What bothers Driscoll ... is the portrayal of Jesus as a wimp, or worse. Paintings depict a gentle man embracing children and cuddling lambs. Hymns celebrate his patience and tenderness. The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”Naturally, Sullivan is disgusted with the derogatory and homophobic sentiments here, especially when portraying the Christ. While Sullivan is right to be upset in these terms, I think there is something more disturbing here.
Driscoll, and apparently other evangelical ministers, blame the consumerification of Christianity for the "effeminate Jesus," where churches preach upbeat, lovey-dovey messages - over and against talk of hellfire and brimstone - to grow and maintain church numbers. I can't adjudicate that theory one way or another, but I do know that I hate hearing sermons on sin and damnation. I would argue, however, that the image of Jesus Christ, rightly or wrongly, is influenced by our sociological self-perceptions.
Interestingly, cultures re-image Jesus from his socio-historic Middle Eastern identity into an identity that characterizes the (ethnic) norm of that culture. For example, you can see pictures of an Asian Jesus in Asian cultures, an African Jesus in African cultures, and statues of a white, blonde, blue-eyed Jesus in Sweden. America is guilty of this transformation too; we have a white, bearded Jesus with long brown hair. I would argue that this inculturation of Jesus is generally a good thing. This re-imaging allows us to more easily identify with Jesus and relate with his humanity. In doing so, we create a deeper understanding of the Divine, one that fosters and strengthens an intimate relationship with God.
Driscoll is actually pointing to a subtle transformation in the image of Jesus within our culture, a movement away from the parental, relational Jesus towards a divinely muscular Jesus. Take for example, the title of the aforementioned NYT's piece: "Who Would Jesus Smack Down?" Jesus is becoming more manly, less feminine, able to take an earthly beating and provide an eternal one. Think Passion of Christ. In an age of cowboy diplomacy and unilateral militarism, this Jesus stands behind us, intimidating demon and unbeliever alike. Joe Six-pack has six-pack chiseled Jesus.
What does it say about us that a portrayal of Terminator Jesus is emerging?