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Tacky Advertising and the Reality of Jesus

From the BBC Online:
KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian newspaper was ordered to shut down after it published an image of Jesus holding a cigarette and what appeared to be a can of beer.
Religion is a famously sensitive subject in Malaysia.
The newspaper has insisted that it printed the picture by accident after a graphics editor failed to notice that Jesus was smoking. So the beer can was OK?
Christian groups said that although the Jesus of the Bible was a compassionate figure who turned water into wine, shared a flagon with his disciples at the Last Supper and mixed with tax collectors and prostitutes, this item was beyond the pale, and some action should be taken against the newspaper. When the paper formally apologized, the Christians let the issue go.
But not the authorities. The local press reported that a Tamil political party leader entered a formal charge, saying the picture threatened national harmony. That's a pretty heavy rap to lay on a cartoon. The order to shut down was issued by the national Internal Security Ministry. The newspaper has appealed the judgment.
While checking that story out, I came across this one reported by the Associated Press:
SINGAPORE — "A cosmetics line that extolled the virtues of 'Looking Good for Jesus' has been pulled from stores in Singapore after a number of complaints … one perfume product has packaging with the image of Jesus … as he looks toward the heavens, while a heavily made up blond woman, with an arm draped across his shoulder, gazes dreamily at his face."
The majority religion in Singapore is Buddhism. The government and the population are mostly quite open and tolerant of religious pluralism. The chain of stores killed the ad at the first complaint; mustn't offend potential customers.
Well whadya know! The public media portrayed a human Jesus, a man, doing things that ordinary men do, and got its managerial knuckles rapped for it, in a country whose official religion is Islam. So much for the widespread belief that all Muslims are of the Taliban type.
One has to wonder what vacuous mentality came up with this gem of insensitive money-grubbing marketing technique.
Perhaps they took a page from a U.S. Business College textbook for Advertising 101.
Here, Eternity is a perfume by Calvin Klein and Jesus is a brand of jeans. One advertising firm devotes an entire website to different ways of using images of Jesus to sell, including putting his likeness on a beer mug, seating him at a table with a PR team choosing a logo, and a General Motors ad devoutly declaring that "Jesus Would Drive A Hummer" because of its comparatively lower pollution output.
Not malicious, just bad taste and poor judgment. As an Episcopalian, I know that Tacky is one of the deadly sins.
But I must say that such employment of Jesus reveals an element of truth that has yet to penetrate very deeply into the psyche of more conventional thinkers-about-Jesus.
Nothing I was ever taught about Jesus led me to think he may have fought with his siblings, got pimples or had B.O., broke an arm playing football, or had to struggle with raging hormones. Did he ever get a traffic ticket or have a hangover or the mumps?
One doesn't expect to learn things like that from the Bible, but isn't it a bit regrettable that hucksters manage to come up with a more plausible, more human Jesus than is to be found in church literature? I wonder what he would look like shirtless, wearing biker's boots and a leather vest, driving a Harley hog.
Does anybody in Singapore read this column, or an airline crew member who flies there? I'd really like to get some of that shampoo wrapping before it's all thrown in the trash.

Editor's note: W. Jackson "Jack" Wilson is a psychologist, an Episcopal priest, a sometime academic and a writer living in Colorado. He writes with humor, whimsy, passion and penetrating insight into the human condition. And in Pushkin, Russia, a toilet is named in his honor.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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