Page Six Jesus

March 30, 2005 | 19 comments
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As I was reading the paper yesterday on the train to work, I happened across a short article discussing the use of religious images in today’s popular fashion culture. The article discussed shirts and sweaters from top fashion houses that are now bearing images of Jesus or scriptural verses, and it mentioned that celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton have recently been seen wearing clothing with religious messages. The text was accompanied by a large photo spread, showing celebrities including Kutcher wearing clothes with religious messages (his shirt read “Jesus is my homeboy”). Apparently, Jesus is becoming a fashion statement. He may even be hip. How pathetic.

I turned the page, smirking to myself as I briefly thought about the attempts of the glitterati to co-opt Jesus. My thoughts of condescension were mostly inchoate, but if I had to put them in words, they would have sounded something like this:

“Ashton Kutcher? Paris Hilton? Give me a break.

“They just don’t get it. They think that they can adopt Jesus as a badge of hipness. They think that Jesus is nothing more than a logo that they can wear, the same as any other fashion logo. If they really understood Jesus, they wouldn’t just be wearing shirts with His name on them. They would be repenting of their sins. They would be living better lives.

“And if you need any more confirmation that this is a gimmick, just look at who’s involved. Paris Hilton is wearing Jesus wear — Paris Hilton! The spoiled socialite whose sole claim to fame is that half of the known world has watched her having sex on the internet. She’s a walking media circus. Now she thinks that she can just grab on to the powerful religious images of Jesus without actually living a righteous life.

“Ditto for Ashton. Have I ever read anything good about him? Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton are the sorts of names that I read about in the Page Six gossip columns of the New York tabloids — who’s he dating, who’s she sleeping with, on and on and on.

“They seem to think that they can just appropriate Jesus. Well, they can’t. They’ve got their wild parties and their money and fame, but I have Jesus and they don’t. And they’re not going to get Him, either, not by wearing gimmicky new Jesus clothes. It takes a lot more than that. Look at me — I go to church, I read my scriptures, I pray and tithe and try to keep the commandments. And they go to parties. No, Ashton Kutcher, you can’t have Jesus and Demi Moore. You’ve got to pick between them, and you’ve made your choice, pal.

“(And besides, would the world even be fair if Ashton Kutcher could have fame and money and Demi Moore and Jesus? It most certainly would not. And when it comes down to it, that’s another compelling reason why Jesus is mine and not theirs. Jesus is the ultimate trump card for the righteous. The rich and famous may parade their money and fame for the rest of us to envy, but deep down, we can always say ‘Yeah, buddy — you’ll get what’s coming to you. Just you wait till the afterlife.’ Jesus gives us the ultimate guarantee of comeuppance. And that’s another reason why Ashton Kutcher’s hip Jesus T-shirts don’t mean a thing.)”

I didn’t articulate those thoughts, however, or even really pay them much attention. I turned the page and went on to the sports section. A few stops later, I got off the train and went to work, not thinking about Ashton Kutcher or Page Six Jesus for the rest of the day.

***

Understanding comes late for me sometimes. I sat down to write a snarky little comment about the pathetic nature of hip Jesus-wear, and suddenly I realized the enormity of my own pride. And I took a step back, and realized how wrong I was.

Jesus does love Paris Hilton. He loves her just as much as he loves you or me. And he wants the best for her, and he’s hoping that she returns to him. And if I’m so convinced that I would never want to be a member of a club that let Paris Hilton in, then I’m just going to have to exclude myself from the only club I would ever really want to belong to. Jesus isn’t changing His love for Paris Hilton because I think she’s tacky.

Jesus does love Ashton Kutcher. And it’s not fair. It’s not fair that some people get money and fame and adoring fans and Jesus’s love, while others of us get only Jesus’s love. But when it comes down to it, those material differences are pretty de minimus. Ashton has his extra pennies, but we each get the same hundred dollar bill. And if I’m inclined to focus on the fact that he’s getting $100.22 while I’m only getting $100.11, well, that’s pretty small-minded of me.

And Jesus is not my comeuppance guarantee. I wince to think that that idea was ever part of my thinking — and only a day ago! It was a profoundly unchristian thing to think.

I let my own pride convince me that I was better than these silly celebs in their hip Jesus wear. But that’s not true, either. Paris Hilton and Ashton Kutcher have certainly done things which would prevent them from returning to live with God. But so have I. We all have. We’re all dependent on Jesus’s Atonement. When it comes to reliance on His freely given sacrifice, I’m no better off than Ms. Hilton, and neither are you.

