Ten Cultural Christs

Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16:13 the most important question in the Bible when he queried, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  How we answer that question is of eternal importance.  Sadly, many “Christians” today would have trouble defining who Jesus is because Jesus has been co-opted to promote so many different agendas.

Indeed as Stephen Nichols shows in his fascinating cultural study, Jesus Made in America, Jesus has become a commodity in the United States where he helps candidates gain voters and Hollywood sell movies.

Accordingly, in addition to presenting a positive view of Jesus when we teach the doctrine of Christ–as I begin to do tonight–it is just as important to show false Christs that have garnished favor in our Christian sub-culture.

What follows are ten “Cultural Christs” that are intentionally caricatured to highlight the false ways Christ has been portrayed.  There are surely others.  I would love to hear if you think these could be improved or added to.

Here we go…

  1.  The Therapeutic Jesussoft & soothing, helps you improve your self-esteem thru positive-thinking
    Followers of this view minimize sin and treat religion as a pick-me-up to get through the week.
    Motto: You can have your best life. (Big Smile)
  2. The Life Coach Jesuswill give you the tips and tools to succeed in whatever you do.
    Followers go to Jesus for personal interest—CEO Jesus, Touchdown Jesus, Matchmaker Jesus
    Motto: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)
  3. The Mr. Rogers Jesus… loves kids, morality, and helping you do the right thing.
    Followers go to church, do good, vote values, and help their neighbors.
    Motto: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  4. The Warrior Jesusis uber-macho and can be confused with William Wallace or Jack Bauer.
    Followers (male) rage against feminized pictures of Jesus, mistake ‘manliness’ with godliness.
    Motto: My Jesus Can Kick Your Jesus Butt.
  5. The Social Gospel Jesusimproves society through increasing social justice and meeting needs.
    Muting the gospel, these followers build houses, feed the poor, and fight AIDS for Jesus.
    Motto: Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.
  6. The Politico Jesuspromotes idealistic activism, and it comes in two varieties.
    Riding an elephant, he fights against tax hikes, abortion clinics, and for prayer in schools.
    Riding a donkey, he promotes care for the environment and equal rights.
    Motto: God Bless the United States of America.
  7. The Wristband Jesusbecomes a Christian talisman. The presence of Jesus junk fights sin.
    Followers adorn themselves with Christian paraphernalia and focus on living life for Jesus.
    Motto: What Would Jesus Do?
  8. The Rock Band Jesusbuilds his church with fun activities and cool music.Followers live for Christian concerts, camps, and other lively events.
    Motto: Jesus rocks!
  9. The WordPress Jesusis hyper-orthodox and fights against theological error.
    Followers love reading books, debating theology, and publishing rants online.
    Motto: Love the Lord your God with all your MIND.
  10. The Love Wins Jesusrejects intolerant religionists and just loves everybody for who they are.
    Followers question authority, objective truth, judgment, and institutional religion, but love open-mindedness.
    Motto: God is love; everything is Spiritual.
In each of these caricatures there are elements of truth, but often truth out of proportion or in need of other qualifying biblical dimensions.  Most importantly though, each of these false christs fails to keep Jesus in the biblical storyline.  It highjacks Jesus for the needs of some other cause and puts him in a story that is not God’s story.  Thus, in order to rightly understand who Jesus is as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, we are again pressed to return to the Scriptures and mine out who he is from Genesis to Revelation. This is the task of the pastor, the Bible teacher, and every Bible-believing Christian.
May God give us illumination as we see Christ in Scripture and may he show us how our culture has shaped our views of Jesus, so that we might have a more clear view of who he is, because as we see him, so we become like him (1 John 3:2).
Soli Deo Gloria, dss