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JesusPortrayals of Jesus
in popular culture

Story:Reclaiming the Past

Saavedra often consults the Bible during his program.

      “KFI AM 640, more stimulating talk radio. Good morning every one, thank you so much for tuning in to the Jesus Christ show. I am your Holy Host, happy to be with you this Sunday as I am every Sunday.”

      The booth is equipped with listening stations for guests, and in a few minutes, they’ll be taken by  a group of 20-something friends from a young Christian bible study group  who have driven 30 miles in the middle of the night to see the show live.

      But he won’t let them in until the first segment is over.  The show starts each week with a new monologue, and visitors tend to break his concentration. This morning’s topic is love.
He starts by poking fun at himself  - well, his Jesus self.

      “I know I’m constantly being pointed at as this ultimate law giver, all these weighty, oppressive laws, all these rules, he says with a sigh “ Do, don’t. Though shall, though shall not.”

       But I want you to understand there is a purpose to rules, and guidelines, and structure to love…Love is the fulfillment of the law,” he says.

       He lets his guests in during the commercials and they play get-to-know-you until it’s time for Saavedra to return to the microphone. His Jesus voice is  his Neil voice, just a bit slower, and more intimate.

       Be bold today,”  he says over the air, encouraging listeners to call in.

       A flat monitor placed in front of him displays a list of callers and a brief synopsis of their questions as told to the show’s screeners.

       Saavedra can pick them up in any order, or not at all. It allows him to control the flow of the show, which can be crucial to keeping Saavedra in character. He calls it “stacking the deck.” Jesus can’t be stumped, and he can’t stumble. So if Saavedra doesn’t have an answer, or thinks the call would break up the flow of the program, he lets it go.

       Sometimes, what’s before him on the screen is a clear indication against putting the caller on air. Such is the case this morning with a caller who asks   “What does God think of Islam which says it’s about love but isn’t?” 

       “Idiots,” he says and disregards the question until the caller hangs up.

       Saavedra cruises easily through the first few segments of the morning. A man asks Jesus how he can find the one true Christian church (there’s no such thing, as long as you are there to be with me, the rest is gravy, he tells him.)  Another asks how he can get his wife to go to church. (You can’t keep your partner in a “spiritual chokehold,” he says).

       He tells a woman and her sister that, contrary to vampire-novelist Anne Rice’s new book about Jesus’s childhood, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, he didn’t perform “magical Jesus-type stuff” as a child .

A divorced middle-aged man dating an atheist poses as Jesus
on a Los Angeles radio station and tackles humanity’s issues, from marital infidelity to weighty questions about Christianity.

       “I wasn’t turning clay birds into real birds.  I wasn’t zapping people who bothered me, bullies, local bullies trying to take my milk sheckles,” referring to two scenes in her novel. “Nothing like that. It wasn’t like that at all.”

       He tells the woman that his childhood was just like hers. “I grew up a normal, Jewish, boy,” he says as they cut for commercial, pausing for effect between each word.

       He reminds listeners frequently during his shows of Jesus’ Hebrew roots– which has won him praise from Rabbis listening in. He says that Christians too often like to downplay their religion’s Semitic background . “My Jesus is inherently Jewish,” he says later on.

       Once the woman hangs up and he’s off air, Saavedra laughs.  Mimicking the elderly woman's voice he laments, “Now she’s saying, ‘but I didn’t grow up a Jewish boy’ – that’s not what I meant.”

       Who says Jesus can’t do shtick?


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