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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

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. Colyn

    Did Jesus get sick? No he did not get sick (dysentery). Sickness is the result of sin and since he was sinless he could not get sick.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • AndyMax71

      SIckness is the result of sin?

      Got any other lies that are more believable?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • karlblessing

      You must be fun at children's hospitals...

      January 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Hmm
      Colyn

      so stop all cancer treatments ...
      God want them to die....

      Colyn I hope you never get into our Government and hold any position of power...

      January 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      What nonsense.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • sybaris

      "jesus did not get sick"

      you are making that up

      January 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Steve Jobs ignored the advice of his doctors to have surgery and remove the cancer tumor right away..Jobs tried natural methods first...When he did have the tumor removed it had spread and it was too late to save his life...

      January 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • JJ

      Some of us has progressed from the dark ages and realize that demons and "sin" does not cause illness. The germ theory continues to gain traction.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Perry Keener

      Sickness is the result of the fall, being descendants of Adam and Eve, not necessarily our own personal sins, but because of the fall and Satan runs in through the world, Jesus in the Bible is not all togehter just a mere man, the Spirit and Mary brought Jesus into the world, a rare and unusual birth. That's why I say, we not being there, I'd rather not try to figure out all the little mundane things as Jesus going to the Jiffy John and all that. I take what the Bible gives me, he is the redeemer, Lord and Savior, that's all I need to know or have to know, all this other stuff bores me.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • End Religion

      Holy shit! Just when you forget how many crazy-ass fucking lunatics are running around loose in the world...

      Sickness is not caused by gods or lack thereof, sin or no sin, for crying out loud! Infectious diseases are caused by pathogens. Non-infectious disease is caused by "a confluence of factors including the environment, a person's lifestyle choices and genetics."

      January 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  2. CNN Moderator

    You all shut up! I am the moderator and I say what goes!

    I am CNN damn it!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  3. Correctlycenter

    "When the world hates you, remember it hated Me (Jesus Christ) before it hated you. The world would love for you to belong to it, but you (believers in Christ) don't. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you." John 15: 18-19...

    January 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Too many Current Christians in our Government seem to believe in Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition....

      January 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Most cults allow for the playing of the whiny baby card: "B......b.....bbbb........b but NOBODY wykes me bewwy much! Dat means I iz speshle to widdle baby Jesus!!"

      January 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • sybaris

      nobody hates your jesus man. that would be akin to hating santa claus

      January 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  4. DB

    "There may be flies on you and me, but there were no flies on Jesus."
    -Hunter Thompson

    January 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • dreamer96

      And Hunter Thompson tried to interview Nixon in the Men's room while Nixon was taking a leak....

      January 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  5. moe smith

    he was just as clean or dirty as any other average human being.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Sid

      He washed the feet of his apostles, and as a jew practiced cleanliness that was superior to that of the nations. Among the things that made him attractive to crowds was more probably that he stood out for his cleanliness, like his moral standards that elevated his followers by association. Yet he taught, much as this article and even my own comments demonstrate, it is not what goes into the mouth (via dirty hands) that defiles a man, but what comes out of his mouth.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  6. I Am God

    I would rather walk my own path then a path that someone has walked on several thousand times.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • CNN Moderator

      Says you. I am the moderator and you are officially squelched!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  7. karlblessing

    Well that's one way to beat around the bush in saying that he was also most likely dark-skinned. He would be sticking out like a sore thumb if he were born a blonde white guy.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  8. Lucy

    What a wonderful article. Reminds of the time when I thought Jesus was so 'clean' and so above me that He would never acknowledge me. I was a woman after all and that meant I was 'unclean' - unworthy of having a spiritual relationship with Him directly. That is the way I was taught in church. I decided to read the Word of God myself - with fear and trembling since as an inferior-to-men-being I was not to read & have Jesus tell me what He meant. So, for the first time I read in the Bible that Jesus was approaching woman (at the well) and having honest conversations with them, hanging out with women, Mary Magdalene, the Son of a woman, the only Door to my salvation, etc. I figure, if he was hanging out with women then, he cares about me now. He thinks of me not as unclean, unworthy but worthy because he did not think he was better than women but Him in a human body,with all its unclean processes, desires, & longings, understood, loved, and respected me. He was real. He was cool. And that coolness about Him set me free.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  9. End Religion

    Until I see your extraordinary, tested and peer-reviewed proof of God, proof of every absurd assertion in the bible and proof of Jesus, it is entirely a fraud.