I still have my doubts about Jesus wear. I still doubt that I’ll be buying a “Jesus is my homeboy” shirt any time soon. I don’t know how sincere any of these Jesus-wearing celebrities are, or how much their beliefs even come close to my own.

But I do know that I learned an important lesson on pride, and I got an important spiritual reminder. And I have to say, I’m more than a little surprised that I received that lesson from none other than Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton, and Page Six Jesus.

Jesus is my homeboy, indeed.

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19 Responses to Page Six Jesus

  1. James Mainord on March 30, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    Ashton Kutchers’ performance in “Dude, Where’s my Car” was absolutely amazing. I saw his soul in that film and it was certainly redeemable!

    Actually, that was a great post. It is easy to trash the Hollywood elite and much of their work product deserves it. But when we decide that we’re more entitled to Jesus’ love it becomes no good. Although I get the vibe that the t-shirts were created to mock religion, you’ve given us a good example of maturity by pointing the criticism inward when it’s appropriate.

  2. danithew on March 30, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    Leviticus 19:15
    Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

  3. annegb on March 30, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    Kaimi, this is the very best post you’ve ever written in the two months I’ve been coming here.

    I totally agree. Although I found myself insulted for Catholics when Madonna and her husband dressed up like the pope and a nun for a costume party. I thought that was disrespect.

  4. Rusty on March 30, 2005 at 11:21 pm

    Kaimi, this was a great post. Thank you.

  5. pd mallamo on March 30, 2005 at 11:35 pm

    Actually, you’re being too nice, all of you. Hunter Thompson called these (media/political/etc) people “swine” and they deserve it. What’s more, now that Thompson is dead, his words assume the stature of scripture. The Great Shark Hunt is an essential guide to these polluted waters, waters that suck you down and destroy your soul. I consider it Latter-Day in every way and I know that’s a shame but such are the times in which we live.

  6. Derek on March 31, 2005 at 1:33 am

    Thanks for the great post, Kaimi. It’s always nice to be reminded to love more and judge less.

    I really don’t mean to nitpick, but I wonder if you can accurately say that God loves Paris Hilton as much as everyone else. I was fascinated (and surprised) by Elder Russell M. Nelson’s recent talk called “Divine Love” (and perhaps someone more web-savvy than I could link to the February 2003 Ensign article). In this article, Elder Nelson states God’s love for us is not unconditional. He seems to be saying God loves some of his children more that others. Yes, his grace and love are available to all, but that doesn’t mean the Lord doesn’t have favorites (1 Ne 1:1 states Nephi was “favored of the Lord”). Evidently, God loves some of his faithful children more than Paris Hilton. I’ll admit I struggled with this idea that God’s love is not unconditional, but a more careful reading of Elder Nelson’s article helped me understand what he is saying. What do other people think Elder Nelson is saying and does it impact the way we view God’s love?

    I really don”t mean for this to distract from a great post. Elder Nelson’s article just made me look at God’s love a little differently.

  7. ryan on March 31, 2005 at 9:04 am

    Derek,

    Nephi was/is favored of the Lord. Likely more than me. So, I presume, is President Hinckley. My wife? Quite favored–much more than me. But what of me? Am I favored of the Lord? Despite the unsavory overtones of declaring myself favored of God, I just don’t think God really wants me making such a determination. Certain discussions on pride from President Benson come to mind. In fact, it is just not for me to judge whether or not I am “favored.” I think Kaimi’s post is spot on in that he, Kaimi, cannot (should not?) determine if he is more favored of the Lord than anyone, including Paris. Aren’t we all beggars? Begging for a remission of our sins? Certainly we can judge the redeeming value of certain of these folks’ public actions, but only for the benefit of avoiding bad choices and maybe persuading others to avoid the same. God knows our hearts, I certainly do not.

  8. annegb on March 31, 2005 at 9:18 am

    Give me a break. Mormons have got to be the most score-keeping, comparing people on the planet. I mean, is Paris Hilton looking in the mirror asking “does God love people more righteous than me more than me? Oh, crap, I am so screwed.”

    Yet here we sit, wondering if God loves us more than our neighbor, who we are of course more righteous than. I think God must want to smack us when we start with that crap.

    It ain’t over till it’s over and who knows but Paris Hilton will be right up there in the Celestial Kingdom with the rest of you.

