When I was in college a friend named Bob, at Cal Baptist Univ., flew to Liberia for the summer. He was 6’6”, a Rock Stark basketball player, had hair down to his shoulders, and a beard… the Liberians immediately dubbed him American Jesus. Everywhere Bob traveled that summer playing basketball the crowd chanted the same thing, American Jesus.
I was flying back from Virginia last week, reading Michael Frost’s Untamed, when this line jumped off the page, “If Jesus came back to earth and walked into an American church… I think he would be pretty surprised.”
The statement has made me think much about the American church and the things we value. Strangely, we are about a lot of things that Jesus was never about.
Then this somewhat amusing thought hit me… what would Jesus be like if he really was like many American Christians?
American Jesus has a lot of nice things:
And that’s pretty true. American Jesus wouldn’t mind materialism. He likes a good cause but at the same time he makes sure his garage and back yard and side yard and closets have nice things, a lot of nice things. That’s how Jesus would live if he really was an American, but he does give 2%.
American Jesus is mildly devoted to his cause:
Don’t get me wrong, American Jesus likes God. He likes the church. He likes sunny Sunday mornings and lunch out after church with his family. It’s all a very pleasant experience. And the hope is, he can put in his time on Sunday and have the rest of the week to pursue what he’s really passionate about… a promotion at work, respect in the community, a new car, golf, shopping, and vacations in California.
American Jesus likes I-Mag:
If your church in America is serious about God, you better order an I-Mag projector. Because right now every church that’s worth beans has I-Mag. I-Mag is short for “Image Magnification.” With a couple of cameras in the back of the room, an image of the person on stage is projected onto the big screen… 5 or 10 times their actual size. It used to be that only football coliseums and NBA arenas had I-Mag. But today, it seems that every church with more than 50 people has I-Mag, because American Jesus likes really big things.
American Jesus is running for President:
I sense a message is being broadcast that if you are a true Christian in America, you will align with a particular political party; or at least Jesus would. We all seem to forget that when Jesus first came on the scene in the middle east, he said he was not here to run for office. But that was way back 2,000 years ago, I’m quite sure that today American Jesus would run for President.
American Jesus boycotts Disneyland… but not Las Vegas:
American Jesus is mad about a lot of things, that’s why so many Christians spent so many years boycotting Disneyland; while they held conventions in Las Vegas. But here’s what a lot of people want to know, what is American Jesus for? We know what he’s against, but what is he most passionate about? What makes his heart beat fast? That’s what everyone wants to know.
American Jesus looks caucasian:
I’m not sure where the idea came from that Jesus would not look like he was from the middle east. Maybe it was the pictures of him we saw when we were kids. Because Jesus looked caucasian in the picture of him holding sheep, that hung in my Sunday School room; and that is what he looked like in the stained glass windows in the old sanctuary. Or maybe we think like that because we all have this idea that Jesus will look a lot like me.
. . .
The good news is, Jesus looks like God; Jesus is not an American.
And even better, the Bible says Jesus is for people from every country on every continent on this planet: “And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’" Rev. 5:9-10