Jesus wept? Oh no, my friends. Jesus charmed!
Jesus, like so many leading protagonists in the great books for men, had game, and used it to mesmerize the fuck outta his audiences of admirers. There’s a direct line throughout history leading from the thorny crown to the furry hat. Jesus was mystery, and Jesus was the first Mystery.
Proof of Jesus’ mad skills with the coy doubters comes to us via this nifty list of his best follower pickups.
One of the best-described of all charismatic leaders is Jesus. About 90 face-to-face encounters with Jesus are described in the four gospels of the New Testament.
Notice what happens:
The Son of God is about to raise your buying temperature.
Jesus is sitting on the ground, teaching to a crowd in the outer courtyard of the temple at Jerusalem. The Pharisees, righteous upholders of traditional ritual and law, haul before him a woman taken in adultery. They make her stand in front of the crowd and say to Jesus: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law commands us to stone her to death. What do you say?”
The text goes on that Jesus does not look up at them, but continues to write in the dirt with his finger. This would not be unusual; Archimedes wrote geometric figures in the dust, and in the absence of ready writing materials the ground would serve as a chalkboard. The point is that Jesus does not reply right away; he lets them stew in their uneasiness.
Jesus used tension to build attraction.
Minutes go by. One by one, the crowd starts to slip away, the older ones first– the young hotheads being the ones who do the stoning, as in the most primitive parts of the Middle East today.
Finally Jesus is left with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightens up and asks her: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She answers: “No one.” “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus says. “Go now and sin no more.” (John 8: 1-11)
Jesus is a master of timing. He does not allow people to force him into their rhythm, their definition of the situation. He perceives what they are attempting to do, the intention beyond the words. And he makes them shift their ground.
Jesus forced others into his frame.
He does not allow the encounter to focus on himself against the Pharisees. He knows they are testing him, trying to make him say something in violation of the law; or else back down in front of his followers. Instead Jesus throws it back on their own consciences, their inner reflections about the woman they are going to kill. He individualizes the crowd, making them drift off one by one, breaking up the mob mentality.
Jesus passed shit tests.
Jesus is a charismatic leader, indeed the archetype of charisma. Although sociologists tend to treat charisma as an abstraction, it is observable in everyday life. We are viewing the elements of it, in the encounters of Jesus with the people around him.
Game is applied charisma. I wonder if Jesus was a Dark Triad? Or should I say, Dark Trinity?
(1) Jesus always wins an encounter [...]
Jesus never lets anyone determine the conversational sequence. He answers questions with questions, putting the interlocutor on the defensive. An example, from early in his career of preaching around Galilee:
Jesus has been invited to dinner at the house of a Pharisee. A prostitute comes in and falls at his feet, wets his feet with her tears, kisses them and pours perfume on them. The Pharisee said to himself, “If this man is a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him– that she is a sinner.”
Jesus, reading his thoughts, said to him: “I have something to tell you.” “Tell me,” he said. Jesus proceeded to tell a story about two men who owed money, neither of whom could repay the moneylender. He forgives them both, the one who owes 500 and the one who owes 50. Jesus asked: “Which of the two will love him more?” “The one who had the bigger debt forgiven,” the Pharisee replied. “You are correct,” Jesus said. “Do you see this woman? You did not give me water for my feet, but this woman wet them with her tears and dried them with her hair… Therefore her many sins have been forgiven– as her great love has shown.”
Jesus doesn’t follow conversational threads like an attention starved beta; he breaks them and makes his own. He answers ambiguously. He puts people in the defensive crouch, where tingles are born. Jesus follows the statement-statement-question format of effective discourse control.
The priests send spies, hoping to catch Jesus in saying something so that they might hand him over to the Roman governor. So they asked: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Jesus knowing their evil intent, said to them, “Show me the coin used to pay taxes.” When they brought it, he said, “Whose image is on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were astonished by his answer, and were silent.
Jesus the charismatic alpha male was unpredictable. You expect him to say one thing; he says another. AMOGs show deference and vaginas weep on cue.
(2) Jesus is quick and absolutely decisive
As his mission is taking off in Galilee, followers flock to hear him. Some he invites to come with him. It is a life-changing decision.