  9. Derek on March 31, 2005 at 10:33 am

    Annegb and Ryan,

    I certainly have no delusions of being particularly favored of the Lord. I agree that we certainly should not be keeping a spritual scorecard of divine favor and love (although it might look something like this: Kaimi- 8/10, Paris Hilton 2/10. You da man). Kaimi’s post was an inspired way of reminding me that God’s mercy and love are extended to all and that I should be looking to extend that to everyone as well. That’s why I was rather surprised when an apostle’s entire Ensign article was devoted to telling me that God’s love is NOT unconditional, that he loves some more than others, and that I should be seeking those higher levels of his love. What am I to make of that? That was my only question and observation.

  10. Seth Rogers on March 31, 2005 at 10:53 am

    I don’t think God loves any of His children “more” than any of the others. Love isn’t a quantifiable asset, it’s an absolute.

    I like what the prophet Spencer W. Kimball said: “It is better to be respected than to be loved.” I think people like Paris Hilton, Madonna, or whoever deserve equal “Christian love” from us. That does not mean that they deserve our respect however.

    As for me, I don’t know what Paris’ deal is. I don’t know about her life and I don’t devote much thought to her. That’s all I have to say about her.

    Regarding the Jesus T-Shirt movement. I sometimes get the feeling that we put Christ into T-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and tacky pop music because we want to keep Jesus where we can keep an eye on Him. I think some people are a little uncomfortable with what an unseen God is doing behind their backs. So we slap Him on a T-shirt and presto! We have now contained God in a manageable space. With God thus comfortably compartmentalized, we can now forget about Him and go on with our lives.

  11. annegb on March 31, 2005 at 10:59 am

    I agree with Seth, perhaps respect is a good word. I respect some of my relatives a lot more than others, even though I love them all.

    Another thing along this line that I have wondered about is the Christian music movement. I love those songs, but I sometimes feel guilty and wonder if I am not being reverent enough and God is mad at me. Still working on that punitive-Old Testament-God picture.

    I wonder about Derek’s point, as well. I vaguely remember that talk, not enough to discuss, but what is up with that? It bothers me on an emotional level that God’s love is conditional, I wonder if that is the emotion that Elder (who, I forgot?) intended. Perhaps I will write him and tell him he inspired a whole new generation of guilty people.

  12. Paul Mortensen on March 31, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    Derek:

    I went and re-read the article. Your bomment brought back vague memories I had of the article and I was nice to go back study it anew. I not so sure that it should apply to our relationships with others. In D&C 64:10 Christ states: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” I think we can just as easily substitute the word “love” for “forgive” and not commit blasphemy. While God may choose to love or favor one individual (or group) over another I think the commandment to us is that we should try and love all equally and reserve judgement for God.

    Kaimi:

    I think the danger of popularizing Jesus is that it slowly marginalizes Him as our Lord and Redeemer and the God of this World. Since the birth of the Renaissance until the twentieth century the trend by those hostile to Christianity had been to deny Christ’s existance. The attempt was largely unsuccessful and comprehensively refuted. Now, the trend seems to be that the hostiles concede the historicity of Jesus but want to marginalize his divinity. Printing His mug on a t-shirt or bandana works toward blurring the differences between Him and the likes of such notable mass murderers as Che Guevara (another fashion trend).

  13. Boris Max on March 31, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Given the Savior’s concern for the poor and social justice, the real obscenity here may be the conditions under which this Jesus wear is being produced. I suppose it’s possible that the clothing is being made in factories that exceed OSHA standards by workers who just had an excellent contract negotiated for them by UNITE, but I doubt it. Of course, the young women who make Brother Kutcher’s clothes can now spend their 14-hour days gazing on the face of their savior–if you’re going to work in a sweatshop, you might as well sweat your way to salvation.

    So dispite the public naughtiness of Sister Hilton and whatever red-state angst the association of Hollywood and Jesus triggers, the issue is really this: the face of He who thrashed the money changers who were defiling His Father’s house is being used to make money selling something that was *probably* produced under conditions that amount to grinding on the face of the poor.

  14. Seth Rogers on March 31, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    Your example of Christ driving out the money-changers makes me question the appropriatness of the T-shirts regardless of the working conditions that produced them.

    But do we then have to take some pointed stabs at Deseret Book as well?

  15. Kingsley on March 31, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    “I agree with Seth, perhaps respect is a good word. I respect some of my relatives a lot more than others, even though I love them all.”

    Equally? Wowzers. Not sure why you should feel guilty (nor that there are a generation of you) about Elder Nelson’s talk.

