Black Jesus

I told myself I wasn't gonna write about this, but that seems to be the first indication that I'm going to wind up writing about something. Everybody knows that there has been some controversy surrounding The Passion because of some possible anti-Semitic content. My personal belief is that the viewer will see whatever he or she expected to see, only more. If the person went in thinking she was going to see an anti-Semitic movie, that's what she'll see. If the person went in thinking she was going to see a visual representation of one of the central elements of her faith, that's what she'll see. I personally don't believe the movie has anti-Semitic intent, but I do believe that a person who is extremely sensitive can find it offensive. I wasn't planning on writing about that, but I hadn't told myself I wasn't going to write about that. I told myself I wasn't going to write about the other controversy; the one where some Black people are criticizing the movie because Jesus is depicted as being white. Now, I like to think that I'm hip. I understand all the ramifications of Jesus being white in the popular American imagination and all of that. At some point a few years ago, I used to really get uptight about things like that. However, being a little older and having more perspective, I really have to question the motive of the inquisitors. For instance, inthe first article I saw raising the issue, the person doing the protesting was Malik Shabazz, of the New Black Panther Party. Now I could be wrong, but somehow I suspect that he doesn't believe in Jesus in the first place. Moreover, I doubt that his objection to Christianity has anything to do with Jesus' physical characteristics. In my experience, many of the same people who will tell you that Jesus was Black will tell you that Christianity is the white man's religion. Now, I'm not going to get into all of that right here in this post (although I probably will at some point) but I will say that it can't be both ways. If Jesus himself is Black but the American Christianity which sanctioned slavery is based on a white Jesus, then the integrity of true Christianity cannot be questioned because the version that is in dispute is not authentic in the first place. Later, I read a review in which an AME minister raised the same objection. Kept telling myself I wasn't going to say anything, but at this point, I just can't help it. First of all, it was kind of interesting when they used the description in Revelation 1:14 & 1:15 on the "Black Jesus" episode of Good Times, but it's getting out of hand now. Good Times was a situation comedy. As much as people may want to use those verses as biblical proof that Jesus was Black, that's just incompatible with the text. The description provided in Revelation is not a physical description. Unless the proponents of that interpretation would also go as far as to say that Jesus was walking around the world with seven stars in his hand, a sword coming out of his mouth, and looking as bright as the sun. (Rev. 1:16) (So now what, is somebody gonna say that's proof he was high yellow?) No, the description of Jesus in Revelation 1 is not a literal physical description. First of all, it's a description of Jesus in his glorified form, not as he appeared as a human. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the description of Jesus in Revelation is as symbolic as the descriptions of nearly everything else in the book of Revelation. Unfortunately, I have seen Christian ministers use this same "proof," which definitely saddens me. The seven candlesticks which he was in the midst of, the golden girdle, the white hair (and please, please, please pay attention to the fact that the phrase "white like wool" is not a description of the texture of the hair, but a description of the color, which is amplified by the next phrase, "as white as snow"), the fiery eyes, the brass feet, the many-waters voice, the seven stars, the sword, and the bright countenance all have specific spiritual significance. It would be nice, but to read those verses as "Jesus is Black" is just wrong. Sorry. What's more, I think that living in the post-modern, 21st century United States, we place far too much importance on what Jesus may have looked like in the first place. If you believe that Jesus' purpose in coming into the world was to shed his blood for the remission of sins, then the color of his skin really doesn't matter. That's not a capitulation to the establishment, that's just a point of fact. If the race of the person who rescued me from drowning when I was 6 did not matter, then how much more should Jesus' "race"(which we scientifically know to be a false concept anyway) be irrelevant? Jesus' Godhood was not determined by how he looked, so we should not attach undue significance to his appearance. Unfortunately, because of the historical use of Christianity to support and justify racist practices, this is an issue. Regarding the question of the psychological effects of believing in a white Jesus, I concede that there could be some negative psychological effects. However, I would submit that those questions really have nothing to do with Jesus himself, but with the people who claim to have believed in him. Like I said earlier, if it's a misrepresentation and we know it's a misrepresentation, then the fault has to lie with the liars. Moreover, I think that when you really believe, whatever psychological difficulties may be encountered are more than compesated for by the spiritual benefits. Since I'm talking about the movie again, I might as well get it all off my chest. I don't think that this movie necessarily constitutes making a graven image, but I think it's important to keep it in its proper context; it's a movie. Mel Gibson didn't get into a time machine and film the actual event. This is no more the crucifixion than that Madden game I just got through playing was the Super Bowl. And here, I think Madden is a good analogy. Madden is very similar to football; looking at it on the screen, it's almost like watching a game on television. Almost. But in some very significant ways, it's not even close. Real football is exponentially more difficult than any video game representation could ever be. For as hard as it can be to pass on a highly-ranked defense on the game, to actually be on a football field with the same players would not even rate a comparison. Likewise with this movie versus the actual event. It's a representation of, not the. Remember that.