Sarah R. Callender


In Faith on January 12, 2011 at 8:43 am

Some things have been bothering me lately. The fact that, all at once, my favorite socks have holes in them. And then there’s that red pimple on my 39-year-old forehead. There’s the reality that a 9-year-old girl was shot and killed in Arizona on Saturday because she happened to be interested in government and therefore happened to be in the very wrong place at the most possibly wrong time.

Holy jeez, how I hate Wrong Place, Wrong Time. It terrifies me. If I think too hard about it, I’d never leave the house.

NFL commentators bother me. Especially the dumb ones (which in my opinion includes just about everyone except Cris Collinsworth). Sarah Palin bothers me. So much. And mothers who, in public, talk to their young children in extra loud, extra-syrupy voices to prove to the world what good mothers they are. They show up a lot on airplanes, those syrupy loud-talkers, and in grocery lines. Always places you can’t escape or walk away from without some inconvenience.

But one thing that has been bothering me for quite some time is the term Jesus Freak. There are other Jesus-bashing things that bother me too, but for today, it’s just Jesus Freak. As in, “Yeah, she’s a total Jesus Freak.”

Because it’s never a good thing. It’s never a compliment, at least not how it’s used in 2011. Maybe, back in a far, far-away galaxy called the 60’s, being a Freak meant you were incredibly passionate, a wicked-huge fan of something. Like a Roller Derby Freak. Maybe back then, being a Jesus Freak just meant you were a huge fan of Jesus.

But this ain’t the 60’s, people. If you get called a Freak on the playground or on TV or on Facebook, it’s no compliment.

So am I a Jesus Freak?  I don’t have any Jesus posters up in my room. I don’t wear a cross on a pretty little gold chain around my neck.  I don’t have a Jesus Fish on my car. But holy mackerel, I really do think he was quite a remarkable fellow. This belief certainly makes me a fan, perhaps even a Freak, by some standards.

My non-churchy friends tell me that I’m OK, as far as Christians go. They insinuate that because I never act like Rush or Sarah P. or the crazies who murder the doctors who believe in the right to choose, I’m OK. That I’m not a Freak because I happen to believe the earth is much, much more than 6,000 years old, because I am Pro-Choice, and because I believe that it’s not the worst thing in the world to cuss a little. Not to mention, my friends see (at least three hundred times a week) me act snarky or impatient or not very love-thy-neighborish. I guess that makes me, in the eyes of my non-churchy friends, A-OK.

But especially in a place like Seattle, which is just a few miles (as the crow flies) from the Bible Belt, Christians aren’t really the cool kids. Christians are seen as dumb and/or creepy and/or intolerant.

Only, I don’t think Jesus has ever had anything to do with being dumb or creepy or intolerant.

It’s heartbreaking to me how effectively humans have mucked up religion. Many kinds of religion, but you just have to look at the past 1,000 years to see how humans, all in the name of their Christian faith, have really gotten it so very wrong. We humans have found many ways to take Jesus completely out of religion.

And it’s no different these days. Today, being a Christian means you are in the camp with politically conservative rabble-rousers, nutballs who murder doctors, and irritating, holier-than-thou judgers. It’s such a drag to be clumped with those types.

Which is why I love stumbling across smart, intellectual, real Christians (and by “real” I mean people who question faith, who are honest about the ups and downs in their faith) . . . people like my very smart, intellectual pastor at my Presbyterian church on the UW campus. I just think this pastor, George, is so brilliant and honest and humble and funny. Hearing him talk makes things make more sense. I leave church feeling about a thousand percent more hopeful and peaceful. George is about as un-Rush Limbaugh as a person can be.

I also love that one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, a smart, ultra-liberal, Bush-hating artist with a wicked-funny potty mouth, also happens to be a fellow Presbo. I heard her in an interview where she was asked why she is a Christian. She talked of many things, but in the end, her answer was simple. “Jesus,” she said. “I just can’t get enough of the guy.”

Gosh, I love that. She is getting it right. I wish there were more Good Christians in the world. Those who try to negate those who do the exact opposite of what Jesus wanted of us.

So here’s my beef: in the label “Jesus Freak,” Jesus gets a really bad rap. Yet, there is nowhere in the any recorded history that documents Jesus killing doctors or being hyper-judgmental or intolerant of The Naughty. Jesus is never shown holding a My Dad and I Hate Gay People sign. I will say that yes, sometimes Jesus might have been perceived as acting a bit Holy, but so do college football stars and politicians and Hollywood divas, and are they walking on water or raising the dead or feeding a bajillion people with four or five lake trout and a couple of multigrain loaves from Great Harvest? No. I didn’t think so.

So can we please just take Jesus out of it? Jesus isn’t the problem. He has never been the problem. He’s just a guy who wants us all to love each other, to show kindness and compassion to one another, to help each other when we’ve fallen flat on our keisters. Which is a comforting global mandate for someone like me who falls, figuratively and literally, quite regularly. If you’ve ever taken a class with me at ProRobics, you know I am not kidding about the literal falling.

It is people who have found many, many terrible and horrifyingly creative ways to fork up Jesus’ message.


So can we relegate the term Jesus Freak to the land of other things we no longer call each other? Thanks. I appreciate it.

Now, if you happen to be on the search for some Jesus decor, something that will really help you get your freak up on the wall, might I recommend the following option?

I think this would look really great in your living room.