    The abrahmic god does not exist. That, plus zero independent proof for jeebus means his "son" never existed either. The christian church itself admits the bible is a fraud. On 2013-01-05 anglicans allowed gay priests to become bishops when Leviticus 20:13 (the supposed word of an inerant god) clearly advocates killing gays. If the fact your bible advocates such killing isn't enough to keep you away, perhaps its hypocrisy will?

    The church is nothing but a pathetic, incongruous shell game that exists now only to sustain the power of its top echelon and to keep bringing the tithes in.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • AndyMax71

      "Until I see your..."

      You will. And your immediate thought at the time will be "Oh crap..."

      January 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      So the first time End Religion gets proof of your god it will be an experience of fear and doom? What an azzhole you worship.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      End Religion,

      While I agree with your implied remark that manmade churches are t I t h I n g mongers, I see our bodies as being the buildings and temples of the true God and God's brethren and all their family trees in that they all do dwell upon all life's insides. Is it not so written that our bodies are but mere buildings?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Chad

      @End Religion "Until I see your extraordinary, tested and peer-reviewed proof of God, proof of every absurd assertion in the bible and proof of Jesus, it is entirely a fraud."

      =Perhaps you can explain:
      1. what "extraordinary" means, and what would satisfy that requirement
      2. what "tested " means, and what would satisfy that requirement
      3. what "peer-reviewed" means, and what would satisfy that requirement
      4. why it isnt fallacious to say "until you prove Jesus exists, He doesnt" when you claim it IS fallacious to say "Until you prove Jesus doesnt exist, He does"?

      thanks in advance!

      January 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  10. inspiration

    Fact: Most Jesuses get a good cleansing when they cross the river to the U.S.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • CNN Moderator

      No wetback jokes, bub....

      January 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  11. donny

    jessus and god r 2 father and son same as u and your son.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  12. Jason

    I notice CNN does a lot of articles downplaying Christianity. How about they run articles on the Prophet Muhammad? I guess Christianity as a whole can "turn the other cheek" because I know CNN doesn't have the courage to run such an article.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Jason, how does this article "downplay" christianity?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • sybaris

      U.S. = 75% christian. It's a reasonable expectation to publish articles that is of interest to a majority of the country

      January 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      How does this article downplay Christianity? What do you disagree with in the article?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Jose

      The article is pro-Jesus and pro-christianity. It's main thesis is why Jesus is the god of the people and therefore a much better god for the people. I guess its all in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion this is a pro-christian article with a headline intended to get people on the fence about christianity or people who are atheist to read it.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Colyn

      How true! When Islam is mentioned everybody runs and hides in fear.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  13. JJP

    jesus...you mean the guy that snuck into the USA from mexico?

    January 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      It does seem strange to have the son of god trimming the hedges.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  14. Deez

    All aspects of religion are opinion.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • inspiration

      Not opinion. Regurgitation.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • SeldomSeenMike

      Wow...that was...brilliant.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  15. Carl in Alaska

    I find it appalling that Johnnie Moore is actually a professor at Liberty University. If he had spewed this nonsense while Jerry Falwell Sr. was still alive, he'd be out on the streets looking for a job. The elder Falwell was a no-nonsense two-fisted Christian who did not abide heresy and apostasy.

    The smoke of Satan has now permeated the campus of Liberty University

    January 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      What "nonsense" exactly, are you referring to?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • End Religion

      Carl, sounds like you enjoy some two-fisted action yourself, bruiser.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      So what EXACTLY is heretical and nonsense about the article?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • historyguy

      Falwell was a fool who believed mighty mouse was a coke fiend. He wasn't "no-nonsense", he was crazy., anti-semetic, and a bigot. He was a great example of " using the bible like a drunk uses a lampost, for support instead of illumination".

      January 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  16. Lagos

    Gee whiz, you think people actually think he walked around in a bubble of cleanness with light shining all around him and angels overhead? DUHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    January 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Look Around

      Based on a number of the comments in this thread, quite a few people did and still do.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  17. Jason

    What a disgusting article

    January 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • sybaris

      and yet you read it

      January 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  18. goo6er

    If Jesus had the choice of dying on the cross or not, and he chose death – for whatever reason – isn' that suicide? How does the church feel about that?

    January 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • inspiration

      Suicide by cross!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  19. inspiration

    More nonsense: Trinity defines God as three divine persons...Schizophreniaia on steroids!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • inspiration

      I ya ya ia!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  20. Ipmutt

    What a stupid article and so typical of CNN. Sensational headline, nothing of value

    January 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • inspiration

      So now we have the "dirt" on Jesus!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • sybaris

      "nothing of value"

      like any religion

      January 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
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