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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. Robert Griffen III

    As a cohort, Christians are the least educated, ignorant people n our country.

    Luckily, the percentage of christians in our country is rapidly decreasing, they are dying off faster than they can be replaced.

    Alleluia.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Hmm. Who's bringing up the next position on ignorance? I'd guess bigots.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Robert Griffen III,

      Goodly intelligent Christians are of meekness concerns and will make little to no attempts to usurp the trellis which holds up the vines of religiousness and keeps all the vines' branches from breaking off due their own weightiness.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Elijah Manning

      Actually the most ignorant Americans are those that disparage others and their beliefs.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  2. Mary

    Why is CNN printing this inflammatory twaddle? Don't we have enough to argue about already in this country?

    January 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Answer

      Are you that upset?

      Do you want to say "stop attacking me"?

      LOL

      January 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Robert Griffen III

      True, as religious people are so stupid, they're barely worth arguing with.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      What's inflammatory about it? Didn't god create s.hit?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      how does this dimish discussion of other stuff that is happening?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  3. Karen Lee

    You're an idiot Moore! Don't act like you know what Jesus was like when you didn't know him back then. Yes, we can surmise by the culture that his robe wasn't always clean and that he sweat like us and yes, they went to the bathroom on the side of the road. Big deal. But, please don't tell me how he was a sarcastic, frustrated human being, to make yourself feel better. He was led by the Holy Spirit and everything he said made a specific point that we can learn from. He said what he heard the father say and did what he saw the father do.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Answer

      Here is a revealing post about all christians...

      It's essence is this "You're not going to talk about my jeebus in that manner! I want my jeebus to be the loving one. The one I can place my faith in .. the one that does save me. You don't know the jeebus in the way I know my jeebus."

      Riiight. You christians all know your jeebus – it's exactly that touchy area that you are all offended when you don't like what you read about your adopted views.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Karen Lee", but the "Holy Spirit" is an element of mythology, therefore "it" could not lead anything. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "CHRONIC TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Karen Lee

      Quite the contrary, Jesus was bold and empowered by the Holy Spirit! But his boldness had PURPOSE. When he spoke there was purpose, not some foolish rambling from a frustrated prideful human being. For instance, the religious leaders were saying one thing and doing another, and he was addressing their hypocrisy.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  4. Jesus is God

    Ye whitewashed tombs, yes Jesus dealt with dirt while on earth. God shewed himself to mankind so that all that believe in him might be saved.

    Of what use is your whitewashed tomb like body if your soul is lost in sin???

    January 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      Sin is a man made concept, Jesus Is God

      January 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Jesus is God", but "God" is an element of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  5. Copenshaw

    I am getting tired of the constant attack on Christianity on this forum. Easy target, huh? And so many 'experts' on Christianity!
    Why would not Johnni Moore and his ilk of 'experts' enlighten us with their 'groundbreaking' researches and opinions on other divine figures too, like Mohammed etc?

    January 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Robert Griffen III

      Christians like yourself vote in ignorant politicians that believe the same garbage as yourself, effecting us all.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      You do realize that Mr. Moore is on the faculty at Liberty University – founded by Jerry Falwell, that doesn't allow Democrats to speak there because they're unholy? Right? It doesn't get any more goderrific than that.

      As for Mo – feel free to contribute, but an article like that isn't going to attract many eyeballs in what you consider to be a "christian" nation, is it?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      How on earth is this an attack on Christianity? It does nothing to challenge the core beliefs of the faith and only suggests that your Messiah took great lengths and endured discomfort to save your soul. How is that an attack? Loosen your panties.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Emanuel Ravelli

      There's is no constant attack on Christianity. But, I have to agree that this article is laughably unimportant. Must be a slow news day.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      Copenshaw: He is a professor on religion and vice president of liberty university. I would wager that he knows quite a bit more about the bible than you do.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  6. elgeevz

    While I am not at all religious, I found Mr. Moore's sermonette to be quite moving. His perception of Jesus is quite different from the one preached in the Baptist church I left over 70 years ago.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Answer

      A new generation spinning a new fantasy is nothing new.

      You'll witness more and more of these tactics as they try to adapt to a shrinking base of followers. They'll tailor make a unique self centric model for any individual "look and feel". Frankly they're already doing it.

