A Review of Brian Hardin’s “Sneezing Jesus”
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a rather unorthodox Christian. So bear with me here while I try to paint an image that runs a bit counter to what I believe. Believe, if you will, that Jesus was God incarnate in human form. Jesus was literally God coming down from the heavens to become flesh. And, with such things of the flesh, God became wholly human. That means that God sneezed. And burped. And urinated. And defecated. And farted. It’s a bit of a striking image, isn’t it? Outside of the Crucifixion, we tend to view Jesus as being antiseptic and God-like. Author Brian Hardin in his new book, Sneezing Jesus, paints another picture. A God that had all of humanity’s warts and all.
Of course, I don’t really believe outright that Jesus was the Son of God in literal terms. I tend to think of Him as a bit more of a historical figure and all the miracles he did were really just metaphors for things he wanted to teach us. You may not share that view, and that’s fine. What works for me, works for me, I guess. Still, it’s heartening to read a book that you may not necessarily theologically agree with and find that it tickles something in your brain and causes you to look at your religion in a new light.
Sneezing Jesus is a book that inverts a lot of things you might have thought about the nature of God and His Son. What’s more, the book faithfully recreates a picture of the Holy Land and takes you on a bit of a tour to make you really see where things such as the Good Samaritan story would have taken place. I didn’t know this, but the road the people in the parable would have walked down is all downhill from Jerusalem, and, in Jesus’ time, full of robbers and thieves waiting in the bushes. Just little details like that really added to the take-away value of this book.
The book is slender, being only 160 pages long. However, it is engaging and peppy and those 160 pages do go by as though they were 80. It’s an interesting (and quick) read because it tells the story of Jesus, from birth to death to resurrection and intermixes it with learnings from the author’s own life. In fact, at one point Hardin writes, “I wonder if I’m not repeating the same story (of doubting Jesus’ miracles of raising people from the dead) in my life.” To which he then retorts, “Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way if we would just believe Him.” Thus, the author invites us to walk down the same road he did, and wonders if we’ll reach the same conclusions based on our knowledge of Scripture.
Some of the personal stories in the book are hilarious, though, such as when the author gets stuck in the desert and the only person who can help him is a drunk tow truck driver. Or the person who approaches the author on the street while he shoots fairly modest pictures of his wife for use as promo photos for her music, only to be asked by this stranger if he knew how to get into the adult film industry!
Each chapter reads a bit like an individual essay, with the narrative arc of Jesus’ life being the connective thread throughout the book’s structure. Through it all, Hardin wants to put as much of a human face on Jesus — telling His story along with our stories (of our current, modern-day world) — as much as possible. The line that is meant to be drawn is that God is just as human as any of us. His cares are our cares, and vice-versa. In fact, at one point Hardin writes, speaking of sorrow at the death of Lazarus:
“To be truly human is to withhold nothing from God. He’s not embarrassed. It’s not awkward for Him. Tears are a direct line to our soul in both joy and pain, and they speak beyond what we know how to say.”
As far as the book’s enjoyment factor goes, it’s pretty relatively high. I read books such as this as a form of prayer for myself, and, seeing that my days are fairly full at the moment, it’s a good feeling to have something to look forward to when you come home from working in a client’s workplace and have words sweep over you like a balm. Hardin has a nice, lulling authorial style, kind of like chatting with a decent friend over coffee, even if you don’t entirely see eye to eye with him. To wit, the publisher notes that the primary audience for this book is Christians who have a reverence for Scripture and yet desire a fresh take on what feels familiar. You get that all packaged in a fairly breezy tone
There’s not a lot in this book to ponder over and there’s nothing to be had here that’s particularly earth shattering. However, Sneezing Jesus is a good little read (and I love to read short books as it just means that I get around to writing about them that much faster). If you want to know more about the life and times and geographical backdrop of Jesus’ life, turn here. If you want a good theological discussion on Christ being the ultimate sacrifice, well, as much as I’d hate to say it (as I find such a thing to be a bit of rubbish), turn here, too.
Sneezing Jesus is a fun walk through Biblical history that won’t be too offensive to those who may not see eye to eye with the author’s own beliefs. If reading a book that challenges you, makes you think, but is easy and compact to read, may God bless you as you achoo! your way through this book. This is a fun and disarmingly simple read, and that’s high praise indeed.
Brian Hardin’s Sneezing Jesus: How God Redeems Our Humanity will be published by Tyndale on July 11, 2017.
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