From ‘FHM pulled off shelves over articles’, 3 Feb 2012, article by Jennai Durai, ST
ALL unsold copies of this month’s issue of FHM Singapore magazine will be pulled off stands islandwide, after two articles in it sparked the ire of Christians here for being insensitive.
…The magazine, published by Media-Corp Publishing, carried an article headlined ‘Which Of These Celebs Might Secretly Be Jesus?’ and another headlined ‘Jesus 2.0: What Can We Expect?’. In the former, a number of well-known personalities, including American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and teenage pop singer Justin Bieber, are assessed for ‘evidence’ that they may or may not be Jesus Christ.
The second article had a photograph of a man dressed as Jesus, holding a gun and strapped with ammunition. Stating the Christian belief that Jesus will return one day, the article listed ‘updates’ that people might expect to see in him, such as the ability to shape shift. It includes a review of a controversial book called The Second Coming by John Niven, which imagines Jesus coming back to earth as a musician in New York.
…The articles rankled IT professional S.W. Ong, 48, who wrote to The Straits Times about it. ‘In this country, race and religion are sensitive things. I understand that FHM is a light-hearted magazine, but they should exercise some editorial responsibility and not make fun of any religion,’ he said. He said that one of the things that offended him was a careless phrase in the second article that said that Jesus ‘only made it to 33 years of age before things went downhill’. In the Bible, Jesus is said to have died on the cross at the age of 33 before rising from the dead.
‘To say his life ‘went downhill’ is wrong and very insensitive to Christians. It’s written without understanding the religion or how Christians understand the purpose of Jesus’ life on earth,’ said Mr Ong. ‘Most of the time, Christians don’t want to appear very dogmatic, but no magazine should be making fun of a religion. It can be seen as blasphemous.’
…When told about the articles, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) condemned them as ‘highly objectionable and deplorable, as they make fun of the Lord Jesus Christ who is worshipped by Christians’. The council noted that the articles appeared during the season of Lent, during which Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
‘We request the authorities to look into the matter and ensure that the objectionable material is removed, and that the gross disrespect against any religion and its religious figures who are held sacred by a religious community, such as in this instance, is not repeated,’ said the council in a statement.
(Found the scanned article from a certain ‘Princess Yuki Empire in heaven’ blog. Judge for yourself, fellow sinners)
According to the Guardian’s review of ‘The Second Coming’, Jesus is depicted not just as an aspiring musician, but ‘smokes dope’ as well. Not sure if John Niven’s book is banned here, but this isn’t the first time any attempt to demystify the Lord Jesus Christ into a fallible militant or singing humanoid has been clamped down by churches for blasphemy. Naturally, this hasty recall would draw curiosity to what Jesus 2.0 is about (as evident from searches landing as blog hits), or how Justin Bieber is in any way related to the Son of God (Both are famous, worshipped and have the ability to make people cry hysterically). ‘Shape-shifting’, traditionally practiced by the ultimate master of disguise and deception, the Devil himself, could be seen as a demonic power that may offend Christians, though that would technically make Jesus a rather cool X-men character. The man can already walk on water, for God’s sake. Not even Magneto could do that.
In 1974, churches were riled by the screening of ‘rock opera’ Jesus Christ Superstar to the point of petitioning to the PM to ban the film. To minimise the possibility of viewers taking the film at face value and believing that Jesus is actually David Bowie in disguise, pamphlets citing ‘religious guidance’ were distributed at cinemas. Before the screening of each film, the following announcement was flashed:
This is not an authentic portrayal of Jesus Christ, Son of God. For a true and accurate account, please read the Bible – The Protestant Churches of Singapore.
In the clip below, Jesus screeches in falsetto demanding God to provide an answer to why ‘he has to die’.
In a musical film of similar religious bent called ‘Godspell’, a Superman costume-wearing Jesus is ‘crucified’ on a fence to a gospel rock soundtrack, again a ‘gross misinterpretation’ of what really happened in the Bible.
Jesus being too ‘human’ for the churches’ liking was portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, while in the 1999 film Dogma, God was played by rock icon Alanis Morrissette. Needless to say, both films were banned here. There appears to be little tolerance, or sense of humour, for Jesus the Man to manifest himself as anything but, in particular a singing, dancing, smoking, funky dude who fancies a little fun and rock music on the side other than the gruelling, divine work of saving us from all our sins.To boost Christ’s ‘hip quotient’, he’s referred to in some circles as the catchy ‘JC’, urban shorthand like ‘JLo’ or ‘MJ’. In the film Jesus camp, there’s even a scene of kids dancing to ‘JC in Da House’, I kid you not. Yet if one were to put Jesus in a hoodie, ‘blinged ‘out with gold crosses and hint at the slightest bit of ‘swag’ whatsoever, you would get the church elders up in arms. You can rap about Jesus, but you can’t suggest that he ‘busts a rhyme or two’ as well.
As for turning Jesus into Rambo, how often do you hear sermons preaching about Christians being ‘soldiers’ for Christ? In ‘The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy’, Paul tells Timothy ‘Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier for Christ Jesus’. A 2002 sermon by the Gospel Light Church in Singapore was titled ‘Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War!‘. I would think Jesus donning a helmet instead of a crown of thorns and leading his faithful Christian soldiers into ‘battle’ would be a more accurate metaphor of biblical mission than him rocking out and pouting defiantly with an electric guitar while his adorers wait eagerly offstage to body -surf their musical Messiah to Heaven. Maybe the folks at FHM should have fitted Rambo Jesus with a wooden sword and a shield instead.
Banning a FHM magazine, which isn’t the sort of material good Christians should be browsing anyway judging from its sultry covers, wouldn’t staunch the wave of gross blasphemy that one encounters everywhere else. On Youtube you’ll see Jesus sashaying to ‘I Will Survive’, in a Street Fighter challenge vs God, fighting Santa Claus in South Park, or matching wits with the Terminator in Nazareth. In Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it is even suggested that Jesus HAD SEX with Mary Magdalene. In the upcoming Lady Gaga concert, you may even hear some blasphemous lyrics about the Man’s race. In the bid to spread the Word and make an ancient religion appealing to modern minds, today’s Christ has been unwittingly morphed into a fashionable target in pop culture, parodied to death like Ronald McDonald or Kim Jong Il, yet despite the abundance of comic trivialisations, the Church remains a force to reckon with, not only having the authority to pull magazines from shelves but stop their own believers from wearing samfoos to service.
I’ve read the article above myself and don’t see any intended malice in it, with the ‘going downhill’ statement referring to Jesus’s fate on the cross, not the state of Christianity. If anything it was a rather tame satire on Jesus as icon and superhero, a harmless commentary on the godlike divinity of celebrities (including Simon Cowell and Tom Cruise) without undermining His existence, teachings or the veracity of the Bible in general. It’s not a Christian version of the ‘Satanic Verses’ that’s for sure, but I think Dan Brown beats this hands down in terms of outright heresy. A case of the Church ‘jumping the gun’, perhaps. Maybe it’s not Jesus that needs an upgrade, but the Church that needs to , and I quote DPM Tharman, ‘catch up’ with the times instead.