The Fetishization of Angry Jesus
We need to stop using the stories of Jesus rebuking, judging, and flipping tables, as justification for our own poor behavior.
The other day someone on the internet got mad at me. He accused me of not actually believing the things I say I believe. And he said that, not only am I am NOT a Christian, but I’m a modern day Saducee, and exactly the kind of person Jesus fought with and who got him murdered. 😱😱
Now, this is hardly the worst of what people say about me, but on that particular day I decided to reply. After being accused of lying and hypocrisy, and after being told I was the kind of person who got an innocent man murdered, I said to this guy:
You’re not very kind (at least, here in this Digital space. Maybe IRL it's different?). Perhaps that's a fruit of the spirit you might spend some quality time investing in.
To which he said:
It’s not about being kind. It’s about rebuking a person who is:
A. Perverting the word of the Lord, and
B. A hypocrite
(And then he added)
Jesus did it all the time. If you were legitimately a Christian you would know this.
Can we talk about this perspective for a minute?
I call this the Fetishization of Angry Jesus
It’s when people use the stories of Jesus “rebuking people” and “turning over the tables” as justification for their own self-righteous, arrogant, prickish behaviors.
I should know, I’m one of them.
I’ve done this very thing.
But I’m trying to do it less often and here’s why.
At the very least, Jesus was an incredibly enlightened spiritual thinker who possessed deep insights into the human condition. And at most he was, you know, God incarnate. So even on his worst day he was a million times smarter and wiser than I am on my best day.
Now, did Jesus call people out for being hypocrites?
And did he get really pissed off and flip over tables because poor folks were being ripped off by religious pretenders looking to make a buck?
Yeah. He did that, too.
But do I think I possess the same level of insight into the human heart that would justify such judging and table-flipping?
Meh… I don’t know.
But it’s so tempting, isn’t it? To use these examples of the “angry Jesus” to justify our sense of moral self-righteousness.
This happens over and over again in situations where there is this established sense of what it means to be a decent human being, a kind of agreed up ethos of how to treat one another in a civilized society with decency and respect. But then here comes someone who, honestly, is just being a jerk. Calling people names, judging people’s character, all the while claiming some kind of moral superiority.
And should they get called out on it, like, “Hey, dude, everyone in the pool is pretty chill, enjoying themselves, and then you cannon-balled in and haven’t stopped splashing everyone’s face… like, what’s your deal?”
And they just sorta shrug their shoulders and say, “What, Jesus called out hypocrites and flipped over tables. So I can too.” 🤦🏻♂️
Here’s why I chose to say to this guy, “You’re not being very Kind.”
The apostle Paul listed “kindness” as one of the fruits of the spirit (which is like a fancy way of saying, “it’s what your life looks when you’re living in harmony with God”).
People who fetishize Angry Jesus, who use these few examples of Jesus getting bent out of shape as justification for their lack of decency and respect, seem to think kindness doesn’t matter because WWJD?
And maybe that’s the problem.
Maybe it’s time we slow down with the whole What Would Jesus Do thing.
For unless you’re ready to tell me that you are as grounded, intelligent, and enlightened as Jesus was…
maybe you shouldn’t try and do everything he did.
My gut tells me that something all of us are capable of.
And since it’s a fruit of the Spirit—and rebuking others and table-flipping are not—maybe we could spend more time being kind to one another, and less time convincing ourselves that Jesus is totally cool with it when we name call , criticize, and judge people we’ve never even met.