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My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God
January 5th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God

Editor’s note: Johnnie Moore is the author of Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a professor of religion and vice president at Liberty University. Keep track of him @johnnieM .

By Johnnie Moore, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jesus was a lot more like you than you think, and a lot less clean cut than this iconic image of him that floats around culture.

You know the image. It’s the one where Jesus is walking like he’s floating in robes of pristine white followed by birds singing some holy little ditty. He’s polished, manicured, and clearly – God.

But despite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rather dirty God.

He was the “earthly” son of a carpenter, and life in the first-century was both more lurid and unfinished than our collective religious memory seems to recall.

To that end, I suggested recently to several astounded colleagues of mine that Jesus actually had to go to the bathroom, perhaps even on the side of the road between Capernaum and Jerusalem.

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What tipped them over the edge was when I insinuated that Jesus, like almost every other human being living in the rural world in that time, might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.

Someone said, “You mean that Jesus might have had severe diarrhea?”

“Yep,” I replied, “That’s exactly what I mean.”

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think.

I call this the dirty side of Jesus. He was grittier, and a lot more like us than maybe we believe, and that’s one of the reasons why so many thousands of people followed him so quickly.

They could relate to him.

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century. Times must have been rather tough for Jesus at points in his life, for he even spoke of being homeless, having to sleep on the ground with no roof over his head.

He also knew what it was like to have his message rejected and how it felt to be misunderstood. Jesus was regarded with such little significance in his hometown that one of his critics once remarked sardonically, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Jesus eventually had to move to different city (Capernaum) because his teachings so infuriated the people living in his hometown that they drove him out of Nazareth and even tried to throw him off a cliff.

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The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem, and Jesus was, without a doubt, rumored to be a hypocrite or absolutely mad for all the time he spent with prostitutes and those afflicted with leprosy.

Not exactly have a clean-cut image.

He had a rather shady reputation.

Some people thought he was a revolutionary. The religious leaders called him a heretic, and others even accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton - in no small part because of the vagabond group of disciples he had with him. No serious religious leader of his day would have ever recruited such people.

For his core 12 disciples, Jesus included a tough-as-nails, bombastic fisherman (Peter), a chief tax collector named Matthew (the most hated popular figure of the time), an eventual traitor who was stealing money out of the offering bucket (Judas), a prolific doubter (Thomas), two jocks nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (James and John) and Simon the Zealot, a member of a radical political party which believed in using violence to kick out the Romans.

Jesus was sarcastic, too.

He often snapped back at the Pharisees with a tone fit for late-night television, and in a terribly embarrassing moment for all those around him, Jesus even called these respected religious teachers “snakes” that were probably sons of “Satan.”

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That’s not exactly the behavior of a sweet, self-help teacher with a halo over his head.

It’s the behavior of a frustrated man who might also be divine, but sure knows how it feels for annoying people to get under his skin.

Christians believe that Jesus chose to be born fully human, too, but why?

Lots of theologians have laid out opinions over the centuries, and in their opining they have tried once again to hijack Jesus’ humanity by defining it in philosophical terms. I believe it’s simpler than the philosophy and church councils and centuries of argument.

The brilliance of Christianity is the image of a God, named Jesus, arrived with dirty hands.

Jesus came in a time period when Greco-Roman gods were housed in gigantic temples and portrayed with superhuman powers and with superhuman physiques. Gods were believed to be far away from people on their mountains or hemmed up in their sanctuaries.

Jesus arrived in defiance of this prevailing imagery.

Jesus didn’t come flinging lightning bolts from a mountaintop, or playing politics in Rome. He came to live in a typical Middle Eastern village called Nazareth that was home to a couple hundred typical people. He didn’t decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised. And when he started a religious movement that reshaped history, he did it in the most profound and anticlimatic way:

He let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb.

In Jesus we meet a Savior who understood the desire to sleep just a few more hours, and who had to control his temper sometimes. In Jesus we find a God we can relate to because he chose to relate to us.

He was the God who became dirty so that the world’s souls might be made clean.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Jesus • My Take

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. Msctnfarmer

    When are we going to get an article from CNN about Mohammad being a child molester?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • inspiration

      That's common practice in any Arab country. What's your point?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • FloydZepp

      No need, we have Warren Jeffs and Ted haggard. Not to mention Jommy Swaggart and the Bakkers.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • JJ

      When the US becomes 90% Muslim instead of 90% Christian then we'll discuss the cult of Islam instead of the Christian cult.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Didn't Jerry Lee Lewis, a devout souther Christian, marry a 14 year old cousin? LOL

      January 6, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Didn't Loretta Lynn, another devout Christian get married and have the big nasty with a grown man at 14 years old? I remember a movie about it I think... LOL

      January 6, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  2. kbs

    what a waste of an article... go find something else to write about

    January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Rick

      If He doesn't exist, and now is all we have, it is pretty sad so many are on here knocking Jesus. Is this really all you have to do with your short time on Earth? Really? Besides being sad, just shows how many of you are nerds. Seriously. Think about yourself for a moment.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Rick said as he tried to trash others with name calling because his own faith is apparently very weak.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  3. Water into beer

