Flexible and Bendable: The American Jesus


Jesus toy

The multitude of kitschy Jesus paraphernalia does not surprise me. But I have to admit one product surprised me with how accurate it was.

Not in how it represented right theology or even how portrayed the correct physical appearance of Jesus. No, I was surprised at how perfectly it served as an analogy for American beliefs about Jesus.

A religion reporter tweeted out a photo of a toy called “Bendable Poseable Jesus of Nazareth.” Ignoring the misspelling of “posable” and this Jesus being unsuitable for children under 3, I felt the irony too rich to pass up, so I replied.

Grant wrote his own piece about the toy, even quoting from an Amazon review.

When I share photos of Bendable Jesus with friends and family members, it always starts a great conversation about who Jesus *really* is: the totally all loving, all flexible, all merciful, human personification of our great and awesome God. Quite the opposite of the mean, old, judgmental god that so many would have us believe in, who would send us straight to eternal damnation, complete with fire and brimstone if we don’t follow “the rules,” God loves us just as we are. He bends down to reach us, we don’t have to change ourselves to reach Him.

This is the modern American Jesus. It’s so close in some ways (His reaching down to us because we could never change ourselves), but so far away in others (basically everything else in that review).

It is a Jesus created in our image, or at least the image of ourselves as we imagine we are. This Jesus will bend over backwards to make us happy. Everything is awesome with this God.

This is a Jesus that is bendable, but he’s not one with a backbone.

Which is why you can keep this Jesus. He’s not one who would, or even could, punish evil. This Jesus is so flexible, he will not hold evil doers responsible for their actions.

There’s no way he could redeem the world or make things new because he doesn’t even see what’s wrong. He might as well come with a pair of plastic rose-colored glasses.

This Jesus doesn’t love me enough to sand away my rough edges to make me into who I was created to be. He’s too busy giving me compliments and patting me on the back.

A bendable Jesus brings to mind the “prayers” from the movie Talladega Nights and a post I wrote about them previously. In the film, the main characters described the different types of Jesus they liked praying to best.

This idea of how you like to picture Jesus is, however, all too real for many. Elton John said that he saw Jesus as “a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.”

But as I wrote in my earlier post, the pop star is not the only one with distorted views of who Jesus is. Many uber-patriotic Southerners like to picture Jesus robed in an American flag, riding an eagle, dropping bombs on Muslims.

Liberal religious college professors like to picture Jesus as a sensitive teacher who just wanted to love and encourage everyone.

Angry, fundamentalists, KJV-only preachers like to picture Jesus as an irate anti-intellectual just waiting for someone to slip-up so He can blast them.

Hipster Christians like to picture Jesus as a cool guy listening to vinyl and having deep philosophical discussions with his followers at a local Starbucks.

It’s so strange how the Jesus we like to picture somehow always looks like us and condemns the sins we hate and ignores the sins we commit.

One of the best proofs that Christianity is not a man-made religion is that in many ways Jesus looks nothing like us. His life as a perfect human is so foreign to us.

The way He condemned all sins, not just the ones engaged in by people we don’t like. The way He forgave all sins, not just the ones we indulge in. It is completely not like us. And not very “bendable.”

I did not create the Jesus of the Bible in my own image. And I can tell that because, unfortunately, we don’t look enough alike.

Too often, I’m praying to a Jesus that more closely resembles that toy than the real thing. I’m not spending enough time with Jesus – real, truthful, solid, holy, convicting, loving, perfect, human, God, Jesus.

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About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.