Home     About     Contact     

The Christmas Card that Never Was

But Reached Biblical Proportions Despite —

Christmas Creativity

Beginning 6 years ago I started work on a holiday card that would feature a series of gun-toting Jesus’ from online. I was tempted by the eye-catching efforts of various “artists” to recruit this man, legendary for his non-violent views, to their own base purposes. It was to be an irreverent, “He’d Turn in His Grave” kind of card. I would staple it together into as a found-art booklet that would amuse and impress friends with my Crazy Christmas Creativity. Little did I know how vastly infectious the Jesus meme is when it enters one’s life and consciousness.

So, how do we know who Jesus is? We readily recognize this bearded longhair, even in disguise.

Google Jesus pgs. 48 and 43

This phenomenon arises from self-referential, European painting traditions with special credit to Christian ad man Warner Sallman who illustrated .5 million devotional cards that went to WW2 with our GIs in a pre-internet, viral meme-surge that proliferates to this day. Almost all god-awful Jesus art seems to nod to this guy’s art, whether solemnly, satanically or satirically as in the below illustration where Sallman critics note that the same Jesus head is repeated on various bodies of his work.

 

The Sallmanian indoctrination allows us to spot impostors instantly; interlopers like Jesus Malverde: bandana wearing, cowboy, narco-saint, a meme, fascinating in his own right partly because it’s unclear if he ever, actually lived.

Jesus, narco-saint Jesus Malverde

Yes, this is a story of asides, asides of asides that begat asides, of tangential thinking and viral clicking. To say that one thing led to another would be a gross understatement. Eight pages of mere, gun-toting Xmas-booklet fun, ballooned to a prodigious database of deity debasement research.

I must now confess to what is probably obvious: Instead of just looking for “gun jesus” I’d been creatively googling other denominations. Jesus folders popped up on my screen like one of Moses’ plagues, infectious and spreading: Toy Jesus, Gangster Jesus, Pepper-spraying Jesus, Jesus urinals, underpants, costumes, food, drugs, etc, etc. Sometimes I hit “motherlodes” aka other people’s collections. In these cases I felt no option but to download their entire inventories in one swoop. It made no sense to go searching for them “honestly…” meaning what, exactly? Like a 40’s archeologist in someone else’s country, I would scoop up whatever I could, keep it, frame it, try to organize it and write about it. My hoarder mentality allowed the collection to overflow its pages more than once.

I baptized the book Oh MY God, (emphasis on the MY), then changed it to Google Jesus; the Life of Christ Taken in Vain Online, in an attempt to be more self-explanatory and perhaps exculpatory. I arranged the categories to roughly follow the chronology of Jesus’ official life whenever possible: mother, baby, manger friends, a youth of faith-building fun, water-walking, medically miraculous adulthood… Due to the reality of the internet however, the Newest Testament had chapters and incidents not found in the original sacred texts which I nonetheless included based on my data. I felt it imperative to insert a sex life followed by a corporate stint to sell all the merchandise with His name on it. Post-business career came violent, warlike periods, partying, crime and capital punishment, as frequently follow each other in real life, until He sails back in on a plume of smoking toast to defy expectations. Thus, it became necessary to create a table of contents.

Table of Contents

I fell in love with a vile, clipart character I call “Crossy,” paid money for his rights and Photoshopped him into my mascot-co-host. These things took time. People often suggested I just do a website because it would be so much cheaper but I really wanted a book. I love everything about religious books: the embossing, the gilding, paintings and embellishments, the silky almost transparent paper… everything but the contents. I wanted all the trappings with MY contents. A friend of mine gilded the page edges of some of my indigo, on-demand prototypes for me and I glued plastic jewels to the spines and spent a lot more time designing elaborate, chapter title pages.

My pictures were essentially my words that I was trying to line up in narrative form, a “Book of Hours” meets “The National Inquirer,” more pictures than words; in fact, so far, no words. I was finding it difficult to add anything to the many thousand words my pictures were painting so effectively for themselves, wordlessly like medieval stained glass windows. So, I spent hours working on elaborate borders made of penises, syringes, pistols and fireballs, instead of writing.

Theme Embracing Borders

The book seemed to need some kind of credo though, so I finally wrote a series of alliterations:
“Greenbacks give Jesus a run for His messianic money. Fiscally faithful, Godly greed and devout dedication to the dollar delineate a certain sect of selective sectarians and industrial imposters,”

“We like it a lot when the Lord not only loves us, but also helpfully hates our enemies. Watch out when this fearful friend and fierce fighter for our every fantasy gets ferociously furious.”

“Zombified zeitgeist, fictional figment of far-fetched fantasy, He breezes back on marvelous mushroom clouds of Christian creativity, repeatedly reappearing in a curious collection of sundry, sacred snacks. “

And limericks:

There are those for whom God’s only Son
Just exists for their personal fun
And there’s more than one game
Bearing Jesus’ name
Reaping prophet profits by the ton

There is nothing upon which to base
Our conceptions of Jesus’ face
But there still is a need
That can never succeed
To put some kind of picture in place

If as surgeon you are an upstart
And you lack confidence in your art
You should cut with great care
All the while deep in prayer
Asking Jesus to make you more smart

I was surprised at how few people I showed it to weren’t offended. Almost no one was. I thought it would be shocking but apparently they’d seen worse. Prototypes sold. A minister promised to use it in doctrinal discussions. I got excited about the book being a potential commercial success.

The Best of the Worst

I sent a one sheet off to Adam Parfrey of Feral House who advertises “high quality books on forbidden topics” and he emailed me back right away, saying he was interested. I quickly mailed off a copy of Prototype Version 5. Adam had 2 issues with it: First, that it was too expensive to print all the full color pages and second, that unless I had permission from all of the artists involved, there was a potential for lawsuits. He said that in his experience people just want to be credited, but at this point, researching all the credits would have taken me another year. Two lawyers I knew both agreed the book fell into the “satire“ category of fair use, but they warned that that didn’t mean angry artists wouldn’t sue anyway.

Here I try to conjure up the butter-stained letter from the indignant baker of Jesus cookies or the formal missive from the lawyer of the guy who drew “Jesus Fucking Christ,” although a dry letter from a Jesus wig manufacturer is probably more likely.

It’s probably okay Google Jesus was never published, since I could live without court appearances although I kind of wish I knew what would have happened. But maybe it’s better if not too many people look at this stuff. Maybe it’s not good for you. The Muslims are probably on to something too, when they forbid the likenesses of religious figures. I still want to share it though. No single topic has ever made me laugh like this.

And so verily, verily I suggest unto you, Ask Not “What Would Jesus Do?”, but ask instead …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Guy Zimmerman says:

    Fantastic, Naomi. It’s great to see this work reach the TQ audience – a sanity check for these crazy times.

    Thanks!

    GZ

  2. Fantastic, thanks Naomi!

  3. wow. Naomi, I feel like you should get an honorary degree for this work! From some southern university. I always appreciate your artistry and sharp with and incredible talent. – milo

Speak Your Mind

*