Why can't Jesus smile?

I have a dashboard-size version of the Buddy Christ statue from the movie Dogma on top of my computer monitor at work (along with figurines of Marilyn Monroe, Spock, Buddha and Daffy Duck, incidentally). A couple of Christians that I work with who have seen the statue have recoiled in horror at what they apparently deem blasphemy. Now, mind you, I determined that they had no knowledge of the movie whatsoever, so any offense they took was based purely upon the visual element of the statue. One even said it was the most horrible thing he had ever seen.

I am genuinely puzzled. If these people had seen the movie and thought that it was blasphemous or offensive, I would understand their dislike of the statue. But that not being the case, why are they offended? Is it because he’s smiling? Winking? Giving a thumbs up?

If I were Christian (and I was once) I would welcome such a refreshing and humorous view of Christ. Christ nearly always seems to be depicted as a solemn or even woeful figure, and rarely as joyful or laughing (yes, I have seen a few smiling Jesus pictures, but rarely). And I have never seen Christ depicted as engaging in some mundane act, like yawning or scratching his ass.

It seems to me that one of the most important aspects of the idea of Christ in most every version of the faith is his humanity. Wasn’t his being human a huge part of what he was supposed to have been put on earth for? If so, I would think that Christians would welcome images that humanize Christ. It makes him more accessible and furthers the prospect of imitation. Sure, you’ve gotta have the holy and reverent depictions, too. I understand that. But wouldn’t human images of Jesus complete the package? Christians then would be more able to identify with Christ in terms of their own existence and derive inspiration from the fact that he faced the same everyday world that they do but rose above all the trappings.

One answer I’m sure to hear is that such depictions don’t treat Christ with the proper respect, but I don’t buy that, chiefly for the aforementioned reasons. Another is that Christ can’t be shown as a mere man because he was more than that. Here again, I think that goes back to the inaccessibility problem. I would think that the key to finding the value and inspiration in the Christ ideal would be understanding both the divine and human aspects of the guy. Incidentally, I had this same confusion about the uproar over The Last Temptation of Christ.

What am I missing?

BTW, if this topic has been done, my apologies, but I wasn’t able to narrow a search down to a manageable number. The guy seems to be talked about quite often here.

You think that raised eyebrows? Try getting a picture of Jesus kissing a guy. Which, for chrissakes, is in the Bible! (Luke 22:47)

One of my countrymen (a sailship captain, known among other things for his creative swearing and the number of juvenile delinquents he managed to set straight) once complained bitterly over the classic depictions of Christ as this anemic, somber, almost sickly-looking character. If I may quote & translate from memory:

“We’re talking about a carpenter, here - a strong guy who knew how to use his hands. A fellow who knew enough about fisticuffs to single-handedly evict the money-lenders from the temple. A guy with enough humour to turn water into wine when the party was about to come to an end. Why do we insist that he never laughed ? He must have.”

I LIKE that figurine, btw. Had I owned a car (although in sin-ridden Europe, it would only be good for a few chuckles…)

S. Norman

I think that most people have a problem with the Buddy Christ is that it is, essentially, a caricature. Let’s face it, Buddy Christ looks a bit goofy. I personally thought it was hilarious. I didn’t know they actually sold them, though…where can i get one? (I apologize sincerely for the hijack, Pismo)

As for the Last Temptation, I’ve never seen it nor do I have any real desire to. However, I remember someone telling me that the reason that it caused such a stir was that in the end, Jesus gives in to the temptation. But I could be wrong. Feel free to smack me down on this last point if I am promulgating a lie here. :smiley:

well, there’s that, Neurotik, and there’s Jesus having an obviously sexual relationship with Mary Magdeline, Jesus depicted as building the crosses the Romans used for crucifixions (one of the better touches to the story) and a whole bunch more. It’s a damn good movie, although the end drags. Not half as much as the book, though.

I think the main reason people take offense to these kinds of things is because they challenge their perceptions of Jesus. He can’t be just Jesus, because he’s Emmanuel the Christ.

I have known many strong believers who loved both Dogma and LTOC. Why? Because they really dug the character and the person of Jesus, and these movies both inspired thought and spiritual reflection.


There is a drawing of Christ laughing like he just heard a good joke. It appearen in Playboy in the 70’s or 80’s. You might be able to find in a book of the Art of Playboy. Every Christian I know who has seen it liked the image.

Zebra, is that the pencil drawing that you’re talking about? If so, my high school theo teacher had a copy of that. I love it.

Regarding the OP, I’d say that Buddy Jesus trivializes the humanness of Christ than anything else. Just as a figurine of Christ scratching his ass would. But I think you’re pretty on target with the rest of your post, though. For some reason, people seem to think that Christ spoke English, was white, and always wore white and red. Images that break that mold are tough for people to deal with - an exercise I see as necessary and very important if I’m to maintain any sort of semblence of a connection to my faith.

