Monday, December 11, 2006

Day 11: Jesus is a Stinker

Sometimes, I think my background as a sociologist of religion, ergo an observer of religious constructs and systems, makes me jaded. For example, this article in today's Washington Post.

Inquiry Sought Over Evangelical Video: Defense Department Asked to Examine Officers' Acts Supporting Christian Group

Year's ago, I likely would have read it and thought very little of it. But as it is, I try to pay attention to language and phrases as they are sometimes uttered unwittingly and overtly without intending to be offensive or short-sighted. And yet, they can be potentially stupid and offensive if you stand outside of what it is you're saying or you believe and you look in with objective, open eyes.

(Please note: I'm not saying that people of faith are stupid or offensive. What I am saying is, sometimes our use of language that is common to us and those who believe like we do seems perfectly normal. To us. And, we assume, by default, to others as well. But if we stand outside of our language and rhetoric and listen with the ears of those who are receiving our words, we may find that our language needs some modification in order for it to be better received.)

For example, the other day, the Post featured an editorial by one of America's foremost historians and commentators, Douglas Brinkley. In writing that historians should be cautious about declaring George W. Bush the worst president ever (which, may I say subjectively, he is, but that's not the point), Brinkley wrote, "Clearly it's dangerous for historians to wield the 'worst president' label like a scalp-hungry tomahawk (emphasis added) simply because they object to Bush's record." (Read the entire piece here, if you'd like.)

Did Brinkley really say that? I thought. Did he actually use the words "like a scalp-hungry tomahawk"? I even e-mailed him and asked, I was so astonished. I have yet to hear back from him, by the way.

Likewise, in the above linked article from today's Post, Army Brig. General Bob Casen is quoted as saying, "I immediately feel like I am being held accountable, because we are the aroma of Jesus Christ." (Emphasis added.)

My eyes came to a screeching halt on that sentence. Is this a new phrase in the evangelical lexicon? The aroma of Jesus Christ? What is that exactly? (See above parenthetical re: esoteric/common language.)

Did Jesus finally come out with His own line of perfumes and colognes? Should we expect a clothing line next? Something heavy in shrouds and the latest in sandals? Or maybe something more heavenly like white, flowing robes (though I have heard that brown is the new black this season. I wonder how He'll work that one in?)

Or, is Christ a bit smelly and moldering after all those years away from earth and, by some Roman Catholic-like miracle, His pungency alights on the faithful and gives them an odor that only the truly devout can ascertain through their supposedly anointed olfactory senses? Sort of like a secret handshake or something?

I don't mean to be sacrilegious here (or maybe I do), especially since I believe in Christ, but I'm not wrapping my head around this new moniker, the aroma of Jesus Christ. And, if you'll pardon my hubris here, if I were Jesus, I'm not sure I'd want to be an aroma.

"Behold, I am Jesus Christ, come into the world to... smell."

Hm. Nope. Just not the same as His original message.


Brunch Bird said...

OH MY GOD! This morning while reading the paper at breakfast I said to my boyfriend, "Uh, I know that people who love the Jesus tend to speak in odd ways about their relationship with him, but listen to this..." What is with that?!

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Brunch Bird: I've become pretty adept at understanding evangelical-speak, but this one left me flummoxed. I wonder if the reporter misquoted Gen. Casen and actually meant 'aura'? Now that would have made sense, but this is just plain kooky.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what he did smell like? B.O and wet leather, no doubt!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I haven't so hard all day! The AROMA of Jesus Christ.

That could bring on some funny swearing in the near future:

Like God's TEETH, man!

I give you

Holy Aroma of Christ!


By the Stench of Christ, that's nasty!

Anonymous said...

Always remain on guard against fundy lunatics, Janet... especially fundy lunatics in the military.

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Ms. U: I'm not entirely sure I want to know. Up until about the mid-20th century, I imagine humans were a smelly lot. There's a reason I was born AFTER the development of deodorant.

SML: I'm glad that made you... laugh??... I'm assuming. If it made you cry, I'm going to be upset.

Gunfighter: Anything that tilts over into fundamentalist or orthodox scares me. There's very little to no reasoning or conversing with a fundie. Everything is black and white and colored by zealotry.

