Monday, April 30, 2012


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Now there's a word!!

My dad was a bit of a theologian, and so I grew up with a bit of theological language in the atmosphere.  A "type" in theology-speak is something that creates a picture for us.  Usually it is used in the phrase "a type of Christ", meaning "a picture of what Christ is like".  Some of the "types" I remember learning about were as varied as the rock that Moses hit in the desert (Moses hit the rock and then water came out), the snake on a stick that healed people (yes - that's really in there!) Melchizedeck  (the priest from nobody-knows-where who came and talked with Abraham), the luckless sheep that got sacrificed instead of Isaac, and of course LOTS of the Jewish laws, ceremonies and rituals.  

I'm a little hazy on the details now... those conversations were a long time ago, and in any case I'm sure there are varied opinions about them all.  However I love that concept of a "picture", rather than an explanation.   

So it got me thinking, what are some modern "types" that speak to me of Christ-ness?

There are a few easy, famous ones.

Martin Luther King jnr is one of my favourites.  He disarmed racial power inequities, through being deliberately powerless.

Mother Theresa (of course) who helped the poor by living amongst them and becoming poor.

St Therese of Fenelon  (wonder if Mother Theresa borrowed her name from there?) the nun who went through terminal illness and loss of any sense of God's presence - and through this felt a deep love and identification with atheists.

Henri Nouwen - well respected theologian, teacher, writer and university professor, who walked away from all his "success" and spent his days as a carer for the disabled.

Damien of Molokai (did I spell that right?) the priest who went to live and serve in a leper colony, contracted leprosy and died there.

My choices from history reflect my christian upbringing - in that they are mostly "Christian" examples (& given my dis-heartenedness at the UN-Christlikeness of today's Christian church, this is encouraging, I suppose).  However I don't believe it is the fact that these people were "Christians" that makes them "Christ-like". 

Some examples from movies:  

Babette, from the movie (& Isaac Dinesen story) Babette's Feast.  In the story she gives up a life of privilege and luxury, and expends all she has bringing warmth and joy to sour, religious old villagers who all through the movie view her as some kind of wicked, heathen influence.

Vianne, from the movie Chocolat, who gives of herself in ways that bring life, love and transformation to the villagers around her, even though she is misunderstood as a "bringer of evil".

Daigo Kobayashi, in the 2008 Japanese film, Departures - who also leaves a position of some status, immerses himself in a stigmatised occupation, and in doing so brings restoration and redemption to those he comes in contact with.

Both Daniel and Lena, in the Swedish film, As It Is in Heaven. (LOVE, that movie - it has to be one of my all time favourites)  Daniel, because he lets go his status as a world-renowned conductor, in order to give all he has to a tiny local church choir, and in doing so, gives so much more than music;  and Lena, because although she is misunderstood by the townsfolk as loose and immoral, she knows how to love unreservedly and without condition or judgment.

Some slightly more "everyday" examples:

My brothers-in-law, who took in a friend suffering from AIDS and nursed him in their home, cleaning up shit and vomit, and living in the midst of their own and their friends' grief until his death.  They are still profoundly affected when they talk about it.

Nameless volunteers in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, rehabilitation centres, refugee centres, hospitals...  who give their time just to "be there" in the midst of the pain, mess and frailty of others, without judgment.

Activists who go and live in third-world conditions with Aboriginal people, in order to help them with housing, skills, and using their political voice.

The Senator who "crossed the floor" to vote against party lines, in favour of better treatment for refugees (she was about to retire - which diminishes the sacrificial aspect, somewhat - but that was a moment of justice that sticks in my mind)

Many, probably most of these folks would not consider themselves Christians.  I don't think that matters.

I'll finish with a great quote from Shane Claiborne (another great "type" in so many ways)
"Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived."

And I guess the only real question that remains is "What kind of "type" am I??" 

  • Can you think of examples from history, cinema or real life that embody the qualities of "Christ" in some way?  Love to hear your examples!
  • Was there a time when you were either able to act in a way that demonstrated these qualities, or have you experienced "christ-like" behaviour from another?


  1. I love the way you explained typology here. It was simple and easy to understand! Personally, I know a bunch of families who have adopted and to me, they represent the work of the Gospel lived out.

    1. YES!! "Adoption as Sons" - such a picture of the Kingdom of God!! I love it, Adrian!! :D

  2. It would seem strange to think of Mahatma Gandhi as "Ram-like" or Aung San Suu Kyi as "Buddha-like". And certainly thinking of them a "Christ-like" seems strange. I guess "Christ-like" works for Christians, but it seems a tad parochial and inherently exclusive.

    I loved, "Departures" and wrote on it here, and wouldn't want to think of Diago Kobayashi as "Christ-like". For doing so, or implying so almost feels similar to the Mormons who are baptizing the dead Jewish holocost victims. They should just let them be who they are and stop with their narrow labels and categories.

  3. Hi Sabio!
    Thanks for dropping by... I think, for me, "Christ-like" is about behaviour, not religious affiliation (Mormons baptising dead Jews to "make them Mormons" IS disrespectful - I agree!). I deliberately used examples that were not "Christian", in order to make the point that the behaviour/depth of love is what matters - not the label. Wasn't my intent to "label" Daigo (or any of the other examples) as "Christian" in any way.

    I'm off to read your blog post on departures now... It was such a beautiful film, wasn't it!! One of my favourites!

  4. Indeed, "Departures" is one of my favorite films --- but I speak Japanese so that furthers my aesthetic appreciation.

    Using moral models as images is a common religious technique: Some Hindus do with Krishna or Ram, some Tibetans do with their view of their Guru or a Yidam and Christians do with Jesus. It can be an inspiring technique. But they all come with the same limitation of the "What would Jesus Do" dilemma. Oh well, no technique is perfect.


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