In The Passion, the live, televised musical “event” hosted by Tyler Perry Sunday night on Fox, Jesus, played by Jencarlos Canela, did the following things:
- Get bread, presumably for the Last Supper, from a food truck
- Belt a Creed song to an audience of his disciples, who were dressed like models from a Land’s End catalog
- Exchange (unintended?) flirtatious looks with Peter as they sang a duet of Phillip Phillips’s “Home”
There’s so, so much more. Judas, played by a black-leather-clad Chris Daughtry, performed a moody Evanescence solo in a warehouse. Jesus told Peter, played by Prince Royce, that he will be the rock of the church—in what looked to be an upscale coffeeshop/bar complete with flavored syrups in the background, just in case the disciples like their lattes with a hint of vanilla. The music selection was definitely aimed at people who came of age in the early aughts—remember Hoobastank? Not really? Well, Peter mournfully sang one of the band’s only hits, “The Reason,” right after Jesus was arrested. Trisha Yearwood was, as ever, a magnificent performer. But when Mary, mother of Jesus, wears giant diamonds on her ears, something’s a little off.
In some ways, this was the perfect portrayal of Jesus for the 21st century. It was rich in the familiar imagery of urban bourgeoise consumerism (there wasn’t a poorly dressed person in sight). It mostly subbed in top pop songs for tunes with explicitly religious messages (only a few numbers actually referred to angels or God). The Passion was heavy on spirituality, with only light pepperings of theological specificity. As Canela told People, “We make the mistake of attaching the word God to religion,” he said. “The word God is way bigger than religion.”