Author’s note: In Edmund Morris’s authorized biography of Ronald Reagan, Mr. Morris employed a fictional character as a literary device to report on and catalogue the many events of Mr. Reagan’s long life. I employ a similar literary device in my unauthorized thumbnail sketch of Jesus Christ’s life, although at no time do I refer to Jesus Christ as “Dutch.”
Sure I remember the Christ boy. He was the son of Joe & Mary Christ. They lived down the street from my cousins the Goldstein’s of Nazareth. If we knew then what we know now, we would’ve been a lot nicer to him. It’s not everyday God incarnate appears in your midst. He had it all, but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted everyone else to have it all too. You might say that was his mission in life. Some people didn’t want it all. They wanted things returned the way they were BC, and therein lied the rub.
His life and his death have inspired billions, and spawned a fierce and bewildering competition for his legacy in yet another example of why earth would be better if it was run by Microsoft. If only Jesus’s estate had the foresight to copyright his images and words, perhaps then we would’ve preserved the kernels of wisdom in his loving message. Instead, careless clerics have germinated them into an inconsequential tuft of weeds. The Garden of Eden is in serious need of landscaping. People are more stymied than facilitated by their religions. It just seems his whole message has gone to seed.
Those are just lofty words however. The Christ I knew was very down to earth, except when he was ascending into heaven. He was an elegant speaker, a steadfast friend and generally just a cool guy who was not beyond reproach. He grew into his role as Savior. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
I recall fondly the day Joseph and Mary brought home “God’s little bundle of joy” from the manger. Joseph was really miffed about something and kept saying, “I still don’t get it Mary. I was in Haifa for 6 months last year. How did this happen? I’m going to sue the pants off that chastity belt manufacturer.”
“I’m not going to explain it again to you Joseph,” Mary snapped. “You’ll just have to take it on faith. I did.”
Even as a young boy Jesus did things differently. He slept above the sheets – 2 feet above the sheets. He practiced sermonizing to the family sheep until they formed a little flock with the Lord as their shepherd. At school he’d always bring what appeared to be an empty lunch sack, but at recess he’d remove enough fish and bread to feed the multitudes of school children. In his youth he wasn’t above telling the occasionally off-color parable either.
“What do you say to a gay math teacher,” he’d giggle? “Be fruitful and multiply.“
Jesus he loved magic. I mean, Jesus, he loved magic. Early on he mastered the “water into wine” trick. Walking on water however, was more problematic. Jesus’ initial attempts at walking on water went swimmingly, in that he often fell into the water and had to swim back to shore. Soon he learned to meticulously prepare all his miracles beforehand for maximum effect. Often you’d see him waist deep in the Dead Sea strategically placing flat rocks just below the waterline about one stride apart. As he mastered his craft he quickly became known as the David Copperfield of his day and the multitudes flocked to see him.
Jesus was both a compassionate genius and a royal pain in the ass. We nicknamed him “Stone Cold Killjoy.” One time when he was about 12 years old, I had slaughtered a goat for dinner. He slowly approached the animal and cradled its lifeless head in his arms. Fixing his soulful gaze upon me (which some mistook for a vacant expression) he began spouting some precocious cosmology like, “My son, does not thine goat have feelings too?”
“Not anymore,” I said. “For Christ’s sake – lay off. A guy’s gotta eat. Who do you think you are – God? You’re 12. Knock it off. And you wonder why you never get picked for dodge ball.”
“Listen unto me, whenever I’m faced with a daunting choice I always ask myself WWMD – what would Moses do,” the Lord averred?
It was about this time he began adopting that phony English accent so common to prophets seeking spiritual credibility. Slowly words like “doth” and “thee” began to creep into his vocabulary. By the age of thirteen he had begun to develop his trademark “holier than thou” attitude. He was such a know-it-all in much the same way “Jeopardy’s” Alex Trebek thinks he knows all the answers just because they’re written out on cards for him to read.
JC would drone on and on about his father. My Father this, my Father that. “My Father has a plan for you. There are many rooms in my Father’s house,” which was crap because his Father’s house in Nazareth had only 3 rooms in it – 4 if you counted the panic room. But when he started in with that, “I am the way” stuff, it was like Earth to Jesus, hello, I’ve got pigs to slop.
That’s when I told him he’d better lighten up or the Romans were going to crucify him.
“Crucify? What does this colorful expression ‘crucify’ mean,” Jesus deadpanned?
“It means if you keep this up, the Romans are going to nail your ass to a cross,” I said bluntly.
“My ass,” Jesus said, looking perplexed?
“Well no, not your ass, just your hands and feet,” I explained.
“Hmmm really,” the Godman sighed. “I suppose I could modify my message a little bit. Perhaps throw in a few, ‘Hail Caesars’.”
Jesus and I attended Pagan High School together. The Pagan High Idols were the cross town rivals of the Yeshiva High Kvetchers. We usually beat them in sports, but they’d always beat us at complaining. JC was a JV cheerleader, but was cut from the squad for being too damn serious. Truth be told our teams were so bad we didn’t have cheerleaders. We had grief counselors.
The Jesus I knew was unusually charismatic and profoundly dyslexic. When teachers would ask for his homework he’d say, “I did it, but I don’t have it with me. My ‘god’ ate it.” People would donate to any cause he supported. They took great interest in the fundraising game he called bingo. One learned quickly not to get him mad because if Jesus said, “To hell with you,” that pretty much meant eternal damnation for your soul. He used to say, ‘If you lay down with angels, you’ll wake up with halos – big hairy halos.” We didn’t know what it meant then and we don’t know what it means now, but we knew it was significant. Jesus did very well in gym class distinguishing himself in coed “cheek turning” and intramural “cross bearing.” Pagan High voted Christ, “Most likely to die and take his body with him.”
