn't a statement of intent. Hell, Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding was like Slash's riff at the beginning of Appetite for Destruction. At Wheaton where we weren't allowed to drink, they totally downplayed it - like it was a sideshow mistake before the real shit happened post going out into the desert.

Wrong. This was it, this was Sexy Jesus rocking the house. He didn't turn that water into wine so that people stayed off the dance floor. He did it because he was this totally alive character who wanted to party. Again, not unlike Slash. I am sorry about my preoccupation with Slash. My husband plays electric guitar and every piece of reading material within arm's reach of a toilet in our house venerates Slash. To tell you the truth, I love Slash's autobiography so I can't completely blame my husband. The thing is, these guys, who touched our nerves, who made great art: they weren't drinking water, I can tell you.

Just think if Christianity re-branded itself and aligned with the beer, wine and spirits market.

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