    Okay this is off topic, but this water into wine bit-a-business has me a bit upset. Any vino I've ever had from Christ's neck of the woods has been undrinkable plonk. Did he use his Godlike vintner prowess to give the assemblage a dusky Brunello? A New Zealand Sav. with its fruity nose? A fat Rioja? There must be a Dead Sea scroll on a wine tasting we're missing.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Paris Miller

      Everyone is a comedian :-) FU2

      January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • snowboarder

      a new zealand sav? ugh! that would be blashphemy!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Dude, he was Jewish. Think Mogen David.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  4. FloydZepp

    It wasn't even until the 4th Century that Christianinty morphed into the belief that Jesus was the actual son of God. (Modern Evangelicals have recently eleveated Jesus TO God and replaced God).

    January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • snowboarder

      religion, like all else, evolves.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  5. inspiration

    Jesus was no god, he was just dirty.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  6. druidarama

    ok

    January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  7. Kyle

    Why people spend so much time debating about a person that never really actually existed according to any historical records, is beyond me. Who cares if Jesus was real, it wouldn't matter how he used the bathroom and what he wore. Even IF Jesus existed it gives no credence to the existence of an invisible sky daddy.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • inspiration

      He was the first person that walked on water! No person has done that since. Unfortunately, he could not fly.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • OpposingView

      Kyle... If you're too ignorant to know and realize that real world historical records do indeed support and confirm the fact that Jesus Christ existed and was really here, then you're far to ignorant for me to waste my time explaining that fact to you...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "real world historical records do indeed support and confirm the fact that Jesus Christ existed "

      No, they don't. There isn't a single credible account of Jesus' existence.

      Please don't bother bringing up Josephus. His accounts of history are riddled with errors, misrepresentations and outright lies, and no current scholars consider him a reliable source.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Kyle, Josephus the historian of the time commented on the existence of Jesus and how he was executed by crucifixion. No other details though.

      OpposingView, it appears that your faith is so weak that you become angry when people won't believe the way you want them to believe. I know why too. Because you, like many other Modern Evangelicals are frightened that your religion is dying and you have no faith in your own faith. You must always have a small crowd around you agreeing with you for you to even believe.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  8. zebmuas

    Johnnie Moore,
    I stopped reading after a handful of sentences and thought: Did this guy just write a book that points out the obvious? Hello!!! The year is 2 BC, not 2012!!! Don't waste your money.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  9. rla

    Really– This counts as an intellectual exercise???? This author needs a life!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  10. marie

    i agree with this article. jesus came as our example to show us that in all things we could overcome. how could he relate to a hardworking man of the fields or seas if he never did these things himself. because he was god in the flesh he has shown us a new path. as a child do you not think he never fell down and skinned his knee, he was the son of a carpenter do you think he never had a splinter or hit his thumb with his hammer? did he camp out on the rivers edge with his "friends" the disciples and fish and roll in the grass and play ball, most men should be able to relate to that. but he is showing us that we can do these things and not sin. sure he got mad but he kept his anger in check. have you not ever used the bathroom outside with no tissue and no germ-x or water to wash your hands? he showed us you can have friends from all walks of life but you dont have to be a partaker of what they do.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Paris Miller

      A very simple explation but a good one :-)

      January 6, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  11. CrappyAuthor

    I guess this author slept with Jesus that's why he knows a lot about him. Jesus Christ! how could he ever write crap stuff like this!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  12. doughnuts

    He wasn't clean or dirty, Middle Eastern or Caucasian, God or man.

    He didn't exist at all.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Larry Fyne

      I'm in total agreement...it's all a load of crap. All made up IMO. I think the whole scenario was dreamed up by hustlers that simply needed something to sustain them without working. Make up this savior story & sell it to the down-trodden. What better way to keep the goods rolling in without working. Preachers still do it today. They simply tell weak minded people what they want to hear and those idiots pay them...through donations...through the collection plate. Whatcha think builds these huge churches but people with more money than sense? No better hustle if you can stomach the BS that goes along with it.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  13. Frost

    Great article!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  14. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Sheeple, I didn't exist, and I don't exist. Why does everyone want to believe in me? Don't you have a mind of your own?

    Storys about me are just that, storys. You want to believe in something? You are composed of star dust, and you will eventually become star dust again. There is no heaven, just the moment.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Paris Miller

      You waste your time on SWINE ! " Cast not your perals on swine "

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Down the middle

      So many people come here to speak hate and disbelief over something they dont believe in .......its ok its ur right, I just know that on ur deathbed, you will wonder *what if*......many of atheist/liberals/cnn bloggers have done so and found out the truth :D

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • cw

      Down the middle, please provide specific examples.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • snowboarder

      middle – "found out the truth"

      your assertion is purely fictional. you have absolutely no knowledge of the matter.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Abe Pacana

      Okay!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • choward5400

      I've never seen an electron. You? Don't act like you know anything.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Rick

      Why the need to spread your belief then if none of it matters? In this moment of time (all we have according to you) you felt the need to comment here, of all the things you could be doing with your (admittedly) short life here on Earth?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Apada

      There is certainly more evidence to show he did exist than evidence to the contrary. The important question is why would you go out of your way to try to take other people's hope or beliefs away from them? If he didn't exist then it makes no difference whatsoever if someone chooses to believe he did. What is wrong in your world that you feel it necessary to take that away from them?

