Jesus, Meek and Wild
He is not safe, but he is good
Happy Black Friday! In honor of the weekend, I’m doing a small flash sale of my own and lowering the price for an annual subscription to $30. Whether you haven’t subscribed yet or you’ve cancelled a monthly subscription, I hope you’ll consider throwing a few pennies in my plate. This is my livelihood, not just my side hustle, so all your pennies are appreciated! The sale will be active until next Monday. It will unlock this post, as well as many more in the archives. Thank you so much, as always, for reading.
When Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s therapist said they needed to have a conversation about God, she figured “What the hell?” She had been told she was “spiritually bankrupt,” and nothing else was working, so there was nothing to lose. But she did have a conundrum: She hated the only god she had ever known. So the therapist suggested an exercise: Design your own god, and see what happens.
So Ayaan started to design her own god. Then one day, she realized he looked familiar. He looked like Jesus.
What did Jesus look like? We don’t know, but that hasn’t stopped writers and artists from all manner of imaginative renderings—emphasis on “imaginative.” In Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur, much is made of Jesus’ milky skin, fair hair and blue eyes, as the gentle rabbi makes his gentle way from one healing miracle to the next. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” has been the stuff of Christian kitsch ever since, filling the pages of illustrated Bibles, cheaply decorating the walls, adorning calendars and throw pillows and jigsaw puzzles. In his conversion memoir, the Jewish writer Andrew Klavan recalls one of these cursed portraits hanging over his head in the bedroom at his babysitter’s house: the portrait of “a long-haired goy gazing soulfully into the middle distance, his coiffed honey-brown locks surrounded by a golden glow.”