I had a very interesting experience this week. An acquaintance of mine who is an artist asked me to pose as his model for Jesus in several scenes he is painting for the interior of a church. My first thought was: I can’t believe this is the first time such a request of me has been made, I mean the similarities are apparent. Ok, so that wasn’t really my first thought. My first thought was: what an intriguing idea. What will it feel like, if anything, for me as an imperfect mortal to pose as deity.
I went to the artist’s studio and posed in various positions while he took pictures. He will then use these pictures of me as a model to place Christ on canvas in the several scenes for which I posed. One pose was especially awkward. He will be painting the moment where Thomas puts his hand into the Resurrected Savior’s side. For this pose I had to open the robe I was wearing to reveal my naked side (part of my stomach and chest). This moment felt very awkward as I bared, obviously a small portion of my body, portraying a scene from Christ’s life.
I began to wonder about the many models and actors through the ages who have either posed as models for Christ or portrayed him in movies. What impact does such playing have on the psyche of us mortals. I am no psychologist, or anything related there to, but for me it had an interesting effect. It felt at times odd and maybe even blasphemous that I would stand in, even as only a physical model, for the Savior. In fact, I left that night with the feeling of my distance from the Savior more present in my mind than it had been for quite some time. I don’t mean that I felt unworthy or sinful exactly. More, I felt like I was very distant from the figure for which I was modeling.
Do we blaspheme when we as the imperfect depict the perfect? I think it completely depends on the circumstances and in what manner we portray deity. Obviously it can have great impact for good, as in Church films and other more sacred media. At other times it can do great harm, as many felt it did in the film The Last Temptation of Christ. But does it also depend on us? Should we have a certain level of worthiness in order to approach the role of deity? Those involved in Mormon film might have some insights into this. For me, I will continue to feel comfortable just being me and leave the matters of deity to those who are in fact deity.