Late Thursday night I got a phone call from Jesus. Yes, the Jesus, not a Mexican guy. Though maybe he is Mexican. I never thought to ask. Anyway, it had been a long time since we'd talked, so I was startled hear from him.
Jesus had something on his mind and for whatever reason, he wanted to discuss it with me. Considering you’d see me in church about as often as you’d see George W. Bush at a midnight showing of Brokeback Mountain, I was confused. Surely there were others out there more deserving of the call. But Jesus assured me he’d dialed the right number and, after a somewhat awkward reintroduction, we exchanged pleasantries. Jesus asked me if I ever got that bike I prayed to him for as a kid (no). I asked how his dad was doing (still omnipotent). Then he got to the reason for the call.
JESUS: Scott, I've been thinking about making a comeback, but lately I've had my doubts. After all this time, I'm not sure I'll make that much of a difference among you or find a receptive audience.
ME: Get the right producer, like Rick Rubin. Have you heard those last Johnny Cash albums? Rubin knows how to make older artists relevant for today’s audiences.
JESUS: Seriously. It breaks my heart to see what you do to each other every day down there. So much hatred. So much energy wasted on imposing yourselves on others. So much wasted on demanding your differences be accepted and celebrated while you go on hating other people for theirs. Is this a world that will take my message to heart?
ME: I’m not sure. These are the same people who nailed you to a cross the last time you shared that message and, I’ll tell you, the world hasn’t gotten any nicer to people who get in its way. But you've got a bigger following than you did last time around. Can't you build off that?
JESUS: Do I want to? I know there are millions of Christians, and most of them are well meaning and good. But too many seem to think that calling yourself a Christian gives you the right to do anything you want as long as you do it in my name. I'm not sure I can count on the base if you get me.
ME: So we’re not walking the walk?
JESUS: If you truly follow me and accept my teachings, you can’t limit your compassion only to the people you believe deserve it, who see things like you do. You can't just decide for yourselves who's worthy and who's not.
ME: No, we need a constitutional amendment for that.
JESUS: How can you claim me as your savior when you treat your brothers and sisters – many of whom also claim me as their savior – so terribly. I’m not saying you have to enjoy, appreciate or even understand someone else’s life, but it’s not your place to condemn them for it either. And you certainly have no right to invoke me when you do it. I promise you that God loves all his children – not just the ones you do.
ME: But as long as we stick to the Bible, we're in the clear, aren't we? I mean, it solves the origin of life debate right up front, for example.
JESUS: The Bible is a wonderful interpretation of my teachings and a record of the word of God. But it’s a book, written by many people through many thousands of years. As such, it’s subject to more than a few authorial biases and perspectives. I stand behind it as a good guide for living your life, but it’s not intended to tell you who it’s okay to hate. And it can’t answer every moral question you may have. You’ll find all that out when you die.
ME: It sounds like you’re leaning against a comeback.
JESUS: I don’t know. Even if I can make a difference, coming back is no easy feat. There are so many preparations to be made.
ME: But the people on that cable channel said that for just 10 percent of my gross annual income I can bring you back myself.
JESUS: I know what you make and I can tell you it would take a lot more than that.
ME: Okay. You called asking for my advice; here it is. Staying away could be the best thing for you. Being gone almost 2,000 years has done nothing but build up your reputation. Absence makes the faith grow stronger. Give it a few more years and if we haven't completely destroyed the place (a big if, I'll grant you), you come down, make a big entrance and set us all straight.
JESUS: Yes, maybe you're right. Besides Johnny Cash is up here now and I can tell you the stuff he recorded with Rubin doesn’t touch what he’s doing now.
ME: Yeah, well, it’s hard to top God as your producer. By the way Jesus, am I going to hell for writing this essay?
JESUS: Of course not. God has a much better sense of humor than people give him credit for. You’re going to hell for entirely different reasons.