But for the sake of this post, I want to focus on the album cover: A nearly iconic (OK, maybe just notorious) photo of Frampton himself, the neck of his Gibson Les Paul and two bright lights behind him playing second fiddle to his pasty white complexion, golden locks, seemingly stoned gaze and failure to button his shirt. I am drawn to this image because it bears a striking resemblance to most popular depictions of Jesus Christ our Lord. If that doesn't piss you off, it should.
It seems that somewhere down the line, people have forgotten or simply refuse to acknowledge that Jesus was Jewish by ancestry. With this in mind, it is very likely the Messiah had fairly dark skin, dark hair and brown eyes. He may have fulfilled the Jewish stereotype of possessing a relatively lengthy nose, and was probably about average height if not shorter (which had as much to do with people's general stature in the first century A.D. as the Jews' common physical traits). In addition, he probably rarely washed his clothes or cut his fingernails, and let's not even get started on whether or not the man even brushed his teeth. Ew. Our Awesome God's "spitting image" may have turned out to be a fairly nasty sight, and frankly, I'm totally comfortable with that. The Messiah is still the Messiah, whether or not he was much to look at.
Of course, an innumerable amount of medieval artists got all antsy about this notion and had to go and screw everything up. It's because of them (probably with the encouragement of more than a few northern European churches) that we now have the Nordic, Peter Frampton lookalike Jesus: Blonde, blue-eyed, tall, cleanly and so white we gotta wear shades just to look at any of these erroneous paintings. It seems that these Christians overlooked the Scriptural fact that God visited Earth in human form to save ONE people -- the Israelites, Awesome God's chosen noisemakers. Throughout The Holy Bible's four aural reviews of The Jesus Jam's tour throughout the Mediterranean, journalists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John make note of numerous lyrics that explain how the Jews have to hear the good tunes first, and none of this music will even apply to the Gentiles (i.e. everyone who isn't Jewish) until after The Jesus Jam, um, get run out of town. In other words, it's because of The Jesus Jam that European mutts like me are even allowed to join Awesome God's symphony.
But these stupid medieval artists just couldn't stomach that theological fact, portraying Jesus as an unmistakable Gentile and thereby setting in motion the still-prevalent image of Jesus as a white guy. There have been some notable exceptions, such as the Aramaic-speaking, very Jewish-looking Jesus in The Passion of the Christ (ironically portrayed by the U.S.-born James Caviezel), but in my experience most portrayals of Jesus still look like that from the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, in which a blonde, pearly white Jesus plays opposite a black Judas -- and here we are almost unanimously calling Song of the South racist! To be fair, though, northern European white folks aren't the only ones who have seemingly tried to "rescue" Jesus from his Palestinian heritage. Numerous African artists have recast the Son of God as a black man, and I wouldn't be surprised if numerous Asian or Latin American artists have committed similar historical revisions. Heck, if someone asked me to paint a picture of the Jesus Jam, who knows if I wouldn't be tempted to portray them as a ragtag bunch of awkward, bespectacled nerds like myself?
Besides being historically inaccurate, though, I think these attempts to portray Jesus as anything but Jewish has only helped to further feelings of anti-Semitism among Christians. Anti-Semitism certainly didn't originate with all of this misleading medieval art, and its roots in Christianity can be arguably traced back to The Holy Bible itself. For example, Matthew's review of The Jesus Jam's seminal tour was probably written by a Jew but didn't do much to help the Jews' image, particularly because Matthew routinely, shamelessly bashed the Stereophonic Pharisees and did a disturbingly good job of depicting the Jewish crowd that advocated for The Jesus Jam to pack up their instruments and never play in their neck of the woods again, so to speak. Since then, general tension between Jews and Christians increased over the following centuries, and it all culminated -- to put it politely -- with the Holocaust, during which at least one German bishop went through The Holy Bible and omitted any lyrics that linked The Jesus Jam back to their Jewish origins.
