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. http://bit.ly/VaticanMafia

    Johnnie Moore is a professor? That's a indisputable evidence that god doesn't exist.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • http://bit.ly/VaticanMafia


      January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  2. pjr

    ttwp – I have. I am going on 27 times.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  3. Chris

    This is a laugh. Religion is one of the reasons why your country is fast going down the toilet.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • JJ

      It's the main reason. What glorious superior country do you hail from?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Cdub

      I love how the world has turned it's back on the U.S. I won't play the "We helped during the world wars card" because I shouldn't have to. Our country is in trouble, and we do need help. So why do people in other countries say we thumb our noses at the rest of the world when the rest of the world is making comments like yours? Also, why even bother asking for this countries help (I understand you didn't specifically) in international situations when you are all just going to chastise us at the end of the day, no matter what? Instead of insulting our country, would it not be more helpful (especially during this global economic crisis) to come together and maybe try to support one-another? I'm an American, and I can honestly say that yes, we do have problems, but your misguided view of how the majority of my fellow countrymen think is wrong. The majority cares. The real problem stems from the fact that the majority does not have a real voice on the international stage. Instead, we are represented by corrupted individuals who fall under the very small 1% of elites who have enough money and power that they can actually talk over the majority and vote against it. Would a majority really vote for congressmen and senators to receive a lifetime pay wage exceeding 100k or 200k (and they increase their own wages every year without the peoples consent) dollars along with insurance for life, even after they are not in office or have been voted out? No, we would not, and I would imagine your country would not either, so it seems we actually have some things in common. I just wish you, and the rest of the world could see what real Americans are like and how (and I say this given expriences from my travels) much alike we all really are. Your country has it's corrupt which makes your country look bad just as we do. It's time for the majority to take charge and oust those who (like the Koch brothers) only feed their bottom line.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  4. allenwoll

    "All I need to know, I learned in Kindergarten" - Robert Fulghum.
    Is that quote truly not the BOTTOM LINE to LIFE ? ? ? . Go worship Robert ! ! !

    January 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  5. tom

    Why in the world is this "headline news", or any news for that matter???

    January 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • JJ

      Because it lured you in like a little lamb making your eyes go over all the advertisements as you came to let everyone know you're not interested in this article.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • John O'

      REALLY? we're still talking about a mythological figure as if he were REAL. What's next, article on the life of Apollo and Zeus, or, for that matter, the easter bunny?
      You should be ashamed to call yourselves a news organization. How about promoting the flat earth society while your at it?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  6. mm

    to this pastor that has lost his way the devil is using the time you should be on your knees praying. instead you are making derogitory comments about our god and trying to lower him to the level of a well you and the only problem with that he is God and your not and no matter how much you talk bad about jesus it will not change the minds of true christians and the more you talk bad about jesus all you will do is end up in Hell with the other blasphemers

    January 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  7. Winston O'boogie

    You can't prove to me that something happened yesterday, any more than you can prove to me that Jesus Christ was a real person, because all you have left from yesterday, is photos, video, and eyewitness testimony, all of which can be surely faked and manipulated to whatever end. We have the same artifacts from 33AD about Christ, except the photos and videos are paintings and scriptures and word of mouth witness testimonies. Guess what kiddies, history is just that whether it happened 3 days ago or 3000 years ago. If you don't accept any of that, then just exactly what WILL you accept?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  8. Laura

    How dare you, CNN to print such an article. You feel that you have to try to make people think that YOUR savior was vile and discusting, You obviously have a vile small heart yourself. You are led by the evil one in your thoughts and your pen! Only CNN would dare to publish such blasphemy. I hope God will forgive your hateful heart and have mercy on your soul when you like all of stand face to face with him.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  9. http://bit.ly/VaticanMafia

    The Vatican is run by the Mafia!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  10. Gauden Joe

    Ignorant. I believe in the authenticity of the Bible but not by your words. you are speaking out of ignorance. To help you cure your ignorance please watch and listen to Bro. Eli Soriano on his program "The Old Path".

    January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  11. Dana

    "Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions."

    Frater Ravus

    January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • OpposingView

      Which is precisely why Frater Ravus is in hell. He didn't have any faith...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  12. oz

    This article is nothing but a "dirty" ploy to insight anger in all Christians. Johnnie, you will have your day in front of God.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  13. cuzIsaidso

    This is what you get when you attempt to apply reality to religion. A gooey mess that satisfies no one. But I'll bet Jesus would appreciate a quality two-ply like Angel Soft when he's in the smallest room in the house.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  14. DJ

    Jesus was fully man in all things but sin. The images we see is representative of His devine nature inside. He was a very devout Jew, and followd God's commandments, not evil men. Remember religion was a way of life than, and big business for men intent on lining their pockets.
    He brought a message of love, forgiveness, but order and obiedence to God. That is why He died for our sake, and rose again, and stated His Church putting Peter and His apositles as His bishops. He gave them full authority on Earth, which would be also bound in heaven to forgive or bind sins, make decisions of the Church. Most importantantly He gave us His body, blood, soul, and devinity which is the Eucharist through the Catholic Church. Jesus left us the Holy Spirit which gave us His Church and eventually the written word which later became the Holy Bible.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  15. Dana

    It would be amazing if there was an invisible friend who magically solved all my problems by just asking him. Unfortunately that isn`t true, and I`m not gonna lie to myself into thinking so just because it makes me feel better.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Christian7

      OK. Lets hear your ideas. What started life on earth? Please do not answer with a question.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • OpposingView

      Lucifer is already making all your dreams come true. Or didn't you know that?...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  16. catsighting

    This is just another attempt at the left to put down Christians and I am sick of it. I am not religious so don't even start on me. All this person is doing stirring up hate and trying to convince all young people to opt out of religion. This is not NEWS CNN, you should be ashamed.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  17. chumlee

    its all a big myth

    January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • OpposingView

      It's a big myth until you end up in hell and find out it's real...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • JWT

      No such place as hell. Other than a few towns anyway.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  18. Victor

    Kind of a pointless article. Everyone already knew this stuff. It's sort of the basis for Christianity, caring for the poor, judge not lest Ye be judged, etc. The Bible is full of references of Jesus hanging with unsavory characters. Thus topic is not scandalous in the least.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  19. Dana

    To have an invisible friend at the age of eight is charming and not a cause for concern.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • OpposingView

      But to become a full adult and not have the brains to realize that God truly exists is alarming...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  20. Eric

    All of the "offended" on here crack me up. Clearly none of them actually read the article or, if not that, none of them understood it in the least. The article was written by a man who is a professor of RELIGION and the VICE PRESIDENT of Liberty Univesity; THE LARGEST evangelical Christian university on the the planet. Clearly he's written it illustrate the humanity of the Christ; emphasizing the importance of God/Jesus being a personal God to whom we can relate. But you idiots are reading it as some ridiculous form of blasphemy propagated by a communist media outlet hell-bent on persuading everyone to start having recreational abortions while burning Bibles, and when THAT happens, Tinkerbell's light goes out and she dies. 🙁

    January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Tavia

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I had just asked myself aloud..."did I just read the same article as these people".

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.