Black Jesus

9 12 2010

A friend of mine recently mentioned the dangers of characterizing Jesus as a white European man.  For reference, one only has to look at any marketed image of Jesus from the last few decades — you’re probably picturing the type.  Definitely European, definitely white.  Okay.

For a collection of what images there are of Jesus over the years, check out this link.

Obviously none of these is a portait for which he sat, and who knows if any of them is rooted in any fact.  It’s just as likely as not that they aren’t, but who knows.

The American Christian subculture was saturated with whitewashed, if you will, images of Jesus for a long time, and perhaps still is in some areas.  But I don’t know how that’s something we should still take seriously.  Everyone I have a modicum of respect for agrees that, yes, Jesus was probably not white or Aryan or born in the midwestern United States.  Yeah, he was an ethnic Jew.  Yep, he was probably fairly swarthy after 40 days in the desert (of course, actual melanin content isn’t solely dependent on sunlight exposure — we can only postulate so far).

But I just don’t care.

The benefit of knowing his skin color for sure seems…quite small, to say the least.  I understand the point that picturing Jesus as white can send a damaging message to people, and even alienate them.  That’s a whole different argument, though.  Bottom line — he wasn’t white.  We all know that.  Those namby pampy picture books we read weren’t correct.  Gasp.

Bottom line, though:  I don’t see a need to lambaste those images and to point out how racist American Christians are or were at every opportunity.  We’re sinful.  Like, really.  Most of us people tend to be.  And guess what?  Our selfishness or racism or whatever tends to hurt others as well as ourselves.  So can we please just admit those pictures are silly and move on?  Loving others and loving God sounds a lot better than trying to expunge the sins of the past through vicariously iconoclasm-ing those pictures now.

(I can barely write about this without audibly sighing.  I’d better just stop now and walk away.)




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