A poster on my own church notice board has me worried. It depicts Jesus wearing the customary crown of thorns but in a dramatic pose reminiscent of the Cuban revolutionary, Che Cuivara.
The caption, bleeding into the red background, reads: "MEEK. MILD. AS IF. Discover the real Jesus. Church. April 4"
The poster is not my idea. It was conceived in England, where it created quite a fuss, and parishes throughout the diocese of
Christchurch are now displaying it in the build-up to Easter.
As for the caption, it too has been cribbed from an old children's hymn by Charles Wesley: "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child."
What's worrying me is that the poster promises more than the
church usually is prepared to deliver.
"Discover the real Jesus," it says. But who exactly is the that? The popular conception of Jesus probably is much closer to the wording of the poster than to the revolutionary portrait.
The blandness of so much of our modern preaching - along with
some wet movie portrayals - has fostered the image of a shaggy, blue-eyed hippie more at home among the flower beds of San Francisco than in the killing fields of first century Palestine.
A friend of mine who is not a believer speaks for man, I suspect, when he asserts that Christianity is just a crutch for the old and the inadequate.
:Look at the advanced age of your churchgoers," he says, going for the jugular. "Meek and mild social worker is about all they could stand."
Now it's my turn to go on the offensive. "Forget about the Sunday school flannel graph," I tell him. "Look at the facts of Jesus' life. See how he died - if you have the stomach for it - and ask yourself why?"
The fact is that no one in Palestine was ever crucified for walking on the mild side. Jesus was murdered because he threatened the civil and religious order.
He shirked religious taboos whenever they blocked his way; he gave misfits and out casts ideas above their station; he backed known villains by telling them that they still stood a chance with God; he virtually told the temple hierarchy to take a running jump; and he spoke with almighty God as though they were on first name terms.
For that - and various other radical activities - Jesus got shafted by his own religious leaders.
A Roman garrison did string him up, certainly, but it was the ruling elite among his own people who engineered it.
Now do you see why I'm so nervous about that poster? If people come to church on Sunday and I tell them even half of what the real Jesus got up to, they'll think we ministers are soft on law and order - that we have no respect for authority.
God forbid, they may even begin to challenge some of the things our bishops say and do, and I wouldn't want to embarrass them. The church has enough of a struggle at the moment, without stroppy backbenchers.
No, that poster needs to come down before it stirs up unnecessary trouble. I promise not to lose it. I'll just bury it until Easter is over.