(Image courtesy of imdb.com)
Back in 1999, when Dogma was first released in theaters, I can remember all the media coverage as people picketed, protested, and denounced it. So of course I wanted to see it. It is Rated R for good reason with a plethora of foul language, sexual situations and innuendos, as well as graphic violence. Dogma gets remembered most for the introduction of a characterization of Jesus, known as the Buddy Christ:
Some say the Buddy Christ is sacrilegious, others insulting and disrespectful. I myself wonder if Kevin Smith, writer and director, was on to something when he thought up the Buddy Christ. I’m very careful about “Jesus is my friend” imagery because it can overshadow the role of Jesus as the Judge on the Day of the Resurrection or the urgency of the Gospel; Jesus does love us, but he has every intention of holding us accountable. Friends too often let us slide; that’s a big part of why we love our friends. But I can’t help feeling that we’ve either made Jesus too accessible, i.e. “Jesus is my homie.” Or we make him totally inaccessible and so otherworldly we cannot comprehend him walking around in our midst, eating a meal, and hanging out in our homes. There’s has to be a middle ground, and perhaps a buried truth.
Yes, Jesus is fully divine; God incarnate. Yes, Jesus is fully human; he knew what it was like to hurt, to be hungry, to fear death, and so many other human experiences we share. The fact is people followed Jesus. They didn’t just do that because they knew Jesus was God and understood the implications of it. In the Gospel of Mark, even the disciples can’t wrap their heads around that. So why did people follow him? First, I’m sure Jesus had charisma. Great religious and spiritual leaders have it; it’s what draws people to them and makes people want to listen. Scripture tells us Jesus performed miracles, and after a while, people came just to see and be healed. Yet I think we do the humanity of Jesus a disservice if we disregard the role of humor in Christ’s appeal. Did Jesus have a sense of humor? I can only assume so. He hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, known sinners, you name it. Those people generally have a sense of humor as coping mechanism at the very least. While we have testimony that Jesus did get angry, in the Temple at the money changers and at Peter, he keeps his cool for a great deal of his ministry, even when people say the most insulting and degrading things to him. I’ve only been in ministry for four years, and I can tell you that you need a sense of humor to do this or you’ll burn out, go mad, or both. A sense of humor lets us enjoy even the most menial and minimal things. It takes the monotony out of life and makes it fun, worth living.
So was Jesus the Buddy Christ? No, but I can see him winking at the woman at the well when she cannot figure out how he knows so much about her. Giving a thumbs up to Peter when that light bulb goes off and Peter knows that Jesus is the Messiah. I bet he spent a lot of time smiling, like when Martha was complaining about her sister, Mary, refusing to help around the house while they had company. Maybe he rolled his eyes when James and John argued over who would sit at Jesus’ side in heaven. Or sighed when he saw the Pharisees coming to try and trick him. I believe Jesus can understand when we laugh, and why we do it. He knows what it means to want to have fun and enjoy those in your company. I think Jesus did not live to thirty three and not laugh, joke, or enjoy himself.
I also think Kevin Smith got at least one thing right in Dogma; his character, a muse named Serendipity says, “I have issues with anyone who treats faith as a burden instead of a
blessing. You people don’t celebrate your faith; you mourn it.” Jesus teaches us that faith is a blessing, even more than that, it’s a gift from God. We are to celebrate that. And, if you should find yourself having a good time during worship, or visiting someone sick or in prison, or while serving at the soup kitchen, or in the middle of a mission, I would not be surprised to know that somewhere Jesus is smiling.