By Starlette McNeill
Personal Jesus is an app that can send more than 200 personal quotes from the Bible to your iPhone or iPad, utilizing an image of Jesus Christ. The application also allows you to share these words with family and friends through social media at any time from any place and employing any race.
Yes, you can “pick his color” and the environment where he speaks these words: in heaven, at the crucifixion, while walking on water, during the Last Supper or at the Resurrection. “Any time. Any place. Any race,” reads a motto on the Personal Jesus website.
For the creators of the application, race is defined by the social coloring of skin and other physical characteristics including hair color and texture, eye color and shape. Currently, there are Classic (also known as White) and Black “editions” of the Personal Jesus, but Celtic and Asian editions are “coming soon.” Celtic and Asian are apparently also considered races.
The folks at Personal Jesus are correct, of course, that Jesus is accessible at any time and in any place, but in any race? I can’t help but wonder what of the person of Christ is disfigured or lost in this racial translation of his identity and consequently his ability and purpose.
What of our relationship changes when we are able to choose how Jesus appears to us? What happens to our faith when it is personalized to suit our tastes? Why must Christ appeal to our race?
What does race have to do with Christ, his saving power and sacrifice on the cross? And how is the message of Jesus Christ challenged when he does not look like us or changed when we believe that he does not?
What does this mean, your own personal Jesus? Is he to be carried around in our pocket, reduced to a trinket or memorabilia?
It seems that this is but another example of the continued commodification of Christ, a Christ that we can “buy now,” that we can “Like” on Facebook, that can be placed on mugs and t-shirts.
This choice seems to suggest that we can have increased the options as to the means by which we access Christ. Christ then becomes not “the Way, the Truth and the Life”(John 14:6) but instead comes in editions Classic, Black, Celtic and Asian.