Several years ago, I came across this photograph by David LaChapelle from his series “Jesus is my Homeboy”. I find it, and the whole series, powerful images and poignant theological statements about who Jesus was and is.

noelle-1-blog-5.18.17.jpgIn The Last Supper image in this series, Jesus sits placidly amid a chaos of movement. Men and women in the picture sport tattoos and wild haircuts. They are drinking beer in what appears to be a cheap motel room. The picture is tense and tough. When compared to da Vinci’s famous painting of the same subject, the LaChapelle photograph contains a grittiness that either repels the viewer or draws her in.

This is an image of Jesus that is hard to embrace, but it is also one that is probably pretty accurate. Jesus’ homeboys were not suit-and-tie kinds of guys.  They were laborers and outcasts-- undesireables-- and that is reflected in this photograph in a no-holds-barred sort of way.  

Renderings of the Christ in dissonant contexts have fascinated me for years. I recently enjoyed reading Lamb by Christopher Moore, a novel that tells the story of Jesus’ childhood and young adulthood through the eyes of his best friend, Biff. Far from being crass and disrespectful, Lamb portrays Jesus as a truth-seeker across religious and cultural traditions. Biff is the dopey sidekick that acts as a foil to keep Jesus from being overly pious or sticky-sweet. Throughout the book, Jesus loses his temper, gets confused, lost and frustrated. He also learns how to be the Son of God. It is an entertaining and thought-provoking way to envision those years of Jesus’ life that we do not get in our own Bible.  

I do not anticipate that “Jesus is my Homeboy” or Lamb will be every everyone’s cup of tea. Many folk would prefer to leave renderings of Jesus untested and unsullied in the onionskin pages of our Bibles. I am drawn to these images for the opposite reason. I need to believe that our Christ is not confined to ancient texts. When our imaginations are ignited and challenged, we have the opportunity to further hone our theology. We are strengthened in our beliefs. Our minds are opened to new ways of seeing God around us.