When Philly Jesus makes real Jesus confusing

Maybe you haven’t heard of Philly Jesus (PJ). Mike Grant found the LORD as he describes as the stone that found me when I was at the bottom. From musical theatre to hip hop, dude has been into public performance for a while and into being a born again Christian lately. Stories differ on how/why this white boy put on the “Jesus jersey” but a following of 11k on Instagram and 3.7k on Twitter and pieces by the BBC point towards people paying attention to his antics.

This morning, he retweeted this Philly.com article that got me thinking more about how not cute I think PJ’s schtick has become. I thought a goofy white dude at Black Lives Matter protests or playing hockey at City Hall was endearing. Just imagining Jesus showing up in Philly is kind of cool. I also think Black Jesus is funny – especially parts with King BachI quickly went from “eh, that’s kind of interesting” to “SMH” for two big reasons. He began a $70k Gofundme campaign so he can buy a fancy car and go on tour to other cities. No doubt connected to likely funders, he went from mooching off of SCOTUS decision celebrations to deleting all his gay friendly posts describing his new rather rugged position against homosexuality (see that Philly.com article).

I think I’m learning:

People have to do a lot of work to take real Jesus seriously. PJ’s antics seemed to have swung people from “Heyo – Jesus is kind of cool” to “Oh, yeah. Christians are judgmental and they want money for fancy cars.” To spend time listening in prayer, studying the Gospel, or devoting your life to the Way of Christ is totally awesome. Did it just become harder to access in Philadelphia?

People will give money to something because it’s funny, because they think it’s cool, but are often challenged to share their heart and wallet with what’s most important to them. I’m grateful to be among so many dedicated partners in Circle of Hope who generously make love happen. I do not take it for granted.

If you want to be a Christian, you represent others with your opinions. If you try to be a public person or persona who claims to be a Christian, you probably represent more people than gave you permission to. Your political profile pics or memes that you share are more than personal expression. Feel the good that goes with being part of the Body and be as generous as you can as the nation processes change.

I talk to people whose only perceptions of Christians are Jimmy Swaggart, George Bush, the Pope, and/or some celebrity like Shia LaBeouf. Drawing closer to the heart of God through being formed into a people with a common purpose might sound more confusing than someone condemning immorality and asking for money to build their special building nowadays. Let’s keep demonstrating what it’s like to find our true selves in Christ. Let’s keep sharing the love that fills us. Let’s keep walking in the way that brings healing, justice, and peace in the land with our Creator who very much wants to keep the Redemption Project going.



Lessons from crying over a teenage sick love story

I accidentally watched the The Fault in Our Stars last night and I wept. Accidentally as in Martha and I watched the end of Big together before her cell meeting and it was on next (free HBO for a few more months). I think I kept watching it because my kids and I just saw the two star-crossed lovers play siblings the other day in Insurgent and I was pleased they were getting along so well.

I don’t remember crying so much during a film. Maybe I cried because I was alone and my tween & teen daughters were upstairs asleep and I’m vulnerable to sentimental stories about losing daughters. Maybe I burst into tears because my friend Karen finished her long battle with lupus last week and I’ve been suspending my feelings about my loss until her memorial. I don’t think it was because these winsome teenagers’ humanity and process of staring death in the face put me in touch with how precious and fragile life is – sharing romantic love or feeling deep gratitude for what we’ve been given speak to me.

You may actually think Young Adult books or movies based on them are silly, overly simple, or not worth your time. You may think the story is basically a melodramatic illustration of the five stages of grief. As you learn to live with pain or learn from someone suffering with a long-term illness, I hope some of my takeaways from the film could be useful to you.

You carry your pain with you, and others can sense it even if you hide it. Trying to put on a brave face all the time or pushing it down doesn’t actually fool those close to you. It’s like dragging luggage around. Wouldn’t it be better to have some help carrying it while you need it?

Gratitude is a powerful friend. Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes you need to practice. Even for something small like flowers blooming this week in Philadelphia, being grateful can shape your experience.

Have the feelings you have, not the ones you think you should have. Likewise, others not having the same feelings doesn’t make them not understand you or not love you. What you feel at the moment is relevant and those feelings don’t need to run your life.

Have a process with others without punishing yourself for setbacks. Let others in to help you find a path through the pain and get led on a journey. If it’s not linear you’re human. Don’t quit trying.

Jesus not only came into suffering (our suffering and the suffering of all of creation) but suffered. He wasn’t usually stoic yet He became who He was given to be. If we don’t learn how to grieve well, our grief will overflow in more damaging ways. There will be other, smaller things from traffic to mean people or microbetrayals to inconsideration that will beg for our fighting juices. I’m grateful for people like Karen, who not only suffered faithfully but taught us how to fight the Good Fight rather than getting caught up in the tiny battles.