June 17, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
Earlier this week I found Jesus.
I didn’t actually find him the traditional sense; I mean he wasn’t lost and I wasn’t looking for him, like part of a search party of something like that.
I guess it’s more accurate to say that we bumped into each other at a bar and hung out together for the evening.
Every time the waiter came by, Jesus would say, “Just a glass of water for me, thanks,” but then he’d turn it into wine and not even have to pay the corkage fee. Sure, it seems like a bit of a dick move, but at the end of the night he tipped the guy really well. Seriously, it was a good tip. So in the end, the waiter learned a lesson about patience or tolerance or some damned thing, he had a parable he can bore his friends with, and he’s got a good wad of cash in his pocket. It’s a win-win-win.
Anyway, we got talking, I asked how he’d been, what he’d been up to, the usual chit-chat stuff. He said he’s been back for a while, just sort of hanging out, staying low key, seeing what’s going on. He’s an avid people-watcher. It’s a habit he picked up from his father. He likes to just stand back and watch how people deal with different things. It’s interesting, he says.
He told me that’s he’s just like anybody else, that he doesn’t want special treatment. He even insisted that I just call him Josh because he didn’t like things to be too formal. “Look,” I said, pointing at him with my beer bottle, “you’re the son of God. Born of a virgin, immaculate conception and all that stuff. Surely that counts for something.”
He smiled and said, “First of all, don’t call me Shirley.” Then he giggled himself into a choking fit. I don’t think he’d ever actually heard that line before and he seemed really proud of himself for thinking of it. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the joke was nearly as old as he was. Once he managed to calm his chuckles he continued with his second point. “You know that moment when you realize that in order for you to even exist two people had to have sex, then you accidentally picture it and you have a mental image of your parents screwing and you’re totally freaking traumatized?” (Which hadn’t ever happened to me, up until that point, but whatever.) “Well, that’s not something that is ever going to happen to me, so in that sense, yeah, I guess I’m different, but in every other way, any way that really matters, I’m just like anyone else. Seriously.”
I let him win on that point because, frankly, I had other things on my mind at that particular moment and I needed to drink more.
He told me about the traveling he’d done since he came back. He loves doing touristy stuff. He particularly enjoys man-made things, like the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and the pyramids of Egypt. He wanted to check out the pyramids last time he was here, but couldn’t really fit it into his schedule.
He took a tour of the Vatican. Paid the sixteen Euros and joined the crowd. It was really awkward, he said. For one thing, nobody recognized him. All those paintings and none of them looked like him. But it was the other main feature of the decor that really made him uncomfortable.
“What’s with all the bloody crucifixes?” he said. “It’s like throwing a birthday party and then decorating the place with grisly crime-scene photos. Who does that? What the hell were they thinking?”
Shortly after that he started going on about how people didn’t seem to understand him anymore. “For all the good it’s doing now, I might as well have been talking some other language back then,” he said. He was on his eight or ninth glass of water by this point, so he was pretty drunk.
“Nobody listens,” he said, and I think he was actually starting to cry a little bit. “They misquote the hell out of me and then they do this.” He ran down a list of the most recent horrible, atrocious things that are a regular part of our daily news cycle. “For fifteen years, for my entire adult life the first time around,” he said, “I just kept repeating one idea, one thing. I said it a bunch of different ways, but it was essentially the same thing, over and over. I even told some of the guys to write it down in case people missed the first hundred times. ‘Don’t be assholes.’ That’s it. It’s a simple message. I mean, as a species, humanity has one job. One job! How difficult can it be, for Christ’s sake?”
If he’d been sober he’d have laughed at his own use of that phrase, but he wasn’t so he didn’t and he totally meant it.
“For Christ’s sake,” he repeated, “just try to be nice to each other.”