Wednesday, February 20, 2013

That One Time When Jesus Had a Machine Gun

He could have called ten thousand angels, or
just picked up an Uzi.

by Ben Howard

What would a Tarantino movie about Jesus look like?

Though I’ve never asked myself that question, I’m certainly enthralled by the premise. What would an excessively violent revenge fantasy centered on the Messiah look like? Well, to be fair, The Left Behind series answered that question a few years ago, but now SNL has given it a shot too (and they’re actually trying to be funny)!

Last Saturday night, SNL ran a fake trailer for a new Tarantino movie called Djesus Uncrossed starring Christoph Waltz as Jesus H. Christ (the H is silent) and Brad Pitt as St. Peter (assuming that St. Peter was like Brad Pitt’s character in Inglorious Basterds).

If that description in addition to your knowledge of Tarantino’s aesthetic gives you an idea of what this fake trailer might look like I want to assure you that it is exactly what you think it is. It. Is. Awesome!

Jesus exacts his revenge on Pilate, on the Roman soldiers, on random indiscriminate people who happen to be in the palace. Essentially, he does everything that Jesus’ disciples expected him to do in real life back when they thought he would lead them to a violent and glorious revolution, except here he does all that with machine guns and machetes.

The joke of the sketch is obviously the revisionist history revenge narratives that have formed the center of Tarantino’s last two movies, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. When he's done a revenge fantasy for the two great modern travesties, slavery and the Holocaust, how is Tarantino’s take on the crucifixion that inconceivable?

Sword-wielding Jesus looks slightly less loving
Of course, this sketch has elicited outrage in the conservative Christian community from many who believe that this depiction of Jesus is blasphemous. It’s rather obvious that I disagree, but I am interested in why so many find it to be so offensive.

A few weeks ago, Larry Shallenberger wrote an article for Relevant that was titled, “Why Aren’t Christians Funny?” He makes an interesting argument that being serious and often humorless is safe, because real humor comes from places of vulnerability, from the edge of what the things we’re comfortable with. As a result, we get sermon anecdotes and illustrations and jokes we’ve all heard about 100 times, but we still instinctively know to feign laughter.

But real humor pushes us to the edge, and in so doing it can critique us in profound ways and make us uncomfortable. If a serious evangelical were to take the time to laugh at the violent Jesus of Djesus Uncrossed would that eventually make them question the violent justice and vengeance that they ascribe to God? What would it mean if they laughed?

This is not a wholly evangelical problem. It is a problem that inhabits all people who take themselves too seriously. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with liberal and progressive Christians who have found my rather tongue-in-cheek attitude towards much of life to be distasteful. Serious people do not want to be made to question themselves for they have invested far too much in the things that they think are so very serious.

Laughter has no place when you’re valiantly trying to defend your ideology.

I wish, very badly, that Christians would stop taking themselves so seriously. I wish they’d be willing to laugh at things that make them look ridiculous. I wish they were more self-deprecating. Laughing together turns strangers into friends and friends into family.

I don’t think laughter can change the world, but I think love can, and I think laughter helps us all to love each other a little more.


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