Personal Jesus

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Desire, Fag Up!, Masculinities, metrosexuality
Tags: , ,

The Guardian reports on a ‘very muscular brand of Christianity’ and tells us that Jesus has had a ‘macho makeover’.

‘When you hear the name Jesus, is the first image that comes to mind a dewy-eyed pretty boy with flowing locks? If so, think again. After 2,000 years, the Messiah is getting a makeover. This time he’s less “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and more of a kick-ass action hero – a Chuck Norris in sandals.’

But as usual, The Guardian misses the point when it comes to masculinity- this is not a macho makeover at all for The Messiah, it is a metrosexual makeover. And Jesus is looking prettier than ever. With flowing locks and dewy eyes, and the compulsory manly beard.

‘It’s artist Stephen Sawyer, whose paintings of the Son of God as a tattooed biker and boxer have captured the imagination of Christian men searching for a more manly role model. As Kentucky-based Sawyer, 58, points out: “I scarcely think Jesus could have overturned the tables of the money-lenders and driven them from the temple if he was a wimp. The model I use for my paintings is a surfer guy who’s built like a brick shithouse.’

Yes dear, and are not surfers as self-regarding and image conscious as any man? I find it funny that people who believe in something as metaphysical as God, suddenly need to make images of his Son ‘realistic’. This dude walked on water and turned water into wine and cured the sick and the disabled. I don’t think he needed a six pack to do all that did he? The change to the images of Jesus are cosmetic. Like the changes to masculinity in general.

But the new buff, tatooed pretty boy Jesus seems to be trying, like The Church itself, to be a vision of retrosexual ‘muscular’ masculinity. As  MS wrote, in relation to a very macho, very whiny, very homophobic pastor in America:

‘I’m grateful to Mr Anderson and his Xstian fundamentals for making it quite clear where much of America’s problem with metrosexuality and the ‘gender neutral movement’ as he calls it (fingers interlocking, intimating the horror of a world of mutuality) comes from.

God hates metros.’

So the worrying thing for me, is that this new-look Jesus is just another re-incarnation of that now familiar trope – ‘macho’ metrosexual denial. And that it is not just an American disease but is spreading to the UK. As The Guardian notes (or rather doesn’t), this metro-anxiety is illustrated by

‘the rising number of conferences and sermons aimed at men that present a more muscular version of Jesus, along with the continuing success of Christian lad’s mag Sorted.’

Real Men Love Jesus.

The Guardian have presented this story as comical. And I can see the funny side. But it is an example of what I consider to be a serious problem in contemporary culture- the association of ‘manliness’ with ‘goodness’. And the ridiculous contortions men get into to prove that association, whilst still maintaining a religious devotion to their metro skincare and grooming routines.

I quite liked this comment though, from below the line on the Guardian piece:

‘Wow Jesus Christ……is hot!!

I think i’ve been re-born…’

h/t @FennerPearson – REACH OUT AND TOUCH ME!

  1. fennerpearson says:

    Perfect. As you say above, when the story of Jesus – whether you believe it of not – has so many incredible aspects to it, how bizarre that the church needs to homogenise Christ to make him palatable.

    I guess the fact they have metrosexualised him is simply as a result of them soaking up the cultural trend but now I see the disciples sat ’round the camp fire, listening to Jesus whilst doing one another’s hair.

    I wonder whether they play up his carpentry? There’s a good rugged role for a man!

    • The Graun mention carpentry:

      ‘In this testosterone-fuelled theology, the Saviour finally has the rippling biceps he would have developed as a carpenter from a working-class home in Nazareth.’

      suddenly Jesus is ‘working class’ – I thought ‘working class’ was an 18th/19th century invention!

      In fact ‘class’ is a bit like ‘metrosexuality’ – the concept is reliant on the person who conceptualised it. Marx, Mark, whichever.

      • typhonblue says:

        Wow. That Jesus is… even more about being looked at then regular Jesus.

        Isn’t that a bit… counter-productive?

