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|In Our Image|
Mar. 21st, 2008 at 7:19 pm
“Well, they noticed that most Africans were going to hell because they could not accept the true religion because it was being taught by foreigners. So, Jesus accepted to be reborn as an African and teach us in a way that we can understand. Now we can be taught the gospel through our culture and not go to hell.”
— My colleague explaining his religion, Legio Maria
The sect is based on the idea that Jesus was reborn as Simeo Odeto, probably in the 1940s. His mother is reputed to be a virgin and the young Simeo is said to have made animals out of mud that then turned into real livestock. When Simeo, by then known as Baba Messiah, died, his followers awaited his resurrection. They are still waiting.
I understand making Christ over in our own image.
I get making Mary a Filipina or having her eat figs as she labored under a palm tree. I understand the motivation to make Jesus Christ someone we can understand, even when we twist and flail in doing so. A man in my ward regularly emphasizes that the rest of us are wrong to have made Jesus a pansy when really he was a burly manly man. I understand this brotherâ€™s motivationâ€”he also wants us to understand that he is a manly man, so of course he wants his deity that way too.
I am as guilty of this as anyone. I believe our duties to care for the poor supersede most other charges, so when I am asked to think about or talk about or teach about Christ, these are the teachings I ruminate on. As far as I am concerned, this is the most important of Christâ€™s teachings: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless.
But for all we do to manipulate his life to fit our image, we cannot touch his death. The atonement is deeply mysterious; it defies reason and laws. We cannot understand or explain it, but we feel it. We feel the comfort of forgiveness. Somehow the idea that a man felt our sorrows two thousand years ago makes them feel more bearable. When our loved ones die, we anticipate our reunion made possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We may disagree on the importance of good works and grace, but I think we do not disagree on the need for Christ. Although Christians may use different language to describe the inexplicable, Christâ€™s work is understood through our experiences. We being many are one in our need for the atonement.