The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

August 27, 2013 by

Finding Jesus in England

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photo by author

If Jesus really had come back, wouldn’t he stay a while? Set up a carpentry shop somewhere in Bethlehem and live quietly there, making pita and salad in his flat, showing the wounds in his hands to the little ones who crowd his door, and turning water to wine to serve the drop-in guests who have one quick question about Paradise?

My husband, my 11-month-old, and I are standing before a Christian children’s souvenir store called “Shalom: The Rainbow Shop,” in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water. The baby is making noises like a raptor and eating her hat. We recently arrived in the British countryside from Vilnius, Lithuania, and are still adjusting to the transition from East to West. Kipling, that most English of poets, wrote, “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” What would he make of this mash-up of religions, a display with the same blue-and-white china seder plate that my family has used for 30 years next to brightly colored crosses for kids?A Jesus fish hangs over the door, which, like all doors in this town, is closed after 16:00. These old stone villages, held together by ivy, are so tasteful that they cannot imagine anything a person might do after that hour—or imagine the contemporary semiotic significance of the rainbow.

I imagine the gay-friendly, Jew-loving Jesus conjured up by a literal reading of this display. He would like me better than Pat Robertson. If asked about my queer friends, this Shalom-hearted Jesus would say, “Who am I to judge?” after the fashion of the current pope. I like him too, of course. This kind of savior I can get behind.

We all create Jesus in our image, whether we believe in him or not. The Jesus of this shop seems beneficent, if unavailable at off hours. He would have cream tea with us in Stow-on-the-Wold, reading the Kipling verses off the wall, or join our family seder, where he would pound the table to every song. He could drink from Elijah’s Cup and no one would know the difference.

The Lithuanian Jesus came not to bring peace, but a sword; he consecrated hatreds for centuries until exiled by the Soviets. Only recently returned, and more moderate now, I hope he enjoyed the Pride Parade down Vilnius’ main thoroughfare, which stretched rainbows across a bloodstained city.

East is East and West is West, except at Baltic Pride and here in “Shalom: The Rainbow Shop.” As a greeting and an ushering out, “Shalom” is its own cheerful paradox. Shalom, Jesus! Farewell and welcome back. I have found you.


Ester Bloom’s writing has appeared in Slate, Salon, Bite: An Anthology of Flash FictionCreative Non-Fiction, the Hairpin, the Awl, the Morning News, Nerve, PANK, Bluestem, Phoebe, Zone 3, and numerous other venues. She blogs on culture for the Huffington Post and is a columnist for Trachodon Magazine and the Billfold