  1. I am one of your non-churchy friends and my favorite thing about Christianity is Jesus. So maybe I’m really a Freak because I really like Jesus, but I’m not Christian.

  2. Good one Sarah. I like it. But what about the term “Bible Thumper”? Do you thump your Bible?

  3. Spot on! I used to work for the Jesuits and my husband still does–they are great and smart and really up the level of discourse. Anyway, I swear I wish I could convert to Jesuit. Anyway, I say this because at a Jesuit retreat for Jesuit teachers, some smarty-pants Russian Orthodox was aghast at the egalitarian views of the Jesuits and she one of the things she whispered to me was that “Jesuit” was a perjorative French term meaning ‘Jesus Freak.’. That stuck with me and I always wanted to synthesize what they taught me about the world and write a book called Jesus Freaks, but it’s hard to do without sounding like a, well,…Jesus Freak. Thanks for doing it in this post! Bravo!

    • Love it, Joan. And yes, after I posted this I had Husbandio read it . . . I got all nervous after I posted. He asked, “What are you worried about?”

      “Oh, just that people will think I’m a Jesus Freak.”

      Oh well. I guess my cat’s out of the freak-bag. I’ll totally read ANY book you write.

  4. My favorite part of being the only Christian in my family is being blamed for all the other crazies who call themselves Christians. Nothing like getting a random call from family ranting about ‘those Christians’ who blew up/killed/drank Kool-Aid to brighten my day.

  5. You know, to me it’s kind of like how some of the McVeigh cousins must have felt – “Oh Timothy? Right. Yeah, he’s only a third cousin. Most McVeigh’s are federal employees and kind of love it here.”

    It’s a shame we have to share a last name or label with some of less appealing members of our clan but at the same time, we do get to share it with some of the awesomer ones too. Like Anne and George and even Jesus… imagine being talked about in the same conversation as them! And maybe I should just confess that several of our cousins are mortified to be sharing a label with me and kind of act confused if I come up in conversation: “Alison? I’m not sure. Maybe on my mother’s side a few generations back… They’re the crazy liberal ones I think.”

    The crazy thing to me is that Jesus apparently loves those other ones too. He’s so weird.

  6. I am TOTALLY with you Sister!!! I have one of those pastors too, at my Presbyterian church… he grew up in Moraga and went to Campolindo. Weird. Great post…you read my mind. Love it. oxoxo

  7. THANK YOU SARAH so much for these words. I’m sitting in class right now talking about Christ’s mission and then I read your words and it made me so happy! Miss you all.

  8. Leading up to Christmas, my 4-year-old daughter and I danced and sang, “Go Jesus. Go Jesus. It’s your birthday. It’s your birthday.” Not so much because I’m a JF (I’m more the non-churchy type), but because, well, that is what xmas is, isn’t it–J’s bday? Anyway, my daughter was so curious about Jesus that I got a bunch of illustrated bible story books from the library. My hub and I looked through all of them, tossed the ones that added their own commentary, and stuck with the one that let the words and pictures do the talking. Both my daughters LOVED it. Though I have to admit the stories reminded me how screwed up us humans are–all the floods and famines, crosses and double-crosses. It was gruesome reading at times. But Jesus, he was Good.

    Oh–and when I go to church (rarely) and it gets a little to God-y for me, I substitute Good for God as I listen to the sermon. Otherwise I get sidetracked by the image of the white Dude on the throne and all the ways people have screwed up religion. That’s my church tip o’ the day. (Of course, I haven’t been to church in years. Maybe I should try yours.)

  9. well said!

  10. Jesus is just alright with me. No, I actually like him a lot more than that – I just like the sound of it. I agree that freak is just not nice in any context. Now, Geek, that might be OK. Like Jeff calls himself a Wine Geek. Wine Freak doesn’t sound so nice, but Wine Geek indicates a respect for and knowledge of, as well as just a fan of. So, maybe try on Jesus Geek and see if you like it? But I am a firm believer everyone gets to say what they do and don’t want to be called, so it’s just a suggestion!

  11. oh sarah my theologian friend, thank you! i cannot wait to hear your take on childhood vaccines, nature vs nurture, and global warming. keep it up! and more often if possible, please!

  12. Guess I’m a churchy type, but OK with it. Enjoyed reading your post.

  13. LOVE your post, Sarah! In Seattle, it’s WAY easier to be a lesbian than to be a Christian…sometimes, I feel like I need to “come out” about going to church…much scarier than ‘coming out’ as gay..

    p.s. What about “Super Christian”? Is that okay? Or, does that fall in the same category as “Jesus Freak?”….

  14. As someone well on her way to being a Jesus Freak- Well Done! For the record this was very similar to yesterday’s sermon at First Pres-hmmm maybe a second (no third or fourth) career calling for you! – I would attend every Sunday without fail!

  15. 🙂 Just found your blog via Writer Unboxed (great post there, too, btw). I’m a fellow Christian, fellow Seattlite, fellow as-yet-unpublished author. My name is Bethany. If you ever want to grab coffee (though I live on the Eastside, I don’t know, it’s a little sketch) and bounce lofty writer ideas (hahaha) around together, feel free to drop me a line. You can find my contact info on my site

    God bless!

    • What a nice note, Bethany. Thanks so much for your comment . . . I will be checking out your blog as soon as I can get caught up on my “have to do” stuff. Happy writing to you . . . and here’s to a gorgeous summer. Keep writing!

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