Sitting in our bedroom for my morning time of prayer today, reading Aleksandr Men’s An Inner Step toward God again, slowly, I came across his advice to focus one’s meditation on an icon.
This is what one might presume is standard advice among Orthodox sages. And its equivalent encouragement to fix one’s eyes on a crucifix would be routine among Roman Catholics. But it is all-but-unknown among Protestants, even in this image-rich age.
Still, I thought I’d hit the Internet for a suitable image of Jesus. And I found, to my non-surprise, that my fellow evangelicals have in fact produced a startling, hilarious, and disgusting array of images of Jesus after all. We evangelicals have always been good at assimilating pop culture to our agendas of piety and evangelism.
After ten minutes of scrolling and clicking and sighing and laughing and wincing and despairing, I gave up. The images that were not simply inappropriate were either too sentimental…or too specific. By this latter word, I mean that I could never stop thinking that I was looking at that model, or that actor, or the artist’s version of a model or actor. It was never Jesus, just a man playing Jesus.
Then I had to laugh at myself rather ruefully: I was a classic modern, selecting the Jesus that I liked to suit my preferences. “No, that one’s too silly. That one’s too pretty. That one’s better…but still, too Caucasian. Hmm, that’s okay, but the painting style is pretty cliché. Let’s see what else….”
I don’t know much about the iconographical tradition of Brother Men, but I know a little. So I decided to go further in his direction, and asked Google to find me “Jesus icon.”