You might remember a month ago when woke Americans were toppling and vandalizing statues in a frenzy: Confederates, slave owners, racists, and colonizers all had to come down. Members of Black Lives Matter were insistent on toppling the Emancipation Memorial that was funded by freed slaves and featured Abraham Lincoln lifting a former slave out of bondage (it looked too much like the freed slave was bowing before Lincoln).
But social justice warrior Shaun King took things to the next level by demanding that any depictions of Jesus as a white man had to go because they were a form of white supremacy. “Tear them down,” he said of the statues, adding that “All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form [of] white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda.”
We personally think it would be a shame to throw a tarp over Michelangelo’s Pietà. It doesn’t seem like white supremacy to us as much as it does artists creating Jesus in their own image.
Michael Gerson has picked up the torch and writes in the Washington Post Tuesday that white Jesus is a fiction created because white Christians couldn’t accept someone of a lesser race as their savior:
…The white, European Jesus of Western imagination is a fiction produced by those who could not imagine human perfection in any other form. “Whites simply couldn’t conceive of owing their salvation to a representative of what they considered an inferior race,” Robert P. Jones, chief executive of PRRI and the author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” emailed me. “And a nonwhite Jesus would render impossible the intimate relationalism necessary for the evangelical paradigm to function: no proper white Christian would let a brown man come into their hearts or submit themselves to be a disciple of a swarthy Semite.”
The embrace of a Scandinavian Jesus is not just foolish but part of a broader historical amnesia. Jesus not only looked like a Middle Eastern Jew; this identity also made him part of an oppressed, dispossessed group. A sense of Jewish powerlessness was the social context for his ministry, and his teaching reflected it.
So what to do about all of the depictions of “Scandanavian Jesus”?
It is the great temptation of Christians in every time to shape their faith to fit their interests and predispositions rather than reshaping themselves to fit the gospel. This is what happened when Christians justified slavery, blessed the violent reimposition of white rule after the Civil War and sanctified segregation.
Now scandalous injustice has forced the examination of white supremacy in our lives and institutions. The Christianity of Christ has much to offer. Among White evangelicals, it needs better representatives than we have recently seen.
OK, so a liberal is complaining about white evangelicals? That’s not news. The comments section is pretty harsh against religion in general, though, and Christianity specifically.
When you included “imagination” you lost your argument. Certainly there are those that try to triabilize Christianity but for the most part it is very much a religion of inclusion. For those without faith this may be a hard concept to understand.
— Richard Heller (@RichardHeller19) August 4, 2020
It's a symbol. The message is what is important. Can we stop these people from attacking EVERYTHING? We are all being corraled by a bunch if idiots who haven't got the mental capacity to understand what a symbol is…
— AmericanExpat (@AmericanExpat6) August 4, 2020
Every culture depicts Jesus as physically resembling themselves. There is black Jesus and Asian Jesus.
— Butterfly_Etude (@Butterfly_Etude) August 4, 2020
When cultures adopt a religious figure they usually make it in their idealistic image. For example Buddha Images from Thailand or China.
— Searching for a Better World (@lellingw) August 4, 2020
Artists that depicted Jesus over the ages never claimed that they knew exactly what he looked like.
They used features that they were familiar with.
— Dave Kleikamp (@ShaggyKC) August 4, 2020
No duh. He was a Jewish man living in Roman controlled Israel. No doubt he was olive skinned. But people love to create art depicting Jesus in the ethnicity that best matches their own. This includes Chinese and African depictions of Jesus.
In other words, who cares?
— Auntie Sam (@auntiesam_usa) August 4, 2020
Yeah, literally every culture in the world has depicted Jesus as a member of their racial group. Nobody thinks of them as anything but cool art pieces, and Christians WILL NOT stop because of some hand-wringy, pearl-clutchy opinion pieces.
— Elle (@KelinciHutan) August 4, 2020
Every culture depicts Jesus/Mary in it's own image. The European Jesus sprung forth from the artistic license of the local/regional culture. In time, its finest artists worked on religious art. Solution: open oneself to African Jesus where the Church is growing most rapidly.
— Tony Moreno (@tony_bronx) August 4, 2020
My grandmother was born in Nazareth and is 100% Levantine but had pale skin and reddish brown hair, my grandfather (also born in Nazareth) had darker skin and black hair. Jesus could have looked like either. Either way it isn't racist to depict him as European
— Idle time (@time_idle) August 4, 2020
Someone, for real, wasted time writing this? This reads like a Dear Facebook note to one’s self. ???
— That Dude Wild (@whereorwere) August 4, 2020
Yes…. but who imagines otherwise? How is this even a story?
— Jerone Anderson (@jeroneanderson) August 4, 2020
Wow! Didn't know that. Wow! ?
— Freddie De Souza (@FreddieKevin) August 4, 2020
— Dr Evil (@MD_STAT) August 5, 2020
This isn't news. The Renaissance paintings of Bible characters in European dress weren't accurate either. So what?
— Today in Danistan (@RealDanLee) August 4, 2020
This is so biased and so wrong. Most of the art depicting bible scenes was done by local artists in Europe who simply didn’t know other races. By accusing them for being white, you're just replacing one injustice with another.
— Boris Omerzo (@BorisOmerzo) August 4, 2020
Why is this still coming up? Should be obvious to everyone by now that Jesus was swarthy. It was Israel! So who is this tired old commentary meant for?! I’m a Christian & so sick of this nonsense.
Find something else to bitch about. You can choose plenty of REAL issues.
— Lea Williams VO (@LeaWmsVO) August 4, 2020
Wash Post still trying to divide….
Definitely good at it!
— zsylvainz (@zsylvainz) August 4, 2020
They’ve got it down to a science.
The new Buzzfeed isn't as good as the old one.
— Deep Thought (@TrollBot42) August 4, 2020
Shaun King says all depictions of white European Jesus are a gross form of white supremacy and must come down https://t.co/3qu4H8vHyf
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) June 22, 2020