That summer we rented a houseboat and lived it up on the Dead Sea, if such a thing is possible. We went trolling for scrolls, but caught only grief. What a group of merry pranksters we were. Momma don’t let your baby’s grow up to be apostles. On board were me, Jesus, Judas, Stewy, Fish, Box, John, Paul, George and Lazarus (just back from the dead). We had a blast although JC was a bit of a party pooper and after a second bottle of unleavened wine he starts in with his, “Purity of mind and cleanliness of body are next to Dogliness.” He didn’t have it quite worked out yet but you could see the latent greatness. That line would soon become, “cleanliness is next to Godliness” and later morph into “Wake up Little Susie,” which became a top ten sermon he subsequently performed on the “Jesuspalooza” tour with Buddy Holy, Judas Priest and Bjork.
Women literally worshipped the ground he walked on. Later on, we all did. He combined the ethereal magnetism of poet-visionary Jim Morrison with the visceral charisma of Elvis Presley. Lepers, true believers, and apostle scruffs mobbed his standing-room-only Middle East tours (there was no seating in those days). Chicks were always buying him shrouds and throwing the keys to their hovels at him. Sidney Biddle Harlot swooned, “With his brooding good looks and weight-of-the-world personality you just pray he’ll notice you. Jesus Christ he’s so sexy. The long hair, the sack cloth, the mesmerizing eyes – He’s just a hunk-a-hunk-a burning love.”
As class valedictorian, he gave the graduation address at Pagan High. Unbeknownst to Jesus, Judas had spiked the graduation mead, causing Jesus to launch into an almost incoherent blather:
“Someday I’m going to be bigger than the Beatles. What I’m saying is that I mean more to kids today than the Beatles will. And I’m not knocking the Beatles as a concept or Rock and Roll as a thing. I’m just stating it as fact and now it’s all this rubbish – drat!
“Additionally, I predict something called Styrofoam will radically change the face of the packaging industry and something called cosmetic surgery will radically change the faces of the entertainment industry.
“In conclusion, I’d like to thank my father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thine name. Thanks dad. Because of you the Middle East will now be a citadel of peace and religious harmony for centuries to come.
“And finally, as you go unto the world my children, do unto it, before it does unto you. Peace out y’all.”
This controversial valedictory prompted Beatle fanatics in the Pagan Belt to call for his crucifixion, but soon the Christ child was climbing the charts with the release of his spectacular “Sermon on the Mount” concept homily and before long all was forgotten. Three singles from “Sermon on the Mount” all reached #1 – the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, and the Golden Rule. Jesus has had a single or an album in the top 100 for over 2000 years – almost as long as Pink Floyd.
“We were all quite content with our small followings and our Tin Pan Alley sermons,” said the apostle Paul, “but JC showed us the possibility of connecting at a much deeper level. ‘Sermon on the Mount’ blew us all away that summer. I’ve listened to that sermon over and over. I’ve even listened to it backwards and still I find new meaning in it each time.”
JC had a lot of competition from pretenders like Pontius Jagger and his group who had just released a hard-driving sermon praising Satan. The sermon gathered no moss as it shot up the charts in the street fighting areas of Nablus, but in the end, good prevailed over evil. Jesus had triumphed again and during that magical summer of love, 21 AD; there truly was only one King.
By now Jesus had stopped touring altogether after complaining his sermons were usually drowned out by the shrieks of screaming acolytes. He had amassed quite a following. Through his words and deeds Jesus had enlightened both the downtrodden and the uptrodden, instilling them with a sense of awe they wouldn’t experience again until the release of Rebecca Wells’, “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” His appeal was universal and his message was heavenly. It all looked so promising that magical summer of love, 21 AD.
As Jesusmania grew frenetic, so did the distortion of its originally beautiful sentiments. Zealots and connivers warped and twisted his message to suit their own limited purposes in much the same way “Ishtar” was a great movie until the studio executives edited it all to hell. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, just ask Robert Oppenheimer.
Rival prophets began bogus cults based on preposterous premises like promising their followers a world where there is no, “shit end of the stick,” or saying truth was to be found in the reaction of a finch, into whose eyes you would blow talcum powder. It was all beginning to collapse, and when Yoko Magdalene showed up at John’s baptism, we knew the end was near.
Well you know the rest. JC did the best he could in the time allotted. There will never be another like him and perhaps that’s just as well. If there is another like him, I’m going to lose a fortune in bar bets. I’m glad Christ decided not to get back together. One Messiah is enough for any world.
I believe if Jesus returned today and saw what has been done in his name he would retch interminably. Of course the same is probably true of Ted Williams. Towards the end Jesus realized his instructive myths and exquisite assumptions had taken on a life of their own – a life he had little power to control. The myrrh was out of the tube and we all knew it. Our innocence was lost and it remains to be seen if the astonishing simplicity of JC’s enduring values has been done more harm than good by the religious institutions that market him. In the end I wonder if his teachings are more something to aspire to and less something to rely on, in much the same way the mouth-watering “serving suggestion” picture on a box of Stouffer’s Frozen Salisbury Steak is just something to aspire to and certainly won’t resemble anything you’re going to eat once you slop it onto your plate.