      It's like you can have your own personal flavor of religious ice cream. XD

      January 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Raji the Green Witch

      Answer, why SHOULDN'T Religion, Jesus, god, be different for each one of us? After all we were NOT born into a one-size-fits-all world. Each of us has a unique relationship with the World, different needs and brings different talents and gifts to the party. the Creator made us unique individuals and NOT clones of each other. We do NOT think alike and in sync with each other. We each have our own personal likes and dislikes. Accordingly we would each have our OWN perspective of the Creator as well. some like the idea of a spotless. pristine, clean Jesus, above the fray and beyond the touch of the material World. Others like the idea of him actually BEING one of us, with our frailties, weaknesses, diseases, discomforts, likes and dislikes. the simple fact that there are about a hundred different SECTS of Christianity alone is proof that there is NO one RIGHT way nor one WRONG way to be a Christian.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  7. D9k9

    I don't get the point of this stupidity....if he was God does by of that matter?

    January 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • D9k9

      And if he isn't God, it matters even less.....

      January 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  8. Answer

    Religion = want.

    So desperate for your delusions to be real.. pity.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  9. Chris

    You are absolutely right. He did come to this filthy world and became dirty to bear your sins and mine too!

    January 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  10. WachetAuf

    The point of the article, as I see it, is to examine the delusional thinking which the human mind brings to the subject of religion. In its simplest form religion invites us to contemplate the origin of life and relationships among men. Jesus' message, like that of Buddism and Islam, is simple: tolerance among men. Politicians (this includes all church leaders) have twisted and complicated the message for one purpose: maintaining political power.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Correctlycenter

      Jesus Christ says in John 14:6: " I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Me."

      Don't attempt to confuse Buddism, Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism or any other belief with the Good News and the salvation message of the LORD God Almighty. Faith in Christ IS the only way to heaven...

      January 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Correctlycenter

      Jesus Christ says in John 14:6: " I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Me."

      Don't attempt to confuse Buddism, Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism or any other belief with the Good News and the salvation message of the LORD God Almighty. Faith in Christ IS the only way anyone can get to heaven. Words of truth that may offend those who wish to belong to a politically correct world...

      January 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • JD

      Buddhism is waaaaaay different than either Christianity, Islam or Judaism. The later three all fall in the category of theism or a belief in a creator God. They obviously have their differences though. Buddhism is a form of Pantheism. Don't get the two confused.

      Why is that 90%+ of people who post negative comments on here about religion are religion ignorant? It's okay to not believe something, but to try and mock something that you are ignorant about multiplies your ignorance tenfold. Try reading a few books!

      January 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Answer

      Nothing but babble quotes from the religious slave. How cute.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • the praisworthy

      jesus is not god i can proof that from the bible

      January 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Correctlycenter" but everything you have ever written on the Belief Blog has been either unfounded or falsehoods. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "CHRONIC TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  11. JZ

    Congratulations Mr. Moore, your wife is super hot!

    January 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • little timmy

      Mr. Moore is not bad looking himself. I'm sure there are many here who wouldn't mind bumping the Jesus right out of him.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  12. Patti

    My Take: Jesus is a myth. Not 1 historical writing about Jesus during his lifetime. All writings regarding Jesus started years AFTER his supposed lifetime and were religious in origin, not historical.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Z

      The power of myth is not in its factuality.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  13. timmybbify13

    So this guy thinks up some random stuff and gets to write a CNN article about this random stuff he thinks about (aka makes up). Wow.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  14. Jcook

    Hmm. Couldn't it just be that Jesus was a con artist? A man who deified himself out of the need to feel important? If Jesus was the son of god, and asked his followers to give up their earthly possessions, then why take an offering at every event? If he understood the hardships of the time and the economic turmoil, why was he asking for other ppl's money? Nobody will ever know the answer. The bible was written hundreds of years after Jesus was alive, and to that end wasn't even written about him. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which is the basis for the bible never once mentions god, Jesus, the holy trinity, no higher being, no religion, no following or followers. The scrolls simply, and very eloquently states how to live your life free of hate, sim, and to live your life for others. The bible, which was written as an homage to the stories told from generation to generation, is as far away from factual as possible. Green eggs and ham has less fiction in it. I have no idea if there is a god or not, and I don't pretend to know either, but I do know that what ppl believe and what really happened are two very different things. The bible and the stories a parables and a device for control. How so many ppl put absolute faith in it is beyond me. Nobody searches for truth, they just believe what they are told. Kids grow up and realize that Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and the boogie man are all fake, yet grown men and women refuse to question something that has no factual basis or proof of existence. How does that happen? How do so many ppl allow themselves to be so blindly fooled?

