Theological reflections on ‘Djesus Uncrossed’

I was amused by Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of Pope Benedict a couple weeks ago on Saturday Night Live, but I couldn’t watch more than a few seconds of his “Djesus Uncrossed” sketch the same night. I thought it was jarring and gross. That said, the Tarantino spoof kicked off a storm of controversy, and no small measure of certifiably thoughtful theological reflection. Cafe newsblogger Kurt Wiesner summed it up on his blog:

Saturday Night Live recently lampooned Quentin Tarantino in a very violent video short entitled DJesus Uncrossed. The sketch is a typical Tarantino bloodbath featuring Jesus coming back from the dead with revenge on the mind: invoking Tarantino’s movie re-imaginings of historical settings concerning Nazis (Inglourious Basterds) and slavery (Django Unchained).

There has certainly been outcry: The Catholic League called it “vicious” and the scolded the “snide remark” that the mock film was “less violent than The Passion of the Christ.”

But I have been pleasantly surprised at how many thoughtful reactions there have been as well. More than one blogger has suggested that the video reveals how misguided many people are who preach a Jesus whose return will be about violence (and credit to Kurt Willems for consolidating them, even as I quote different sections).

David Flowers writes: I believe that SNL’s portrayal of a “kick ass” Jesus is representative of the bad theology and sloppy biblical hermeneutics that’s so often prevalent among believers who have shaped for themselves an American gun-slinging Jesus—a Jesus that is unlike the Christ revealed in the Gospels.

Heath Bradley writes: Christ is declared to be the conqueror over all forces of evil, hence the graphic imagery of violence. Yet, the way he actually “conquers” is through the non-retaliatory, sacrificial love put on display on the cross. This is crucially important to keep in mind, because many people take this imagery at face value and conclude that the second coming of Jesus will be much different than the first coming.

My favorite response came from David R. Hanson on Patheos. The whole piece is fantastic, and this is only part:

We’ve been trying to uncross Jesus for decades in this country, long before SNL got their pens into him.

We have tried to arm him with our military-industrial complex, drape him with our xenophobia, outfit him with our weapons, and adorn him with our nationalism. We’ve turned the cross into a flagpole for the Stars and Stripes. We have no need for Tarantino to reimagine the story of Jesus into a fantasy of violent revenge. We’ve done it for him. We’ve already uncrossed him, transforming him from a servant into a triumphalist who holds the causes and interests of our country on his back rather than brutal execution.

The SNL sketch reveals the paucity of American popular theology with its camouflage and flag-draped Bibles that segregate the story of God for American patriots only. It pulls back the curtain and shows us just how twisted our Jesus really is: We want a Savior like the one SNL offers. We want the Son of God to kick some ass and take some names. Specifically, our enemies’ names. And maybe the names of a few godless Democrats. Definitely the Muslims.

And the atheists. And the … I could go on.

….

Say what you will about how offensive SNL’s sketch was. Our popular theology is more so. Because we should know better.

But satire reveals truths that are hard to hear. That triumphalist Savior many of us worship? He more resembles the sword and gun-toting DJesus who brings righteous vengeance than the prophetic vagabond foot-washer Jesus who preaches liberation and love of neighbor in the Gospels. The Savior we have created in our own violent images seems more like a character of a Tarantino film than the one at the heart of God’s story of eternal love.

What did you all think?

Category : The Lead

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One Comment
  1. Revenge fantasy has been Tarantino’s stock-in-trade since forever and more recently in an overt way through the “Kill Bill” films, “Django,” and “Inglorious Basterds.” The next film to which he is currently attached is a further extrapolation on revenge fantasy, “Kill Bill 3.” The idea, as always, is that someone has been wronged so badly, by someone so entirely evil, that only the spilling of more blood can satisfy. This is insufficient by itself (and it sure isn’t Gospel), so it’s trumped up with stylized elements, humor, and truly clever camera work. But the basis remains.

    In days past I saw his work as actually taking us somewhere, getting us into a more productive conversation. Lately these tropes have simply worn on me, and I long to move past them. In recent interviews he has evinced weariness with having to defend himself against charges of making violence-for-violence’s-sake type movies. I hope this is also a sign that he longs to do something more with himself.

    You can only what-if history – or your life, for that matter – so much, only so often. You can only go back in time and kill the Romans or Hitler, or let a former slave exact his revenge, or kill the Bill that left you for dead, so many times. Sooner or later you might settle down and learn to live with the reality of what has already happened. I wish someone with Tarantino’s talent and eye for cinema and ear for dialogue would come a little closer to What Is and help us deal with it, learn from it, move on.

    Torey Lightcap

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