The season finale of American Gods was this past Sunday, and if you’ve read my previous post regarding the show, you’ll know it revolves around the clash of old pagan deities and new American idols.
Among the new gods is Technical Boy, the personification of the interwebs, and Media, the American obsession with celebrity and television. The old gods in the series include Odin, Vulcan, Anubis, and, most recently, Easter.
Yes, you read that right. The Christian holiday was named for the festival held in honor of the Germanic goddess of spring and resurrection, known originally as Eostre or Ostara. As the early Roman Catholic Church expanded its reach into Northern Europe, church officials sought ways to combine elements of the pagan traditions with Christian beliefs. (Veneration of the saints and worshiping Mary are examples of pagan influences on Catholic traditions.) One way they did so was by adopting pagan holidays and Christianizing them. Since the festival celebrating the goddess of dawn and new life happened to occur in spring along with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the church combined the two. Now we have decorated eggs and the Easter Bunny as part of the Christian memorializing of the resurrection.
In the series, we first meet Easter, played by the amazing Kristin Chenoweth, as she throws a party for the holiday that bears her name. In attendance is Jesus. And Jesus. And Jesus. No, that’s not a typo. There are several Jesuses, or “Jesi” as Chenoweth so eloquently puts it, in the crowd of partygoers.
Earlier in the series, the Norse god Odin says that there are many different Jesuses (Jesi) based on who people envision when they worship. “You got your white, Jesuit-style Jesus; you got your black, African Jesus; you got your brown, Mexican Jesus; you got your swarthy, Greek Jesus,” Odin explains. We also see an Asian Jesus, an Eastern Orthodox Jesus, and even the Virgin Mary breastfeeding a baby Jesus in attendance at Easter’s Easter party.
Blasphemous as this all is, I want to take a minute to reflect on the insightfulness of this odd choice of creative direction. American Gods is predicated on the idea that gods are created through human worship and attention. The reason we see the various versions of Jesus is because of the different ideas people have when they think of Jesus, pray to Jesus, and worship Jesus.
Sure, we’ve had Jesus inaccurately depicted as blonde white dude for years. From “The Last Supper” to the cheesy, dollar store painting your grandmother has on her mantle, we’ve misrepresented Jesus in that way. More recently, figurines and paintings of Jesus as black or East Asian have sprung up (when in fact Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew).
Aside from the fact that the church has liked to play around with the race of Jesus in art pieces, do we, on an individual level, misrepresent God? It’s not about what face we picture, if any, when we pray. It’s more about who we believe God to be.
Is your Jesus only kind and loving, accepting of any and everything you do? Does your Jesus like all the things you like? Is He cool with your little pet sins? Does your Jesus want to give you all your desires, even the ones that you value more than Him?
Do you use Jesus’ righteous anger in the Temple to excuse your unrighteous anger? Do you rationalize your lusts and greed with the fact that Jesus is friend to tax collectors and prostitutes? Do you think of Jesus as only your Best Friend and not your King as well?
Jesus is loving. He is the Friend of Sinners, and the Forgiver of transgressions. But He is also King. He will come one day bearing a sword to judge the living and dead. That Jesus doesn’t seem too “down” with your obsession of wealth, your vanity, or your porn addiction.
Some of us have a habit of separating, whether consciously or unconsciously, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. They are really One and the Same, but we invoke whichever One we want at the moment. Someone cuts us off in traffic? Strike ‘em dead, vengeful Old Testament God! Mess up at work and need some merciful miracle? Help me out merciful Jesus of the New Testament!
We separate God’s attributes. We get rid of the ones that make us uncomfortable or inconvenience us. We keep the ones we like. The “God” we have left is a puzzle with half its pieces missing.
God remains God regardless of how we feel about Him. (Hebrews 13:8) He remains the same yesterday, today, and forever, regardless of what parts of His nature we choose to avoid or ignore. Eventually, the whole world will see Him as Judge and Conquering King. (Philippians 2:9-11) We, as Christians, also get to see Him as Redeemer and Friend. (John 15:14-15)
So, do you worship the real Jesus? Or do you serve one of the many Jesi that make you comfortable?