Created By: Xzenu on March 15, 2011 Last Edited By: Xzenu on March 24, 2011
Troped

Jesus Was Crazy

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Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples
Pilate: Look at your Jesus Christ. I'll agree he's mad. Ought to be locked up, But that is not a reason to destroy him. He's a sad little man. Not a King or God. Not a thief, I need a crime!
Mob: Crucify him!

While most works that feature Jesus Christ sticks to Jesus Was Way Cool, there are also works where he is portrayed as a bit crazy or even as clinically insane.

The portrayal can come from the narrative itself, of from a character.

Note that while "Jesus Was Crazy" and "Jesus Was Way Cool" are opposites, they can still show up in the same work. Either they contradict each other in some kind of point-counterpoint argument, or they blend together through some kind of Crazy Awesome or Cloud Cuckoolander characterization.

Also, a character who believe that Jesus was not only cool but also divine might feel that you have to chose sides: Either worship Him or hate Him. Such a character might be tempted to argue that Jesus Was Crazy as a kind of Strawman Political argument: Taking for granted that if you don't believe the parts of the gospels where Jesus actually ascended into heaven and all that, then you must still believe the parts where he claimed to be divine, and thus be obliged to consider him a megalomaniac. Of course, actual Atheists, Muslims et cetera who think Jesus was cool prefer to focus on The Golden Rule and that kind of stuff, assuming that the claims of divinity was added after his death - along with the walking on water and similar unlikely stories.


Examples

Comic Books
  • The Swedish comic "Personal-Jesus" (with the hyphan i the name) plays a lot with the lighter side of crazy. The name itself is a wordplay: The Swedish word "personal" means "human resources" and is pronounced differently from the English word that is spelled the same way. In this quite surreal setting, Jesus Christ can indeed walk on water and everything, but for some reason he works in an ordinary office and create genral mayhem - getting his coworkers drunk as he turns water into wine at the worst possible moments, and so on.

Film
  • The Last Temptation of Christ start out with portraying Jesus as a paranoid schizophrenic who start preaching because he hear voices in his head. The movie start with him working as a carpenter building crosses for the romans and rambling on about how he want to crucify all the messiahs. The story goes through many plot-twists, and the psychiatric perspective gets obsolete after a while - but Jesus being crazy in one way or another remains the only constant throughout the movie. and trying to live a decent life turns out to be the craziest thing of them all.

Literature
  • Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man is a definite case of this with a mentally retarded and deformed Jesus that the time traveler winds up replacing Jesus so that the stories come out right.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is a corner case. Jesus isn't crazy (and in fact is portrayed as closer to Crazy Awesome) but he's distracted enough by the whole Son of God thing that he comes off as a bit loopy.

Live-Action TV
  • House once asked for a differential diagnosis on Jesus, and Martha comes up with schizophrenia. The episode itself was abot a patient that was very religious, and House believed that the strong convictions was caused by a medical problem.

Theater
  • Jesus Christ Superstar is (among other things) built like a point-counterpoint debate regarding who and what Jesus was. While Maria Magdalena and the apostle Simon represent two very different versions of Jesus Was Way Cool, Pontius Pilate goes down the Jesus Was Crazy road - trying to defend Jesus by arguing that he's insane. See page quote.
    • Note that the "cool vs crazy" debate is not about being for or against Jesus. Pilate is trying to save him, while Caiaphas who is trying to get him crucified subscribe to the "Jesus is cool" camp. In the initial scene, Judas is still loyal to Jesus, and yet complains about how Jesus is turning increasingly mentally unstable under the pressure from his believers.
  • The Clive Barker play The History of the Devil portrays Jesus as a complete lunatic who actually talks Satan into arranging his own crucifixion.

Web Original
  • Zinnia Jones clims that the biblical Jesus was way out of whack, for example in the episode The Meaningless Death Of Jesus.
  • The Onion: Jesus may or may not have had a good reason to convert to Islam, but the Christians interviewed about it sure thought he was insane to blaspheme against himself like that.
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • March 15, 2011
    Xzenu
    backup
    Pilate: Look at your Jesus Christ. I'll agree he's mad. Ought to be locked up, But that is not a reason to destroy him. He's a sad little man. Not a King or God. Not a thief, I need a crime!
    Mob: Crucify him!

    While most works that feature Jesus Christ sticks to Jesus Was Way Cool, there are also works where he is portrayed as a bit crazy or even as clinically insane.

    The portrayal can come from the narrative itself, of from a character.

    Note that while "Jesus Was Crazy" and "Jesus Was Way Cool" are opposites, they can still show up in the same work. Either they contradict each other in some kind of point-counterpoint argument, or they blend together through some kind of Crazy Awesome or Cloud Cuckoolander characterization.


    Examples

    Comic Books
    • The Swedish comic "Personal-Jesus" (with the hyphan i the name) plays a lot with the lighter side of crazy. The name itself is a wordplay: The Swedish word "personal" means "human resources" and is pronounced differently from the English word that is spelled the same way. In this quite surreal setting, Jesus Christ can indeed walk on water and everything, but for some reason he works in an ordinary office and create genral mayhem - getting his coworkers drunk as he turns water into wine at the worst possible moments, and so on.

