Editor’s Note: Carol Costello anchors the 9 to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN’s “Newsroom” each weekday.
A film starring Diogo Morgado as Jesus opens this week
Carol Costello says he inspired the hashtag "HotJesus"
Costello: Is physical attractiveness necessary for a religious figure in today's culture?
Clearly Jesus was sexy.
After all, He is the Son of God.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but as I watched the trailer for the new movie, “Son of God,” I found myself gawking at the actor portraying Jesus.
Diogo Morgado is one hot dude. His Jesus looks more like Brad Pitt than that nice man with the beard in all those paintings.
I’m not the only one gawking at Morgodo’s Jesus. He inspired the hashtag, “#HotJesus”. It went viral on Twitter. The actor told The New York Times he doesn’t want his looks to distract from the movie, but, “If the message of Jesus was love, hope and compassion, and I can bring that to more people by being a more appealing Jesus, I am happy with that.”
Clearly we have a new trend. A “more appealing” Jesus is not just a better prophet, he’s … sexy.
We actually don’t know what Jesus looked like. We do know he was a carpenter, so perhaps Jesus was buff.
But, I don’t think when the Biblical Nathaniel asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” and Phillip answered, “Come and see,” they were talking about Jesus’ beautiful face or chiseled abs.
Yes, Jesus, as portrayed in countless paintings, has a six-pack. As comedian and author, Greg Behrendt joked, “I’d like to get ripped … ripped like Jesus. Jesus was ripped. You’ve seen the pictures, right? He’s ripped! Ripped. He’s the son of God. He’s not going to be walking around saying I’ve got back fat today, I’m so puffy.”
All joking aside, why must Jesus be sexy? Or ripped? Or even handsome?
The Rev. Robert B. Lawton, SJ, a Jesuit priest and former president of Loyola Marymount University, says, “There is absolutely no indication that Jesus was good-looking and sexy. In fact there is a passage in the prophet Isaiah that is taken as referring to Jesus. It says this:
“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him/nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.” (Isaiah 53. 2-3.)
While this might not be conclusive evidence, it’s quite possible that Jesus was no Jewish Brad Pitt from Palestine.
On the other hand, why wouldn’t God create a perfect Son?
“Anything that is sexy is going to attract people. People who might not go to the movie might want to check it out, particularly non-Christians,” says the Rev. Lisa Jenkins, senior pastor of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in Harlem. “I don’t see a problem with Jesus being attractive given our cultural context,” she says. “I don’t recall a Jesus who was not appealing to the eye. That’s Hollywood.” Jenkins is more concerned about what she considers an inaccurate portrayal of Jesus’ ethnicity.
The Rev. James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large for America Magazine, and author of the coming book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage,” agrees. “God did not choose to incarnate himself in Laguna Beach,” he says. “He chose to incarnate Himself at a certain place, at a certain time in a certain person.” And that person was a Palestinian Jew.
“Many people have a hard time with the humanity of Jesus … the closer He is to human physical perfection, the easier it is for some to accept Him.”
But, Martin says, there is a danger in that too. A physically perfect Jesus makes Him into a God pretending to be man. When Jesus was both human and divine.
“He was like us in all things, except sin, as the theology goes,” Martin says. “That means, He had a body, He got sick, He got tired, He may have sprained an ankle or two. There are passages in the Gospel showing Him falling asleep because He was tired. We tend to airbrush the physical imperfections away.”
Those traits make Jesus so much more accessible. So much more … human.
I tried to come up with a living person to compare to Jesus. That, of course, is impossible. The closest I can come, as a Catholic, is Pope Francis. I’ve grown to revere him.
Is it because he’s sexy?
In a word: No.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Carol Costello.