Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bizarro Jesus

I don't know if it was Joe (my spouse) or Jerry Seinfeld who first introduced me to Bizarro Superman. I am not versed in the world of comics (surprising to me, then that I have two entries labeled such) but I was reminded of Bizarro this week as I reflected on the parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King or The Parable of the Pounds, from Luke 19:11-28 - it's a toughy.

A cruel and greedy king, some people who oppose him, some servants who invest his money, and one who does not. This parable bugged me and bugged me because I don't want Jesus to be the king. The king is so cruel, so unfeeling, so power hungry, so cavalier. He seems to be the opposite of everything that Jesus stands for - just exactly like the real-life kings and rulers then and now.

Well, exactly! Jesus is not the king, he's the bizzaro king. Or rather, the king is the bizzaro Jesus. Luke, in having Jesus tell this parable was creating the anti-Jesus. Alvin Schwartz, the creator of Bizarro Superman, said this about his character Bizzaro Superman:

"I was striving, you might say, for that mirror-image, that opposite. And out of a machine which would reveal the negative Superman, came the mirror image, - always remembering that in a mirror everything is reversed...The times were such that one-dimensional characters, your standard superheroes, even in comics, seemed rather simplistic, like paper cut-outs. What was demanded was the full dimensional personality - a figure that carried a shadow, if you like. I was certainly inspired to some degree also by C.G. Jung's archetype of "the shadow" - and Bizarro certainly reflected that, as well" Bizarro talked in opposites and didn't know good from bad.

Jesus is the king who exalts the humble, seeks the lost, gives life to the dying. So when Luke puts Jesus in the mirror, he gets a king who does the opposite of those things, who exalts the already exalted, who turns the loser away and who kills the ones showing the life-spark of opposition. The readers recognize the king for who he represents - the corrupt and vengeful kings of Israel's provinces - and identify with the fearful slave and the protesting bystanders. The recognize the injustice. That is exactly what Jesus wants. The kingdom of God, the 'upside-down kingdom,' turns the world that we know, and the violent values that it practices, on it's head.

Link to the sermon that started it all here.

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