    Film
    • The Last Temptation Of Christ start out with portraying Jesus as a paranoid schizophrenic who start preaching because he hear voices in his head. The story goes through many plot-twists, and the psychiatric perspective gets obsolete after a while - but Jesus being crazy in one way or another remains the only constant throughout the movie.

    Literature
    • Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man is a definite case of this with a mentally retarded and deformed Jesus that the time traveler winds up replacing Jesus so that the stories come out right.
    • Lamb The Gospel According To Biff is a corner case. Jesus isn't crazy (and in fact is portrayed as closer to Crazy Awesome) but he's distracted enough by the whole Son of God thing that he comes off as a bit loopy.

    Live Action TV
    • House once asked for a differential diagnosis on Jesus, and Martha comes up with schizophrenia. The episode itself was abot a patient that was very religious, and House believed that the strong convictions was caused by a medical problem.

    Theater
    • Jesus Christ Superstar is (among other things) built like a point-counterpoint debate regarding who and what Jesus was. While Maria Magdalena and the apostle Simon represent two very different versions of Jesus Was Way Cool, Pontius Pilate goes down the Jesus Was Crazy road - trying to defend Jesus by arguing that he's insane. See page quote.
      • Note that the "cool vs crazy" debate is not about being for or against Jesus. Pilate is trying to save him, while Caiaphas who is trying to get him crucified subscribe to the "Jesus is cool" camp. In the initial scene, Judas is still loyal to Jesus, and yet complains about how Jesus is turning increasingly mentally unstable under the pressure from his believers.

    Web Original
    • Zinnia Jones clims that the biblical Jesus was way out of whack, for example in the episode The Meaningless Death Of Jesus.
    • The Onion: Jesus may or may not have had a good reason to convert to Islam, but the Christians interviewed about it sure thought he was insane to blaspheme against himself like that.


    end backup
  • March 15, 2011
    Game_Fan
    House once asked for a differential diagnosis on Jesus and Martha comes up with schizophrenia.
  • March 15, 2011
    nrjxll
    Needless to say, this will need careful monitoring for natter.

    To clarify, is this specifically Jesus being crazy, or can it be any aversion of Jesus Was Way Cool?
  • March 15, 2011
    Xzenu
    This is the crazy kinds. Including both wacky-crazy and "mentally disturbed"-insane, but not including a normal Jesus.

    Lets say Life Of Brian had been about Jesus rather then about Captain Ersatz. Brian is neitjher cool nor crazy.
  • March 15, 2011
    GuesssWho
    It's a sensible way of looking at it, really. He wandered around in the desert and made over-the-top proclimations about being untenably religious.
  • March 15, 2011
    TreeofStars
    How about "Jesus Christ Schizophrenic," "Jesus Christ Schizo Star," "Joan of Arc Just Heard Voices," or something of the like? This could be a trope that is expanded to other historical characters being re-visioned in modern tellings that use "modern psychology" to look back and determine that people touched by divinity were mostly likely actually just nutty in some way or another.
  • March 15, 2011
    TwinBird
    There's some serious speculation into "manna" and hallucinogenic mushrooms, isn't there?
  • March 15, 2011
    FuzzyBoots
    Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man is a definite case of this with a mentally retarded and deformed Jesus that the time traveler winds up replacing Jesus so that the stories come out right. Lamb The Gospel According To Biff is a corner case. Jesus isn't crazy (and in fact is portrayed as closer to Crazy Awesome) but he's distracted enough by the whole Son of God thing that he comes off as a bit loopy.
  • March 15, 2011
    peccantis
    Wasn't that House example about looking for a reason why a patient was so religious rather than diagnosing the Jesus guy himself?
  • March 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Point of order: Jesus Christ Superstar was originally a music album, followed by a play, then a film. At the least it should be listed under "Theatre" rather than "Film."
  • March 16, 2011
    bluepenguin
    @Twin Bird: I thought John (the one who wrote Revelation) was the one who was widely thought to have been eating the hallucinogenic mushrooms. Though that might just be a What Do You Mean It Wasnt Made On Drugs joke regarding the weirdness of Revelation.
  • March 16, 2011
    Xzenu
    Making a trope about historical characters in general being portrayed as crazy is an interesting idea, but IMHO not a good one. It's too much People Sit On Chairs for certain characters, and fixing that problem would kinda make the trope a duplicate of Historical Villain Upgrade.
  • March 16, 2011
    Xzenu
    Hmm, beena while since I read the gospels. Do we have any The Bible example of this trope? I don't think we do - the Jesus Christ Superstar Pilate seems to be a quite modern version with his Insanity Defense. But it might be in line with one of the gospels, I'm not sure. Or If Caiaphas or whoever pulled this one.
  • March 16, 2011
    LuxExterior
    For theatre:

    • The Clive Barker play The History of the Devil portrays Jesus as a complete lunatic who actually talks Satan into arranging his own crucifixion.
  • March 17, 2011
    Jordan
    Can someone remind me about the specifics of this example- I remember CS Lewis making this argument that if Jesus wasn't god, then he was either a con artist or insane- I think Lewis was trying to argue that nonbelievers couldn't/shouldn't believe Jesus Was Way Cool.

