As far back as I can remember I’ve had an inaccurate but vivid picture in my mind regarding the physical manifestation of the characteristics for two out of the big three deities.
Father and son , minus the holy spirit- who was some sort of bird or flame or a bird on fire or an angry phoenix- like viper who blinds or smites you.
Or something like that.
Back when we were small, powerless and impressionable some jokester decided it would be a great idea to put paintings, stained glass murals and bold statues all over our school depicting Jesus as a blond-haired blue-eyed nordic holy man. Like a 70s hippie or a reject from a Swedish knock off of the Eagles, he was there in all his glory beckoning us to hang out and talk about love and understanding while he strummed his guitar and lunched on humus. He always had his hand extended and he was usually within a stones throw of his mom, Mary. She of the lovely pale skin and flowing honey locks partially hidden under the blue and white flowing robes and the hauntingly familiar gladiator sandals. ( seriously, I had a pair in high school).
This never sat right with me.
When I finally got a clue that I could rebel without drowning in a pit of man-made despair on earth followed by a long stint clawing my way out of a stew of human misery in hell, I actually questioned the historical accuracy of this depiction. One day I asked someone why Jesus looked like Thor.
Their response was to ask me what I though God (real god) looked like and why did I think no one ever tried drawing a picture of him.
If I were being honest I would’ve told him that I’ve always pictured God looking like a Titan version of George Washington with a trident (for style) and long flowing white hair. Jesus, however, was always blonde. The image was further enhanced and disturbingly embedded when a grade school nun talked about how she was “betrothed” to Jesus and loved looking at his “beautiful blue eyes” when she was asked why she wore a wedding band on her right hand when she wasn’t allowed to get married. This also served as a warning that she had descended into absolute madness.
This was painful and wrong.
Anyway, years later I was walking down a New York City street with my boyfriend – a fervent Catholic and big believer in everything bible related - when we came across a most interesting street preacher. He was a massive African-American man dressed in a white floor-length toga and sporting a plastic crown of thorns. He was wailing about the “big cover up” and stopped us to make sure we knew that Jesus was a dark-skinned man with black hair.
This guy got it, and I was just about to strike up a discussion with this truth spreader when my boyfriend dragged me away. Apparently, it was more important to get into a seedy bar with our pitifully inadequate fake I.D.’s than it was to help rewrite the history of the Catholic Church. Excuse me.
Even the most rabid Catholic should be open to new ideas but because everyone I knew at the time couldn’t half-ass it with their beliefs I found myself in a raging debate with a guy who would not bend. No matter how many times I tried to reason with my beau on the walk down to our destination he insisted everything we’d been taught was truth absolute.
Well, it should be noted he was all over bending the rules on premarital sex and birth control, but that was my ass on the way to getting smote, not his.
Not too long ago I got the opportunity to see David Sedaris read a short story he’d just written on the unrealistic portrayal of Jesus in paintings and books. He complained about the same stuff I did: the super attractiveness, the height, the gentle blue eyes. He talked of replacing him with a short slovenly version that people couldn’t rally behind, because people really LIKE good-looking people and it would really test their faith if they had to summon the same kind of devotion for an ugly dude.
People would come around, and soon we’d all have destroyed our ideas of divine perfection looking only one way. Diversity Divinity.