    January 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Jcook,
      Hmm. Couldn’t it just be that people who believe in God do so because they have had a personal experience with him? It is not that they don’t see things in the bible that don’t line up with science, it is that these personal experiences with God override what people say. Why would they discount something that they have experienced for themselves over what someone who hasn’t had any experience with God says?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Anon

      More like Jesus is a complete myth and Christians are delusional lemmings desperately grasping at straws.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  15. Harold Smith

    While I agree with the premise, the purpose of this article was obviously to defame the Lord. In your attempt to be "brilliant" all you have really done is made us "take our eye off the ball" and focus more on the Lord's earthly hygiene rather than the good news of the gospel that he brought to the world, including his incredible teachings on love, life and friendship. I hope that your next article focuses something more important, like the content of His ministry.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • dreamer96

      And Here I thought it was to show Jesus took on Human form....I guess some might be offended by that Idea..but not me...

      January 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Yossarian

    Whether crazyfingers' comment is true or not, I will say that I found this article to be an enjoyable read.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  17. dreamer96

    God does not exist or does he....

    Personally I find anti-matter interesting since it is just matter where the orbital spin is opposite from what we call normal matter...and when matter and anti-matter collide....only pure energy is made...no left over matter...100's creation of energy...Is that not interesting or what??

    January 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      dreamer 96,

      What say is your views on 'pure energy'? What exactly makes up 'pure energy'? While I know of fueled combustion as the expansionism of matter creating a volume of excess such combustibility cannot be of purities. Even atomic energies are not a pure energy. Does the mass of particles and anti-particles coming into contact with each other somehow become splintered into just what base understanding in quantum thermodynamics resonations? Quarks maybe? Neutrinos? Maybe dark matter?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • dreamer96

      An atomic, or hydrogen explosion is far from a 100% matter to energy conversion...Why would you use that as an example?...Funny I was watching a show about the largest Hydrogen explosion by the USA..They used and atomic bomb to cause a stage two explosion with Lithium as the secondary fuel...The Scientist had a tank of 30% Lithium 6 and 70% Lithium 7...and thought the Lithium 7 would remain inert during the atomic blast...but they were wrong and nearly killed the observers...The Atomic blast turned some of the Lithium 7 into Lithium 6 and that new source added to the explosion...instead of a 5 mega ton blast they experienced a 15 mega ton blast...

      January 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  18. gary

    what proof is there of the existence of a "Jesus"? The bible has NO credibility.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      "Jesus" was actually an extremely common name at the time. There was, without a doubt, a Jesus or two wandering around. Why does the thought that a historical figure named Jesus might have existed threaten you so much? I don't believe in any god or gods but I find your discomfort a bit childish.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • MGM

      Have you not studied secular History of that period or are you kidding us?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Eric

      What proof is there of the existance of "Gary"? I read something that is purported to be from "Gary" yet "Gary" has not presented himself to me to prove he exists. He could be the fictious creation of Steve Spielberg. Should Ihave faith and trust that he exists?

      January 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  19. steve

    Highly unlikely Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. If so why did he have an older brother? Mary and Joseph were married for how many years and she's still a virgin? Jesus was likely born a human who had desires, felt pain, was at times disillusioned and had insecurities. Unlike us, he overcame his desires and ignorance and achieved God realization through determination, courage, grit and sacrifice. Which makes his example even more inspiring. Does he have to be born of a virgin and born a son of God in order to make his example more compelling to you? To me it is less compelling if he was born and knew everything, didn't have to struggle with insecurity, hopelessness, hunger and the seeming injustices of innocent children being slaughtered in unspeakable ways. Most likely Jesus was a man and became a son of God just as Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed. and all the other saints. But if your insecurities force you to believe in the fairy tale, just like the radical Muslims, orthodox Jews and zealots of every religion believe their savior is the only One, have at it.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Karen Lee

      Read the book of Matthew or Luke. Jesus didn't have an older brother and Mary and Joseph were not married for two years before Jesus was born.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • inHIM

      Thank you for expressing your folly, you half baked dude. He is the divider of time (B.C and A.D). You didn't seem to experience HIM in any way. Read the Bible and read the history well before you write such foolish comments.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • MGM

      Give us the reference to Jesus' older brother and also give us the reference that says Mary remained a virgin. I anxiously await.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Rabidmob

      A major undertone of the biblical story is that he had the power to elevate himself, give himself riches and wonders, but instead did not and chose to live as a pauper.

      What you believe of this is a matter of faith.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  20. crazyfingers

    Johnnie Moore is the author of Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a professor of religion and vice president at Liberty University.

    Liberty University? The university founded by bigoted raving lunatic Jerry Falwell and which teaches young earth creationism and recently banned the Democratic club as contrary to the values of the University? Ha. Creationist nuts who work to impose their version of Christianity onto everyone by force of law.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Saraswati

      And yet a whole lot of people posting here have called him a crazed atheist liberal. It's pretty funny reading.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.