My Malibu Jesus: Making Jesus Okay With Our Lives and Our Sins

Anyone remember Bizarro? He was an imperfect take on the perfect Superman introduced in DC Comics. In fact, Bizarro World not only had Bizarro-Superman but also Bizarro-Batman, complete with a Futility Belt of cigarette butts, chewed gum, etc. Yellow (not Green) Lantern got no power from his ring. Bizarro-Aquaman could not swim.

There was even a Bizarro-Marilyn Monroe. Of course, she was the ugliest girl on the planet.

It’s all pretty silly stuff…until you start applying it to a certain Biblical “super hero”.

A young friend texted me the other night. I hadn’t heard from him for months, and felt he’d grown increasingly distant from me. I got the feeling he’d been wandering from God, and had, finally. walked away from his faith.

After a few awkward stabs at conversation, our talk quickly moved toward God and at my sadness that he had walked away from Jesus. On the phone, he tried to convince me otherwise.

“I still believe in Jesus, just not in the way you do.” From previous conversations, I knew exactly where he was going.

He still believes in “Jesus,” but just not in the historical, 2000-years ago Prophet walking the Middle East, whose followers faithfully wrote down his teaching after passionately committing them to memory. Not the one guy researched archeologically and theologically more than any other figure of history. Not the Jesus of whom the New Testament is the only verifiable document of his teaching.

No, not that one. You know? The other one.

You see, my friend has never liked it when Christians say Jesus is the only way to God. And by his lifestyle, I also think he doesn’t like some of the things Christians say people shouldn’t do. Maybe my friend wants to do some of those things with a clear conscience and doesn’t like people who say that lifestyle is wrong.

So to remedy this conundrum, my friend did a very practical thing. He simply created another “Jesus.” My friend’s “Jesus” never bums people out about their morality, never makes demands of people, and is never so arrogant as to claim to be the only way to God.

But the problem for my friend is there’s a good reason Christians say all those things about Jesus he dislikes: Jesus said them, too. 

In fact, the one singular collection we have of his teaching states Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to God (John 14:6). He made this claim not just once but often. It’s also clear he made it because this claim is the very reason the Pharisees wanted him killed. They saw it as blasphemy for a human to claim to be the only avenue to the Father.

There simply is no other viable Jesus to choose from except that historical one. Once you stray from the New Testament documents, you have wandered into Fantasyland.

Worse than that, you’re misrepresenting the Person of Jesus himself, and insulting every one of the millions of people who follow him.

What my friend has done is create another Jesus: sort of a Bizarro Jesus. He looks kind of like Jesus, but is stripped of all the things that make Jesus special. This Jesus’ death didn’t have any special power, because in my friend’s world people don’t really need saving. His Jesus is cool with however they want to live.

So the cross was just a “really bad way to end the week” on a Friday, not the super hero, world-saving event Christians would call it.

I probably didn’t handle the exchange with my friend very well. That’s because I know the real Jesus, the only Jesus we can logically believe existed. And to hear him redefined was like someone telling me my mother whom I loved dearly was really a red head, when I’d grown up knowing she was a blonde.

It’s as if he said, “I know you loved her, but you’ve completely forgotten how she looked.”

Sorry, but Jesus is not a Mr Potato Head. You don’t get to remove his “angry eyes” and make him okay with your compromised values. You don’t get to create him in your own image, but the other way around

…as Willy Wonka said, “Strike that. Reverse it!” You’re supposed to be letting Jesus remake you in his image.

Quite a contrast.

Jesus was, if nothing else, a historical person. If you’re an atheist and say you believe that’s all he was, I can respect your decision.

But if you’re a racist, you don’t get to take a Middle Eastern Jew and pretend he was a blue-eyed Aryan. His race and culture is not up for a make-over.

You also don’t get to update his worldview. He’s not a Barbie you can change into My Malibu Barbie or Teenage Fashion Model Barbie.

So I’m afraid there’s no Gay Pride Jesus, just like there’s no Duck Dynasty Jesus. No Climate Change Jesus, and no Polyester Protestant Jesus (complete with a short haircut and short-sleeved white dress shirt and neck tie).

Jesus is who he was and he believed what he said. Take him or leave him, but don’t dress him up like your doll for a tea party!

But this is the problem not just my friend but all of us face.

We want to make Jesus okay with our lives and with our sins. It’s only “their sins” he has a problem with, right? Instead of going to the Scripture and letting his words paint a picture of him for us, we go to our own prejudices and proclivities and create our own Bizarro Jesus.

We are reimagining him for the 21st century. But we forgot that, unlike Superman, he’s not a fictional character.  And to try to recreate him betrays a level of arrogance that will turn this sweet old pastor’s face bright red.

Divine or not, Jesus is historical fact. So if you don’t like him, be honest and walk away from him. Reject his teachings and say he’s not God. Fine. But don’t bastardize 2000 years of history, archaeology, and theology and make your own Designer-Jesus.

That Jesus you create may make you feel better about your life. But any other Jesus is worse than a myth, he’s a monster.

When we try to create “another Christ,” what we really end up with is truly an “anti-Christ.” And if I remember my book of Revelation correctly, taking sides with that “Christ” never ends well.


Theology Mix recommends Photoshopping Jesus—Because He Just Won’t Fit In.

Photo via Wikipedia