This is a bit of a throwback given that Kevin Smith’s film Dogma is about 12 years old. But I recently let my daughter begin playing with my Buddy Christ statuette since she had been pointing to it on a bookshelf and making quizzical utterances (“hunh?”)—yes, I have a Buddy Christ toy. In any event, I thought the toy would be a convenient way to begin teaching her about Jesus. One day I asked if she could kiss Buddy Christ and tell him “thank you” (for salvation, etc.). Since then she has carried Buddy Christ around saying “tank tu” and kissing him on the head, which her mother and father consider absolutely adorable.

All this is by way of explanation as to why I’ve been reflecting on the film afresh after all these years. Buddy Christ, of course, is emblematic of theologies of glory in contrast to the crucifix, which is emblematic of theologies of the cross. In fact, the amusing scene below from Dogma starring the late George Carlin as Roman Catholic Cardinal Glick introducing the Catholicism WOW campaign, actually pits the Cross against the new, improved, and glorious Buddy Christ:

Here is a transcript of the scene:

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, the driving force behind “Catholicism WOW,” Cardinal Glick.

Cardinal Glick: Thank you, thank you. Now we all know how the majority and the media in this country view the Catholic Church. They think of us as a passé, archaic institution. People find the Bible obtuse, even hokey. Now in an effort to disprove all that, the Church has appointed this year as a time of renewal, both of faith and of style. For example, the crucifix. While it has been a time honored symbol of our faith, Holy Mother Church has decided to retire this highly recognizable, yet wholly depressing image of our Lord crucified. Christ didn’t come to earth to give us the willies. He came to help us out. He was a booster. And it is with that take on our Lord in mind that we’ve come up with a new, more inspiring sigil. So it is with great pleasure that I present you with the first of many revamps the “Catholicism WOW” campaign will unveil over the next year. I give you the Buddy Christ. Now that’s not the sanctioned term we’re using for the symbol, just something we’ve been kicking around the office, but look at it. Doesn’t it pop? Buddy Christ!

Buddy Christ makes a lot of sense if we are just looking for someone to help us out—a cheerleader or a life coach. With a wink and a nod, he has your back when you need some advice and cheering up. Which sounds nice, and not just in an ironic way—a supernatural homeboy, copilot, etc. But Christ did not come to throw us a pep rally. Of course, he did not come to give us the willies either. He came to live as one of us, and to do what we could not do for ourselves, what no amount of cheerleading or boosting could ever accomplish: to reconcile all of us inveterate glory-seekers to God. The crucifix with all its blood and gore is actually cause for much rejoicing.

Meanwhile, though, I will continue to let my daughter play with Buddy Christ, since he has already proven to be helpful. The other day we were at our friends’ house for lunch, and they had a Christ Pantocrator icon on their wall, like the one in the image to the right. My daughter, who is only 19-months old, pointed to the icon and exclaimed: “Jesus!” Thumbs up to that.