Brunch Bird said...

Although, if you think about it this opens a whole new line of products that can be marketed to the evangelicals: Jesus Bath&Bady Works lotion, scratch 'n sniff Jesus stickers, Jesus Yankee Candles..."I just love walking into my home and being greeted by the sweet smell of Christ."

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Brunch Bird: Could you imagine the branding meetings for this?

If Jesus had been born in the 20th/21st century, there'd be an entire line of toys and books and music and food and product endorsements.

Oh, wait. There already is....

Still, I'd like to think these would be added to the mix:

Eau du Redeemer: That Heavenly Fragrance That Saves the Date

Resurrection Remedies: Feel Like a New Man/Woman in Three Days or Less!

Aroma of Jesus Bath Salts: For that special, cleansed feeling

And, taking a page from you, Brunch Bird...

The Bath & Body Works Trilogy: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Scented Lotions

Yankee Candle's Sandalwood of Christ

P.S. This comment is copyrighted and may not be used without permission. Just in case I decide to get into stand up one day, I'll need the material.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Yeah yeah, I meant LAUGHED. I'm entitled to a grammatical error once in a while, aren't I?

Then I read the further comments and laughed even harder! You really could and should do standup. Sheesh. I love it all.

IsaythesethingsinthesmellofJesusChrist. Amen.

Sideon said...

((insert picture of Sideon laughing so hard he can't breath - tears pouring from his eyes - but managing to type this without holding his guts from the abdominal pain))

Sweet Jeebus.

Please please PLEASE design a t-shirt with the new phrase "aroma of Christ." Would that be the French line: Eu De Christos?

You are so added, Janet :)

Thank you!

Janet M. Kincaid said...

A-ha! Sideon, I knew you'd appreciate this one. As for product... Hm... I'm thinking I should look into Cafe Press.

Eau de Christos. That's a good one, too!

Zanne said...

Oh My Heaven! Missed this before and now I'm sitting here laughing my tush off! Great commentary!

Anonymous said...

It’s actually a reference straight out of the Bible to a passage in 2 Corinthians.

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Anon: Thank you for that. Good to know it's a scriptural passage. Nevertheless, for those not as versed in the Bible, it comes across as kooky and enters the genre of esoteric language that builds barriers rather than bridges. As a sociologist, my suggestion would be to say something like, "When I see others of my faith, I feel more accountable because we have taken it upon ourselves to represent Christ."

Having said that, the translation you reference is the NIV, whereas the KJV refers to the "sweet savour of Christ." I think--and this is all tongue in cheek--I'd rather be sweetly savoury than an aroma. The latter is often synonymous with flatulance, the former with things that smell good. Just saying...

The larger issue, though, is, as I said, the use of esoteric language. It's appropriate in its proper context and setting, but otherwise can appear elitist and silly. It's just something to think about...

Swizzies said...

Well, if it's in The Good Book, then The Holy Aroma must indeed be part and parcel of The Word.

Thus sayeth Anonymous.

Especially if it's written by my old buddy Paul. What a fun guy! He should know from aromas, really, drenched as he is in the Stench of the Holy Patriarchy, v 1.0.

Oy, what's that smell?? Jesus is in the HOUSE!!

Kaidydid said...

I don't know if I should run screaming from this blog in fear of the lightning strikes or if I should sit here and laugh. So instead I'll tell you that I followed my father's nagging advice to "look the word up in the dictionary". Interesting to note that one of the definitions of savour is "a distinctive quality". So I replaced the word savour with the phrase distinctive quality in the verses of 2 Corinthians and found new meaning in the verses. Still I cannot imagine describing the qualities of Christ as the aroma of Christ. I don't care if the word savour also means smell, sometimes the answers from the thesaurus just do not work. Aroma of Christ indeed...sniff ya' later!

NG said...

One of my favorite quotes, by David Eddings:

"You smell, father."

"No, Pol, I stink. You smell."

Janet M Kincaid said...

NG: How did you end up all the way back here in December!? Great quote from David Eddings, by the way. I confess, I've never heard of him. Anything of his you'd recommend to a first-time reader?