      January 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  15. Chick Lockerman

    Holy crap Batman er......Jesus.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  16. Who cares

    Why is it so important for those that have no faith in god to attempt to undermine the beliefs of those that do ? Please explain why?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Why is it so important for those with religious beliefs to ram those beliefs down the throats of those who disagree?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Sigideba

      I am Atheist and don't care. It's a modern Atheist thing. You can thank Richard Dawkins and all his little Dawkinites. Atheism has officially gone mainstream, which in my opinion, isn't so bad. I still don't understand the new Atheist intolerance. Dawkins states that ridicule is the only way to get rid of Religion so I guess that's why.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Wes Scott

      Nobody can undermine your faith in god if that faith is true! The real question is, why are YOU trying to lay blame on others who are exercising their right to their own beliefs and the free expression of those beliefs.

      Personally, I could care less what you believe as long as you do not use those beliefs to harm or persecute others who believe differently. The problem with religion is that it frequently leads to "killing the infidels" in the name of a sky fairy, and that is just unacceptable behavior in a civilized world.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • hee hee

      Why should the expression of opinions that differ from yours "undermine" your belief? Are you that frail?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • hee hee

      @Sigideba:

      What is intolerant about expressing your disagreement? With satire, ridicule, reason or rhetoric?

      All ideas are open to criticism.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      In my opinion, they are reacting to a stricter Calvanist upbringing than most had. One problem with Calvanists is once they have been exposed to other beliefs it does one of two things – they either retreat further into their Calvanism as a sanctuary, or they reject all religious teachings. Many eventually find a path that is more suited for their temperment. However, I believe many of those posting their anit-religious rants on this blog are probably "good Church-going Protestants" who enjoy their anonymity. As I have stated in the past on this blog, I was raised Roman Catholic, have attended Episcopal, Unitarian, Pagan, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical Protestant and Mainline Protestant services and am now a member of the United Methodist Church. I never rejected Religion, just the trappings of the Catholicism I was raised with.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Who cares

      Some "ram", most don't. Just like some atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Christians, etc do. So what. If you are strong in your "faith" then it shouldn't bother you. And posts are not going to change the faith of the faithful one bit, regardless of what religion (or no religion) they believe in.

      Things can only be rammed down ones throat if their mouth is open. Believe what you want to believe, say what you will. For me it doesn't shake my faith in Jesus and my belief in god. I believe people of faith (any faith) for the most part feel the same way.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • OpposingView

      It's because they don't have a life and they don't want others to have one either...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • nobody in particular

      @ SixDegrees: First of all, who and how is anyone "raming" religion down your throat? A true Christian will not do that, but a true Christian does love you and sincerley wishes you to be saved; because God does not want any to be lost, but it is their choice.
      P.S. I don't believe that atheists are really trying to convert any believers, if that were true they wouldn't ridicule believers.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  17. Dawn Gray

    Thank you Johnnie Moore and CNN. You sure brought out the non-thinkers. Their posts represent all that is wrong with religion today, and why people are leaving it. It amazes me that these people are so short sighted that they cannot imagine a time when there were no flush toilets and are so offended at the suggestion. No wonder they will swallow whatever they are taught without question.

    I recently read something that made me smile. It pointed out that due to the area of the world that Jesus was born into, he more likely resembled Yassar Arafat than the images depicting him in the illustrations put forward by his current "followers".

    All of us who believe in freedom, including freedom of thought and religion must keep on offending folks or suffer losing that freedom to dictators and worse.

    Oh – and don't bother threatening me with Hell, or praying for me. I don't believe all that crap for a minute.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  18. remigius

    If Jesus had died of dysentery what would Christians wear around their necks?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Prunes?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Dawn Gray

      That post was just too good. Wish I had thought of it. Be knowing I won't forget it.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • David DeForge

      +2

      January 6, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Wes

      I won't try to explain the significance of the cross and the underlying meanings but with your passing jokes that are "logical" why don't you wear a monkey around your neck? I mean if Jesus death, regardless of the avenue, is what we're touting about because we believe it is the reason we are blessed with eternal life, shouldn't you wear what you believe we came from that brought you to life? Go get a monkey and put it around your neck I would laugh at your beliefs too :)

      January 6, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • snowboarder

      wes, there is no talisman for atheism or evolution. none necessary. a talisman would devalue it similar to religion.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • remigius

      Wes, as snowboarder points out, there is no requirement for talismans in atheism. However if there were ever a need to sport a pendant depicting our origins I would wear a supernova.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  19. Andrew

    The writer just called us all dirty.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • *ray

      You are correct that you are dirty having accepted it and turn to the Lord Jesus that you will be forgiven.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  20. hee hee

    Wow. The author is really having trouble repressing himself.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:40 am |
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