A man said to him: “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus replied: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
It is a shocking demand. In a ritually pious society, there is nothing more important that burying your father. Jesus demands a complete break with existing social forms; those who follow them, he implies, are dead in spirit.
Chicks hate mincing betaboys. Jesus was not a mincing betaboy. Chicks dig rule breakers. Jesus was definitely a rule breaker.
The Pharisees complained, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus perceives who will make a good recruit, and who will not.
Jesus was practiced in the art of target selection.
(3) Jesus always does something unexpected [...]
Some of the disciples said indignantly to each other, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare me for my funeral.” (Mark 14: 1-10; Matthew 26: 6-13)
A double jolt. His disciples by now have understood the message about the selfishness of the rich and charity to the poor. But there are circumstances and momentous occasions that transcend even the great doctrine of love thy neighbour. Jesus is zen-like in his unexpectedness. There is a second jolt, and his disciples do not quite get it. Jesus knows he is going to be crucified. He has the political sense to see where the confrontation is headed; in this he is ahead of his followers, who only see his power.
When was the last time you saw an alpha male do the dull, boring thing? Never.
(4) Jesus knows what the other is intending
Jesus is an intelligent observer of the people around him.
Jesus was situationally aware.
He is highly focused on everyone’s moral and social stance, and sees it in the immediate moment. Charismatic people are generally like that; Jesus does it to a superlative degree.
Jesus lived in the moment. Jesus did not suffer “paralysis by analysis”.
Jesus’ perceptiveness helps explain why he dominates his encounters. He surprises interlocutors by unexpectedly jumping from their words, not to what conventionally follows verbally, but instead speaking to what they are really about, skipping the intermediate stages.
Jesus knew how to “elicit values”, and build deep connections with people.
(5) Jesus is master of the crowd [...]
Crowds are a major source of Jesus’ power. There is a constant refrain: “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” His enemies the high priests are afraid of what his crowd of followers will do if they attack Jesus.
Jesus was socially proofed.
[His disciples] are the privileged in-group, and they know it. Jesus admonishes them from time to time about their pride; but he needs them, too. It is another reason why living with Jesus is bracing. There is an additional circuit of charismatic energy in the inner circle.
Jesus can still arouse this crowd, but he cannot silence it. He does not back off, but becomes increasingly explicit. The metaphors he does use are not effective. His sheep that he refers to means his own crowd of loyal followers, and Jesus declares he has given them eternal life– but not to this hostile crowd of unbelievers. Words no longer convince; the sides declaim stridently against each other. The eloquent phrases of earlier preaching have fallen into cacophony. Nevertheless Jesus still escapes violence. The crowd is never strong enough to dominate him. Only the organized authorities can take him, and that he does not evade.
Alpha males can be taken down by a state-sanctioned beta male show of force.
(6) Jesus’ down moments
Even an alpha male occasionally gets cockblocked.
Leaving aside the miracle itself and its symbolism, one thing we see in this episode is Jesus conflicted between his mission– to demonstrate the power of resurrection– and his personal feelings for Lazarus and his sisters. Jesus let Lazarus die, by staying away during his sickness, in order to make this demonstration, but in doing so he caused grief to those he loved. The moment when he confronts their pain (amplified by the weeping of the crowd), Jesus himself weeps. It is the only time in the texts when he weeps. It is a glimpse of himself as a human being, as well as a man on a mission.
Finally Jesus is taken before Pilate, the Roman governor. Jesus gives his usual sharp replies, and indeed wins him over. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks.
King of the Poon, amirite?
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asks in return, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a player? Only if you want me to be.”
In the crises, Jesus’ interactional style remains much the same as always; but the speaking in parables and figurative language has given way to blunt explanations. Parables are for audiences who want to understand. Facing open adversaries, Jesus turns to plain arguments.
Sometimes it’s necessary to drop the flirty banter and aloofness and draw a line in the sand that you don’t want a woman to cross.
Jesus the alpha male. Jesus the PUA (of disciples). Jesus the master of the crimson arts. Men followed him. Powerful men feared him. Prostitutes paid *him*.
Jesus is risen, indeed!