  2. fennerpearson says:

    Do you think retrosexuality prefers manual labour?

    • I don’t know, ask Don Draper, that model of retrosexual masculinity – who is an advertising executive…. (as Mark Simpson pointed out)

      ‘retrosexual’ myths are based on nostalgia in part, for a time when men were men and they worked with their hands, and went fishing and bonded over beer and er… anyway. Some of the ‘men’s groups’ nowadays go on camping trips and do manly, earthy stuff. But they always remember to pack their nivea for men.

  3. Relatedly, I got called Mark Simpson’s ‘disciple’ the other day.

    I did not feel offended, though I did wonder if the person who used the term realised they were offering Mark a ‘Jesus complex’ if he wanted one.

    But it does make me think about how whenever I write about metrosexuality it is as a ‘pupil’ in the way disciples are pupils. And sort of ‘devotional’ too. I wondered too if I was called a disciple because I am a girl, following in the footsteps of a MAN. And because it seems kind of weird that a woman would be so enthused about masculinity. I must have some kind of ‘fixation’, right? Would a man who had taken on Mark’s ideas be treated as more of a normal person?

    The thing is I love the Gospels and I quite like the idea of being a disciple, but ironically because it is a very homo-social role.

  4. redpesto says:

    So Jesus gets a ‘makeover’ that makes him look like a Photoshopped El Duderino from The Big Lebowski? Or a Latin American footballer? And does that make the Crucifixion the ultimate in ‘edge play’?

    I’m looking forward to the ‘Angry Birds’ style downloadable game app where the user has to turn virtual water into iWine.

  5. Elise says:

    Didn’t Mel Gibson already do this in ‘The Passion of Christ’? Which was Jesus as Rambo, but taking a good manly visceral sadistic kicking.

  6. I have never given masculinity and its portrayal any thought before, so I’m glad to have found your blog! It gives me food for thought.

    Conversely I have no idea what to really say or add to the discussion, but I DID want to let you know that I’m reading. And definitely learning.

    My thoughts on the newer, sexier Jesus run more along the lines of commodifying him to make him more appealing to younger (and possibly female?) people. I’m reminded of the power of sex appeal. But I don’t know what this says about masculinity. Whenever I watch shows that feature men, they tend to have that “pretty boy, metrosexual look” where they’re rugged, handsome, built but take care of themselves in a fashionable way. Their hair is always nicely done, and they probably wear a little make-up too. I never gave much thought to this before… Hm…

    Thanks for the post! ^_^

  7. marc2020 says:

    You know as laughable and unbelievably camp as those images maybe in a weird way they actually make religion more palatable for me.

    See my big problem with organised religion has always been that its rigidly fixed to one interpretation of events namely as they happen in the bible no other descenting voice or alternative examination of these events is allowed to be heard.

    Its clear from the popularity of these images and the notion of a warrior Jesus who would prefer to kick ass rather than heal the sick in general that I’m not alone in my frustration many of those who are actually a part of the culture are are annoyed with this lack of alternative interpretations as well.

    Not that they’ll ever admit this to themselves as it is precisely this rigidity and lack of alternative viewpoint that allows them to hate and persecute homosexuals, deny women rights over there own body’s and stomp all over indigenous cultures with impunity.

    Yet they are unhappy with the image of there saviour as an angelic pacifist so they change it to something that’s more in line with how they see the world and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, hell comic book authors do it all the time (how many different interpretations of Batman have there been over the years?).

    They’re rejecting the stuff they don’t like keeping the stuff they do and anything else they are reinterpreting through there own cultural lens, I just with they’d just admit it is all.

    Well I’ve rambled on for long enough now interesting peace.

  8. hahahaha,

    they’re making Jesus look like Zakk Wylde….

    Maybe he liked listening to heavy metal and drinking beer…..

    Wasn’t he a brown skinned guy though? Wouldn’t he look more like, say Osama Bin Ladden?

    I don’t think that’ll go over well with all the pro war Jesus Freaks…..

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