Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hipster Jesus

The first thing that popped into my head when I came across this latest PR campaign of the Catholic church was a scene from the movie Dogma. The sketch that has George Carlin as a bishop pitching "Buddy Christ" is still incredibly funny but doesn't seem quite so absurd now. It also occurred to me that Jesus is the theological equivalent of a Ken doll. Christian theologians, clergy, and laity routinely dress the Christ figure up in whatever garb suits them without so much as a second thought. They ascribe whatever words and deeds fit the persona they want to believe in. It doesn't seem to be contradictory or an outright fabrication simply because the scriptures are so amorphous they can be made to justify whatever a believer wants to project onto their messiah action figure.

Setting aside the surrealistic/absurdist humor there are reasons to view this campaign in a more serious manner. I find it hard to believe that the Catholic hierarchy real thinks of Jesus as "the original hipster." According to the Penguin dictionary a hipster is "somebody who is keenly aware of and interested in new trends and unconventional patterns." The Catholic church has never been one to promote rebellion and non-comformity. So, why are they promoting this image? The simple answer is marketing. It is a PR ploy. A rather ridiculous one in light of what has preceded it. No amount of imaginary clothing can adequately cover the church's recent attack on its own nuns or the temper tantrum it has been throwing over insurance coverage of contraception for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

This hipster image, like the intentions of the hierarchy, is disingenuous. I have no doubt that it is all about keeping up the church's numbers in order to retain its power and influence. So long as the average believer and a complacent media are content to play dress up it will probably work, at least partially. This isn not so funny since the real world has real problems that fairy tales and folklore won't help solve.

Grow up!

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