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.