My Plastic Jesus

Turn or Burn. Happy New Year.

There is a scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke in which Paul Newman sings his theology outloud:

“I don’t care if it rains or freezes as long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus sittin’ on the dashboard of my car”

It seems to me that today’s version of Christianity has tamed the once radical, subversive, and militant movement that Jesus started (and was killed for) to the kind of faith that Cool Hand Luke espouses.  Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

—Church Signs…These drive me nuts!  “The best vitamin for Christians is B1”  “Wal-Mart isn’t the only SAVING place.”  Come on!  Do we really think that people will drive by these signs and suddenly in a Damascus Road experience see the light and want to come into our building to discover a life changing relationship with Jesus?  I was reading an article on the other day that suggested this for a church sign: “Honk if you think Christians should lighten up!”  I like that one.  I bet we’d get a response from something like that.  I just can’t see Peter and Paul sitting in a room somewhere dreaming up the next plan for evangelism and the answer that they come up with is “Hey, let’s put a sign out in front of this room with some catchy phrase about the Christian life and maybe, just maybe, someone will be so interested (or so confused) that they’ll have to come into the building to hear our message!”  Seems a little plastic for me.

—That Fish Thingy…you know the one on the back of the car that just cut me off on the loop!  If you’re going to put something on your automobile (the place where most of us are the least likely to act like a Jesus-follower) then at least pretend to remember who you represent!  Inconsistant Christians are the biggest argument for pre-christians against becoming Christians!

—Christian marketing…in general.  This is both within Christiandom and outside.  From the outside, Christians are just another nitche market.  “Let’s make a wholesome movie and see if we can’t get the Christians to go to the theater!”  From the inside we’ve marketed ourselves to death!  You’ve got Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chicken Soup for Moms, Chicken Soup for Golfers, Chicken Soup for Left Handed Tuba Players…Prayer of Jabez, Prayer of Jabez for Teens, Prayer of Jabez Screensaver, Prayer of Jabez Bible Covers.  (I liked the guy that had the T-Shirt printed “I prayed the Prayer of Jabez and all I got was this STUPID T-Shirt!”)  Now that 40 Days of Purpose and The Passion have hit the scene everybody seems to be cashing in on them as well!  If only Jesus had thought of a 40 day Program???  Where could we be today?

—Every e-mail campaign that comes up in my inbox!!!  “Sign here to get prayer back in school”  “Talk to your congressman about homosexual marriage”  “Keep “one nation under God” in the Pledge”  I wonder why Jesus never went on a campaign against the adult entertainment industry of his day.  I wonder why Paul didn’t rally the troops to vote against Nero!  Here’s my thought — THEY WERE TOO BUSY CHANGING THE WORLD ONE PERSON AT A TIME!!!

It seems to me that if we (those of us that consider ourselves student-followers of Jesus) want the world to hear our message then we have to remember what that message is!  It’s not “Hey Christianity is fun!” or “Hey look how cheesy we are!”  Jesus was a radical.  He came with an offering of “follow me…and die!”  He promised us trouble.  But he also promised us peace, life, grace, mercy, hope, and love.  It’s a paradox that doesn’t fit well on a church sign or a t-shirt (don’t get me started on the t-shirts that we wear).  “Christian” was a word of degredation in the early church (“just look at those rotten little christians”).  Now it’s a nitche market?  Something’s got to change if we ever have a chance of remaining relevant in the ever evolving culture.  Otherwise we’ve relegated Jesus to the dashboard!


~ by Chris Green on July 14, 2004.

One Response to “My Plastic Jesus”

  1. Stumbled upon this entry while doing a search for “plastic jesus dashboard” images. Sure, it’s way late in coming, hey ho. I have to agree with much of what you write, but that’s only the surface of the tip of the superficial iceberg that Christianity has evolved into – or should I say been “marketed as”? Some things you didn’t mention: Cheesy cards, really bad internet graphics and animated gifs AND Christian music has become bland and unlistenable. Oswald Chambers and Francis Schaefer Jr both warned about the tendency to reduce Jesus and Christianity into a mass produced mediocre brand label. Unfortunately, we continue to have new growths of Christians in our society that believe this is the way to get the message out to the public.

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