~ From an email sent on Monday, July 19 to a pastor at Portland Mennonite Church...
If it was you who did it, and rumors abound that it was you,... the masked Jesus may just be prophetic.
By that, I mean, enacted parable, transgressive art, maybe even a meme.
Since our church leadership has been struggling with the window, for quite a while, why not try something on? In doing so, something was transgressed. No doubt there will be a conversation to follow. Some will see it as an attack on the holy, tantamount to tampering with the imago deo, the image of god. But, much art is transgressive, isn't it. You know, the original image by Warner Sallman is copyrighted and owned by Anderson University, Church of God, Anderson, Indiana. Who knows, maybe PMC and its Friends forebears used a copyrighted image, let alone made a graven image. Some fundamentalists might think of us as popish for having it, but the real institution here is not catholic, but Evangelical. The transgression is of the Evangelical subculture and its (white? European?) Jesus.
But, why is Jesus wearing a mask? Does he need a mask? Could he get Covid-19? If he was really born in Bethlehem, wouldn't that make him Palestinian, and I am guessing there are no shots to be given out there. He would be wise to wear a mask, no? In fact, isn't the image of god effaced every time a Palestinian, let alone a Palestinian Christian, gets Covid-19 and dies, or anyone for that matter?
When Jesus got baptized, that sign, most associated with repentance, was surely an affront to the very sensibilities of his society, surely he did not need to get baptized, and John said as much.... but it was not to be. Baptism was a sign of need, at the very least a need for change, a turning, and thus a sign. Prophetic. That's on you John!
But, at the very least, if the answer to WWJD?, is "wear a mask, as a sign, and for practical reasons," then it is possible that Jesus is taking a side here. We like pro-life, don't we? Jesus is siding with life. Don't get Covid-19 and don't give Covid-19, if you can help doing so. Vaccines? First world arguments, I guess. Nice to have the luxury. My dear Pentecostal sister, wouldn't get a vaccine, although we were raised on them. As children, we got the sugar cube vaccine for polio. We knew people who got it. Our Pentecostal parents did not want us getting polio, and neither did their preachers. They weren't scientists, they were just real. Now we are giving out special stars for not getting vaccinated. But when my Pentecostal sister got Covid-19 from her son, in an event that sickened 10 and killed two at her church, she went to the hospital within days and got all the latest monoclonal antibodies she could. No, they weren't tested as much as the vaccines, and who knows maybe some people died taking them, but she pushed to the head of the line to get them, who is arguing at that point. Thankfully, she improved quickly. Good meds. But she gives no credit to the meds, only Jesus, who healed her. And, you have Jesus wearing a mask. She was in church two weeks after getting Covid, and she was still coughing up a storm. She said everyone in church was staring at her so she slipped out and left. Hmm. She still had two funerals to go to that month for friends who died of Covid at her church. I said to her, "that's so sad." She said to me, "Yes, it is soooo sad." Jesus freaking Wept!!!
I bet his mask is wet!
I assume you can't say these things from the pulpit, so a Jesus who is silent, knocking behind a mask, well that can be evocative, the meaning ambiguous, open to interpretation. You know what they said in the Life of Brian, "Blessed are the cheesemakers? What's so special about the cheesmakers?"
So, perhaps, our stained glass window can be prophetic art, kind of like grafitti. You know, a picture is worth a thousand words. And let's face it, deface it maybe, Jesus is still patiently knocking, "anybody home?"
Funny, most of churched America wouldn't get your masked-Jesus, and if they did, they might get angry. Why do you have to be so divisive? But, unchurched America might just be interested in Masked-Jesus. Jesus isn't a science major, and he will tell you as much. He seems to be saying, let the science guys study this, far be it from me to act like I know more than them. It just seems like it is pretty simple, as they explain it, we could stop most of the transmission with masks, so why not try that.
When I taught sociology at George Fox University, I did a community survey. One of the questions I used, asked Newberg community members about the relative value of toleration. A lady called me and complained about the survey. She thought it unfortunate I used a loaded word like tolerance. On its face, I don't think tolerance is particularly loaded, and I like words like civic and community too, but I fear they also are losing favor.
So, if you did it, if you were the one who masked Jesus, so that like Zoro of old, we have to ask, "who is that masked man," well, maybe the discussion will be fruitful, even if loaded. But, I wouldn't admit it, if I were you. If anyone asked you if you put a mask on Jesus, if I were you, I would don my mask and then say, "read my lips." As long as you have a mask and you whisper your answer, you could answer, "darn tootin," or "esyay", or "You might think so, I couldn't possibly comment." That should do it.
If people ask about the mask, just tell them that it is little Jesus meek and mild.
Jesus is knocking, but, he is not so bold. He wears a mask. He doesn't like getting colds or the flu either. Should you answer the door, and I am not saying you should, maybe you should consider wearing a mask. What if Jesus is like you and won't get a vaccine shot? I'm just saying, if that is what Jesus would do, do you want to be the one to give Jesus Covid? I'm just saying...