In yesterday’s piece I compared this week’s featured diarist, the revolutionary Che Guevara, with Joseph (him of the fancy coat). Today I am going to draw a different comparison, between Guevara and Jesus. This is hardly an original thing to do. There are whole merchandise operations build on exactly this premise. Many of us will have seen the poster or t-shirt of the iconic monochrome Guevara image given a crown of thorns with a caption like: ‘Meek. Mild. As if.’
There is something that appeals to many restless Christians in the imagery of Che - the handsome, edgy revolutionary. He offers a corrective to the bland pictures often associated with Jesus of an insipid, bloodless, and wan figure that is so often depicted in art and the popular imagination. So what do Che and Jesus have in common?
Both had beards *probably.
Both wore berets *unlikely.
Both were and still are considered a threat to the established order.
Both died violent deaths in their 30s.
Both known as healers *the young Guevara was a medical student when he began his South American motorcycle adventure, and initially served as a doctor in a revolutionary movement before becoming a rebel leader.
Both eloquent and charismatic individuals that are often quoted
Both identified with the poor.
Both were unafraid to spend time with lepers.
Both have been lionised, demonised, misunderstood, co-opted and heavily commercialised.
As we are made in the image of God, it makes sense that we should recognise aspects of God and Jesus in friends, family, strangers and famous figures. We often see God refracted in the profound generous love we witness in one another. Guevara isn’t a 20th Century Jesus, beards aside, that is far too simplistic. But perhaps we can understand him and other charismatic historical figures better when we try to recognise God’s face in them and observe the flawed version of that human impulse - that Jesus perfected - to have a depth of feeling for their neighbour that moves them to act selflessly.
Guevara was no saint but he is a colourful thread in a vibrant tapestry of human history fighting for decency, respect and freedom. We don’t have to agree with the simplified cartoon Guevara from the t-shirts or the nuanced and complex historical figure - to appreciate his deeply human desire to not accept things as they are, but to want to change them for the better. This human desire, is God given and God inspired. Challenging perceived wisdom after all has a strong Gospel precedent, in Matthew 15: 17-20 we see Jesus encouraging a mental shift in how people think about ethical behaviour - arguing they should be less hung up on what to eat or not to eat, but that they should be more concerned with what comes out of the mouth, the harmful things they say that leads to hurt and heartbreak. This was, and still is, revolutionary.
inspire us, gift us with passion.
17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’