“Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean,” wrote Algernon Charles Swinburne. “The world has grown grey with thy breath.” Where, I wonder, did the Victorian poet get this picture of a Christ who draws the color out of life? Then it occurs to me: from Christians. He drew the image from observing people like me.
Those who follow Jesus have done a good deal to propagate an image of Christ as the cosmic killjoy, the divine naysayer, who never met a delight he could not dull or a dream he could not puncture. Puritanism, the 20th-century writer H. L. Mencken famously quipped, is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Puritans or not, Christians have done their part to vindicate his statement.