    Also, not about Jesus, but the character Kuze of Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex has a condition that seems to smack of this trope. Kuze got infected with a computer virus that gave him a god complex and I believe he's actually described as a megalomaniac. However, it's a really benign kind of insanity, as he was a good guy to start with, and so he becomes a messianic figure who is seen by everyone/is Incorruptible Pure Pureness.
  • March 17, 2011
    Xzenu
    I know CS Lewis made that argument, but I don't think he made it in any of his works. Not sure, but I think it was more like commentary or something. Anyway, going off topic a few seconds to add my two cents: I think Lewis is totally wrong: His claim is based on the faulty premise that Jesus actually wrote the gospels. As far as I know, there's pretty much a theological consensus that the gospels was written at least two generations after his death. This leave us with FOUR options, not three.

    1. The faith option: The gospels are true - including the miracles and the ressurection, and the internal inconsistancies are resolved one way or another. The people who wrote the gospels may or may not have been directly inspired by the holy spirit.
    2. the hardcore atheist option: It's all fiction, Jesus probably didn't even exist.
    3. The CS Lweis option: Jesus existed, and claimed to do all the things the gospels say he did. But he didn't really do it, he only pretended.
    4. The agnostic and islamic option: Jesus existed and preached, but the more extreme stuff was added long after his death: He did talk about turning the other cheek and The Golden Rule and cool stuff like that, but he never claimed to be the only begotten son of God or anything like that - and he would be truly shocked if he heard the claims made about him.

    Personally I find the 4:th option to be far more reasonable then the CS Lewis option.

    Meh, back to the subject. :-)

    IF CS Lewis made his claim in one of his works of fiction, then it is a valid example.
  • March 17, 2011
    Xzenu
    Clarification: I do agree with Lewis that a person who behave like Jesus does in the Gospels are probably insane. However, the evangelists who claimed that Jesus made outrageous claims about being able to instantly summon armies of angels if he wanted to actually believed these claims to be true. What I consider to be Insane Troll Logic on CS Lewis part is to disregard some parts of the gospels while still taking for granted that others are historically accurate.

    An atheist or agnostic who think Jesus was cool either consider him a cool fictional character, or reason like this: "It's more likely that the philosophy stuff is historically accurate then that the supernatural stuff is. Thus, he probably preached The Golden Rule for real, but he wasn't even aware of the idea that he would be ressurected or the son of God or anything like that - all those stories was added after his death."
  • March 17, 2011
    Captainbrass
    I once saw The Last Temptation of Christ and whilst I may just not remember it very well, I don't think it portrays Jesus as crazy. As I recall it's in many ways a fairly straight version of the Gospel story, apart from the notorious bit near the end about him having kids with Mary Magdalene.
  • March 17, 2011
    Xzenu
    He didn't come across as crazy to you? Not even in the early scenes, when he works a s carpenter building crosses for the romans and ramble on about how he want to crucify all the messiahs? Lets pretend for a moment that this character was someone other then Jesus... maybe he would have looked a bit crazier to you then. ;-)
  • March 18, 2011
    Xzenu
    Added Lewis argument to the description, as one of the ways this trope can be played. Hmm, we might have some example of this in Chick Tracts or similar?
  • March 18, 2011
    LeeM
    IIRC, one episode of the revived The Outer Limits had a similar plot to Moorcock's Behold the Man, but substituted Elvis Presley for Jesus.
  • March 18, 2011
    nrjxll
    The Lewis argument is probably better listed as an example - maybe under "Other" as we're unlikely to want Real Life examples here. As part of the description, it looks a little like an attack on the trope, which is something we try and avoid.
  • March 19, 2011
    Xtifr
    If this is really just supposed to be about Jesus, then it seems awfully narrow (not to mention a bit silly, culturally insensitive, and potentially offensive to both christians and non-christians, albeit for very different reasons). If not, then the webcomic Brathalla might fit.
  • March 19, 2011
    nrjxll
    I could see other religious figures being included, but I agree with Xzenu above that expanding it to historical figures in general isn't a great idea, for the same reasons he/she said.
  • March 20, 2011
    Xzenu
    A trope about a certain character being portrayed as cool or crazy is indeed narrow. But in this case, it's not too narrow. Jesus do have a very special place in western culture.

    I have done my best to make sure that the trope description is not written in an offensive way. Of course, those who are offended by a movie like Jesus Christ Superstar will also be offended my people analyzing sch a heretical work.

    We don't need similar tropes for characterization of Buddha or Muhammed, because they are not nearly as common a character in works of fiction as Jesus is. For the same reason, but in reverse, we do need separate tropes for God and Jesus.
  • March 23, 2011
    Frank75
    This is not at all gonna be controversial...
  • March 24, 2011
    Xzenu
    Personally, I like Jesus Was Way Cool the way it is, so I hope people won't want to merge the tropes into a neutral Jesus Christ trope. However, when it comes to Muhammed, I think a neutral Public Domain Character trope is preferable.
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