Friday, April 13, 2012

Our Own Personal Jesus

With apologies to the great song by Depeche Mode and Johnny Cash, we do have our own personal understanding of Jesus- and it is most likely culturally based. LiveScience last week posted an article about how our overall American view of Jesus differs from the South Korean view. the money quote:

Americans are more likely to associate Jesus Christ with positive terms such as "love" and "amazement" compared with South Koreans, who are more likely to associate the founder of Christianity with words like "sacrifice," "blood" and "suffering." The results held true for both Christians and non-Christians in each culture, according to study researcher Shigehiro Oishi, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.

Perhaps the only ones to be surprised by this would be the fundamentalists who are quite sure, thank you, that their particular is THE ONLY correct one, even if no one else has ever seen it before. (Okay- we all do that. My apologies to the fundamentalists. Maybe.) Experience, culture, language can all seriously affect how we see and understand Jesus.

Last week, for example, in some national cultures, there were stories of people undergoing actual crucifixion-type rituals including being literally nailed to a cross- in order to fulfill cultural expectations of Good Friday. Many would frown on that and find it less that appropriate. yet the culture (or perhaps more so, sub-cultures) that do that see it as quite faithful to Jesus and the Gospel.

What I find interesting is that Live Science has found this out.

It's possible that these different views of Jesus arise from different conceptions of Christianity, Oishi wrote. South Korean culture is traditionally family-focused, with an emphasis on forgoing one's own needs for the needs of relatives. That could result in an emphasis on Jesus' sacrifices. Cultural factors determine an "ideal" personality, Eggleston told LiveScience, and that ideal could then be transferred onto Jesus, who was, after all, supposed to be the perfect model of humanity.

It's also possible that Americans simply view themselves as happier than South Koreans, so they project their own happiness onto Jesus, the researchers wrote.
If nothing else, this kind of thing helps me learn a little bit of humility when I think I have THE answers to who, what, and why about Jesus. I know so little. Even less than that, actually. And as I have said here before, I am not sure any God I, poor and powerless human, could describe and understand would be a God worth worshiping.

So here's Johnny Cash's amazing version of Personal Jesus.

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