Artists on God and Christianity – Elton John

When I began the series, Artists on God and Christianity, last week with an article on Tori Amos, I did not expect that a high profile artist would provide me with ready made information so quickly.  Yet Elton John has done just that.  Parade Magazine published an interview with John in which John reveals, among other things, his view of Jesus.

John speaks about his battle with drugs, his love life and his involvement in raising money for AIDS research.  What is revealing is what he thinks about Jesus.

John was born Reginald Dwight and was the only child of strict church going parents.  He said that his parents hated each other, fought all of the time and divorced when he was 15.  He found refuge in music.  It is unclear what he learned about Jesus from his parents.  The interview does indicate that he has not rejected Jesus altogether.  He simply has recreated Jesus.

I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don’t know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East — you’re as good as dead.

Here is a breakdown of his comments:

  1. Jesus was compassionate.
  2. Jesus was super-intelligent.
  3. Jesus understood human problems.
  4. Jesus died on the cross.
  5. Jesus is forgiving.
  6. Jesus wants us to to be loving and forgiving.

So far, his statements are consistent with orthodox Christianity.  It is not an exhaustive view of Jesus, but each of the affirmations are taught in the Bible.  The problem is with John’s thought that Jesus was gay.  The Bible does not teach that.

On one hand it is an affront to orthodox Christians that John would identify Jesus as being gay.  Who we think Jesus was and is must be in line with what has been revealed in the Bible.

On the other hand John does what many people do with their view of Jesus.  They create Jesus in their own image.  He becomes a reflection of what we see in our mirror.  As humans we are created in the image of God.  Because of sin this image has become distorted.  Redemption includes God re-imaging us like him.  But when sin continues, the distortion continues and soon we think God is like us.

As a gay man, John sees Jesus in John’s image.  John is gay.  Therefore Jesus must be gay.  Is he wrong?  Yes.  But so are the rest of us who think of God as being in our image.  Paintings of Jesus can be an interesting study in this image reflection.  It is often thought that DaVinci used his own image to paint Jesus in The Last Supper.  His painting has been recreated through the years by artists of various ethnic backgrounds.  In some of these Jesus appears as a black man or as an Asian man.

In American Christianity, we often view Jesus as a white Republican or Democrat (depending on our own party affiliation).  He is viewed with other traits depending upon our own characteristics.

What is the answer?  For Elton John and for everybody else, we must see Jesus as he is revealed in the Bible.  Anything else is from our own flawed imagination.