  16. Jon Wilcox on April 3, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    Elder Nelson’s article is very well written and the doctrine is not new or complicated. Anyone confused or uncertain about this should definitely read and ponder it.

    We sometimes get caught up in the idea that God’s infinte love means that we have a right to eternal acceptance of our weaknesses and open rebellion. Elder Nelson uses numerous scriptural examples – John 14:21 is an excellent one. The context is the discussion the Savior had with the apostles after the last supper. From this it is plain that our love is demonstrated by our efforts to be obedient and that the Father and Son will love and bless conditionally those that make the choice to obey.

    Many LDS critics take exception to “earning” salvation and refer to the doctrine of grace, ad nauseum…. Salvation, immortality, and eternal life are defined by the gospel plan and a loving Father & His only begotten Son have provided these gifts for the rest of us on their terms. Elder Nelson does a masterful job of reminding us that although divine love is perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal it is also conditional. The greatest gifts a loving Father has for His children are conditionally given based on their love and obedience to Him and His plan of happiness for them.

    I heard my stake president discuss this several years ago in a leadership session after he had been trained by Elder Nelson and he commented on how it had allowed him to recognize and accept that he loved his own children differently. He had an adult child that had rebellious, struggled, and had been a challenge for many years. He acknowledged that he loved this child but felt he had been “given permission” to love his other children more. When I first heard this I had some of the same reactions that others have shared in earlier posts. But it’s not an all or nothing proposition.

    After reflecting on what he taught us that day and then reading Elder Nelson’s article, which came out later, I have come to accept and understand the truth & reality of this concept. I think many of us that have children, if we are honest with ourselves, will admit that even though we love them all, we have favorites. They are each different and unique and we love them differently as well. And we often feel guilty about it. But if we are fair with them should we feel guilty?

    Perhaps the easiest way to put this into context is to take it to the extreme. In our premortal existance Lucifer, the son of the morning and Jehovah, the first born of His spirit children, were both spirit children of our Father in Heaven. But Lucifer rebelled, was cast out and became Satan. While Jehovah accepted and championed the Father’s plan and became Jesus the Christ, our Redeemer & Savior. Is it right and is it fair that our Heavenly Father would love Jesus more than He loves Lucifer? Of course it is and so His love is conditional!

    And I’m sure that Ashton & Paris are also loved by the Savior & Heavenly Father. As disgusting as their behavior can be, like us, they are not “finished” yet. And while they are unfinished their is hope because they could change. And so can we!

  17. Bradley Ross on April 4, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    The first time I heard the thought that God didn’t love us unconditionally, I was repulsed. I recognized the truth that his arm is stretched out still and if he didn’t love us, that wouldn’t be true. A provocative gospel doctrine teacher along with Elder Nelson’s article still weren’t quite enough to convince me, but I stewed on it.

    Finally, I reached an understanding as I walked to church and met up with my ward mission leader. He started telling me about how his grown daughter had a dog that she didn’t care for particularly well. She kept it in a small kennel most of the time and rarely took it for walks or gave it any attention. He asked her why she kept the dog and she said, “Because I love it!” “That’s not love,” he replied. That, for me, was it. It clicked. That daughter may have had some passive emotion toward that dog, but it wasn’t love in any meaningful sense. I don’t know what God feels for Paris Hilton, but I now believe that if a person is unrighteous, they do not enjoy the full measure of His love. The door is open for their return, but that doesn’t change the present condition.

    Kaimi’s reminder here on pride is also useful–no, vital! It recalls what I’ve been reading in Hugh Nibley’s biography where I found this quote from Hugh: “God knows perfectly well where we stand…and admonishes us not to despair: what matters is the direction we are facing–the person at the bottom of the stairs facing up is more pleasing to the Father than the one at the top of the stairs facing down.” Pride seems to be an awfully easy way to find yourself at the top of the stairs facing down. Thanks for the reminder.

  18. Jessica on April 13, 2005 at 6:35 am

    Hi I just want to say Ashton Kutcher is a good person. And just because he loves a girl named Demi Moore and her kids thats nothing bad right? Well and just because he wore a shirt that says ‘ Jesus is my homeboy’ doesn’t mean a thing but he has a religous side to him, well any ways I think that you should back off on Ashton Kutcher and pick on someone that actually did something wrong like Micheal Jackson!!!!

  19. j on June 22, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    jessica,cause someone is a good person dont mean they are going to heaven.

    John 14:6 says Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

WELCOME

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