I hear about stories like this and I just want to cry. Especially as a Lutheran, it was depressing for me to not only learn that Martin Luther published treatises like On the Jews and Their Lies, but that such hateful sentiments were common in Europe during the 16th century. And it's even more distressing to see devout Christians like Mel Gibson and Rev. Jeremiah Wright still generate 15-minute media fodder with ill-advised anti-Semitic comments. If Christians continue to do this, all we amount to in my mind are teenagers badmouthing our parents just because we arbitrarily can't bear the thought of being associated with our roots -- we're rebelling against our religious ancestors just because we can.
And yes, folks, the Jews are our religious ancestors; if it wasn't for Judaism, Christianity wouldn't exist. Far too many Christians still commit one of the greatest heresies possible by only listening to the second, "newer" part of The Holy Bible box set, because they think the tunes contained in that portion are the only ones that apply to Christian listeners. The songs in the first, "older" section are often deemed too lengthy and challenging for Christians to listen to comfortably, especially those verses that mention circumcision, food laws, burnt offerings and holidays we never even observe. And while it is true some sections of The Holy Bible's "older" part aren't directly incorporated into most Christian renditions of "The Word," it is still necessary for us to listen to in order for the compilation's "newer" part to make sense. It isn't a matter of choosing between one section or the other -- they represent two distinct but complementary phases in Awesome God's ongoing musical career, and like any superb "greatest hits" collection, the compilers intended for Christians to listen actively to every song contained therein. It's called the Judeo-Christian tradition for a reason; "their" history is part of "our" history, too.
Several months ago, I heard one of my friends say that the only difference between Jews and Christians is whether or not one believes The Jesus Jam's rendition of "The Word" was the best that ever was and ever will be. And fundamentally, that's it -- according to most Jews, Go Down Moses' version of Awesome God's symphony still stands as the best. In that aforementioned "older" section of The Holy Bible, there are lyrical clues that the Israelites were expecting some revolutionary rocker to come blaring a version of "The Word" that would save them from the unbearably awful sounds that had polluted their once-mellifluous world. Some Jews thought The Jesus Jam instigated that revolution, and consequently those Jews became Christians. Other Jews think the revolution has yet to take place, and considered The Jesus Jam nothing more than a bunch of overrated opportunists who deserved to get run out of town. To put it another way, Jews think The Jesus Jam were The Sex Pistols, while Christians think they were The Clash.
Obviously, this fundamental disagreement is pretty huge, and probably provides more than enough justification for Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity to eventually split into two different religions after The Jesus Jam's demise on this Earth. But I see no reason that we can't agree to disagree -- at the end of the day, we still believe that "The Word" is the greatest piece of music ever written, regardless of who played it the best. Failing to treat someone with dignity simply because they possess different religious beliefs than you is like refusing to be someone's friend just because they listen to music you despise. It ultimately comes down to personal preference, and I would hope we can freely, respectfully express our differences in opinion without wanting to wring each other's necks. After we die, I guess we'll see which of us was "right," if there's even a "right" religion at all.
More importantly, though, we've treated our ancestors poorly enough throughout history that I think we owe them an apology of sorts. So, to all my Jewish friends who may or may not be reading this, we Christians are sorry you as a people got blamed for running The Jesus Jam out of town when, in reality, we Gentiles would have been down there shouting "Crucify him!" with you. We're sorry Martin Luther said so many horrible things about you after he had a stroke. We're sorry people like Mel Gibson, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and a whole bunch of other Christians I can't think of right now still say pretty nasty things about you. While we're not directly responsible for the Holocaust (Adolf Hitler actually denounced Christianity as the invention of a Jew), humanity in general should be sorry for allowing six million-plus to die, more or less behind our backs. And of course, we're sorry it's gotten to the point where some people still think Jesus looked like Peter Frampton.
And really, fellow Jesus Jam fans, we should be ashamed of ourselves for letting it get to that point, too. I mean, Peter Frampton? To quote High Fidelity, PETER EFFING FRAMPTON!!?!!?!??? One of the most embarrassingly cheesy musicians in the history of rock & roll? Come on now, Jesus always has and always will deserve a better likeness than that.