Tuesday 13th February, 2024
Last week I re-imagined the story of the Wedding at Cana as though it happened in the 21st Century. Following on from that I’ve decided to create a ‘Jesus in Jeans’ series, reimagining how the stories from the life of Jesus might look like if they happened today. This series doesn’t make any claims to be the gospel, to be scripture, or to be brilliantly sound theology (I’m a storyteller; not a theologian) Rather, it aims to help the reader think about the context of the story, what might have been going on in the lives of the people Jesus interacted with, and to bring stories from a culture that can seem alien to us into the modern world to make them a bit more tangible to us.
If you’re a Christian, I hope these can give a fresh perspective to familiar stories, and if you’re not, please, read on, don’t dismiss them as not for you. Stories teach us, entertain us and connect us, we don’t have to share the faith the stories have grown out of to enjoy them, and I hope, that by setting these stories in the world we all inhabit they can be given a fresh relevance to those who may consider the originals a bit dry and dusty.
I’m starting with one of my favourite stories about Jesus challenging misogyny and double standards…..
The woman caught in adultery
Her first was a boy from church, he said he loved her and wanted to marry her. She told him no, she wanted to wait, but he pestered and pestered and she was in love. He told the other boys at church, before long it was known that she was a slut. The next was her Youth Pastor. She felt so seen when this older, wiser man started paying attention to her. She was told to leave the church when that one came to light, lest she ruin a good man’s reputation. She was 16.
She would put it behind her, she believed, when she landed a recording contract. This was her dream come true, they dressed her up in a school uniform for the music video, but not the kind of school uniform she’d have been allowed to wear to school, her father didn’t object, just like he didn’t say anything as the record executives hand made it’s way up her inner thigh. This was the price you paid for a record deal. The tours followed, as did the parties, the drugs, the bad decisions, and no end of men telling her they loved her, until they didn’t. After she got married, her make-up artist complained about having to cover up the bruises, but nobody said it was wrong. She soon learned her body was not her own. By the time she was 20 she felt she’d lived a lifetime, battered, bruised, lonely and depressed she wandered into Elias’s Church, it was the church the celebrities went to, with its Starbucks in the foyer and charismatic rock star pastor. She was looking for redemption but her reputation preceded her. Despite the baseball cap and dark glasses she was recognised; wives steered their husbands away from her, mothers glowered at their sons who dared not speak to her, she sat alone, seats empty either side of her. Yet, Elias noticed her, called her forward, laid hands on her, cast out her demons and took her back to his office for prayer after the service. As he fastened his trousers he reminded her that he was anointed, and that anything she did to him she did to God. She felt too numb to cry. So much for second chances.
Mortified, she saw her naked body in the tweet Elias had tagged her in. How had he got those pictures? Of course! He knew everybody, the whole thing had been a set up. The guy who had bought her one too many drinks and taken her back to his hotel room must have been one of Elias’s followers. He appeared, pixelated on the edge of the photo, just his wedding ring showing, enough to incriminate her. She realised this wasn’t about her, she was just a pawn in the game he was playing with that weird influencer he’d been having a Twitter spat with for a few weeks now.
Elias had been furious with this guy, Joshua@SonOfMan ever since he’d seen a TikTok video of Joshua telling a paraplegic guy to get out of his wheelchair and walk (and he did.) It had really put Elias’s nose out of joint and he’d become obsessed. He’d called Joshua@SonOfMan a “blasphemous nobody”, he’d taken exception to his teaching that those who were poor or vulnerable would come first in God’s Kingdom “they could come first here too if they got off their lazy backsides and got a job you woke liberal lunatic” tweeted Elias. He’d accused Joshua of deceiving people and leading them astray, meanwhile Joshua@SonOfMan had called Elias a “Hypocrite” a “whitewashed tomb” and some rather pointed expletives about his parentage.
And this was where she found herself, right in the middle of this exchange, being set up by one man, to trap another.
“What are your thoughts on this?” Elias’ had tweeted to Joshua@SonOfMan, alongside her naked photo “she claims to be a member of my church, what church discipline should she face after such sinful behaviour?” Elias’ had been applauded with a host of ‘likes’ and laughing face emoji’s, from men she recognised all too well.
Elias knew that Joshua@SonOfMan happily hung out at seedy bars, that he would chat nicely to women working in strip clubs, Elias had figured that Joshua’s softness for loose women would be his downfall, what would he do? Would he go so far as to actually defend adultery? Or would he join in shaming one of his beloved “sinners”? Neither would reflect well on Joshua@SonOfMan and Elias hoped this would shut him up once and for all.
The internet held its breath, waiting for Joshua to reply. Three little dots showed Elias that Joshua was typing, what was he doing? What was he writing? For a moment, Elias was afraid; Joshua couldn’t know about that day in Elias’s office, but strangely it felt as though he did.
And then came his reply
“You want to punish her? You want us to talk about her sin? How about we talk about yours first? You’ve laid her naked for the world to see, anyone willing to lay their own body and soul bare for scrutiny, anyone sinless enough to do so, go ahead! Then you can heap some shame on her too”
Joshua logged off.
The next morning her inbox pinged. Just once. She opened her DM. It was from him.
“Hi, Just checking you’re okay, what happened to all the people commenting on your picture? Joshua x”
Relief washed over her like a cooling balm as she realised this was the only message. She checked the thread, No comments. The photo had been removed.
She read the message again, all the anxiety of the night before had vanished, as she read those few words she felt a peace she couldn’t comprehend. She replied:
“They all seem to have disappeared”
That wouldn’t be the end of it, it never was. She’d learned not to google herself but she needed to know what backlash she faced from all of this. She typed her name into the search bar.
She checked Google Images. Nothing. She tried a reverse image search of her profile picture. No results. All those stories of the men, the drugs, the parties, the bad decisions, they were gone. Not just this latest one, all of them. This was completely unheard of these days, she felt like she had a clean slate. She could start again from here, a new start.
Her inbox pinged
“No condemnation from me either, now, live your life, you don’t need to be involved in sin anymore :o) love Josh x”
Suddenly she felt filled with hope, she felt as though she were clothed with dignity and strength and for the first in a long time time she laughed, really laughed. She clicked on Joshua’s profile page and hit the ‘follow’ button.