Regarding TLTOC and Dogma, I’ve seen both. I thought a lot of Dogma was funny, and poked fun at a lot of things the RCC has stuck their head in the sand about, but I also thought that some of it did trivialize something that a lot of people place extremely high on their list of important things in their life (if that makes any sense). TLTOC was a GREAT movie, IMO, for the reason that it does focus on Christ’s human-ness. For the record, Christ didn’t succumb to temptation in the end, and most of the people who rant about the movie haven’t seen it, and think that he did.

Right now I’m trying to think how I would react to a Buddy Jesus on someone’s computer. I don’t think I would really care. I’d know the reference, and would probably strike up a conversation about it if you were willing. But then I think about how my parents would react to Buddy Jesus. I don’t think they would respond quite so well. :wink: I think my step-father would be disgusted, and completely close-minded to any explanation, and my mom just wouldn’t “get” it. Of course, she didn’t “get” the new Bud Light commercial with the white version of “Whasssup?!?”.

Do you have a picture of it?


That picture of “The Laughing Jesus” appeared in the late 1960s, I believe. I know that it appeared before 1973, when it appeared in their 20th anniversary issue. Playboy claimed it was “their most requested picture”. This from a magazine noted for female nudes.

I suspect that humor and laughter clashes with the image most people have of the sacred and the divine, which is why they shy away from it. James Branch Cabell or Lord Dunsany had something epigrammatic to say about that.

The novel, The Name of the Rose, by umberto Eco, actually takes Christ’s laughter as one of it’s themes and plot points. there is a scene in the book where an elderly monk denounces the idea as trivializing God and dragging him down to our level. There was also the Joan Osborne song which offended Christians,

which to me shows that modren-day Christians really don’t understand their own faith. They seem to think that Jesus never suffered or acted like a regular person, and even on the cross, he was just pretending to suffer.

In the Christian story, God, in the person of His son, WAS a slob like one of us. Jesus was hungry, was thirsty, was angry, was sad, was lonely, and I’m willing to bet that He scratched His ass and had to take a dump now and again just like us. That’s not trivializing his humanity. To be human is not to be trivial. Jesus’s descent into His creation was to affirm that each of us is a treasure, potentially to be an immortal child of God or an eternal horror, depending on whether you accept salvation through the Atonement and Resurrection.

Buddy Christ is a mockery of Jesus, a caricature, but I don’t think Jesus would be offended. Jesus in the NT never got angry when He was insulted, but he got plenty sore when the poor and helpless were hurt.

Did Jesus laugh? Absolutely! Do you people really need an evil atheist like me to tell you this stuff? It’s in the Bible, ya’ll!

I have seen pictures of Jesus smiling. Not big shit eating grins, but gentle, kind loving smiles. Like the part where the says, “LEt the children come to me.” And he’s holding a bunch of children on his lap telling them stories. (Please, no pedophilia jokes, guys, that’s just tacky).
And when he’s depicted as a lamb with his sheep, or as a child being held by Mary.

*Originally posted by Neurotik *
**I didn’t know they actually sold them, though…where can i get one? (I apologize sincerely for the hijack, Pismo)


Is this the lughing Jesus that appeared in Playboy?

Ack. laughing

I thought I hit the preview button. Really.

No, not the one on that page, but it’s good to see that there are those who like the general idea.

The Fred Berger “Laughing Jesus”, of which I am looking at a copy, is a pencil (looks to me) on sepia paper where Jesus is looking straight at the viewer, slightly over his left shoulder, and clutching at the edge of his robe like whatever it was was REALLY funny. Its Playboy appearance was on or after 1970, but no later than 72.

I do think a lot of people who may be put off by “Buddy” Jesus would have no problem with this version.

Why, there have been skillions of laughing Jesii! Just browse through the archives at http://www.jesusoftheweek.com/ .

No. 162, “Yuks-loving Jesus” on that page, is a (bad) copy made from the Playboy Laughing Jesus

Hrm … would this be a good time to bring up Cecil Adams’ article on humor in the Bible?

Is this:


the Laughing Jesus from Playboy?

Well, but there insn’t really that. Neurotik is promlagating a lie (though I will refrain, in the spirit of Christian, or more accuratly, Samaritain goodfellowship, from smacking him down for it.) He didn’t give in to temptation. He was given a vision by Satan of a normal human life, which he ultimatly resisted to take up his place on the cross.
And why shouldn’t he have had sex with MM in the vision? He was married to her.
If anything, they should, maybe, be mad about the cross building. Because the point of that was he was so afraid of the path God called him too: of suffering, of the fear of having his humanity completely destroyed in the Godhead, that he wanted God to see him as a sinner and leave him alone. All that suffering is a reasonable thing to want to avoid, but you could say it makes him come off weaker and less honorable, even as a human, than a lot of people want to see him.