- - Sunday, December 22, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What explosive emotions have erupted when Megyn Kelly of Fox News declared that Jesus and Santa were white men. Let me focus on Jesus which will readily address the Santa nonsense.

Jesus was black.

No wait, Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, so he was probably more olive-skinned, possibly browner, but definitely not black.

Of course, I am kidding, Jesus was Asian or Indian.

No matter what, I think we can at least agree that Jesus was not white with blond hair and blue eyes, but only because his hair was brownish and eyes were hazel.

In America — a country obsessed with race, privilege and oppression while being largely ignorant of other cultures’ historical narratives — it should come as no surprise that many believe the race of Jesus is just as, if not more important, than his message.

I will settle the question of Jesus’ ethnological make-up once and for all right now, as I have uncovered a divine truth: No one will ever know exactly what “race” Jesus was and arguing about it is pointless.

In America, we almost always see Jesus depicted as a white man because America has been majority white throughout its history. For many in the black Christian community, this has made Jesus less relatable.

When you take a look at the history of the Roman province of Judea in the periods surrounding Jesus’ life, you see a group struggling to assert itself and its identity in the face of imperial subjugation. From the Maccabees to the destruction of the Second Temple, the Hebrews fought with Rome constantly. Jesus as the suffering servant speaks to Black America: slavery, oppression, crucifixion/lynching, and a struggle for full citizenship and respect for its particular culture.

But image can mean everything and white Jesus sends a mixed message to certain people. The visage represents superiority and privilege, the history says struggle. But what if I told you that the Bible depicts Jesus as black? Not only that, his mother was from Africa. And there is evidence that the original Jews were black, not olive to brown skinned.

Suddenly, a black Jesus changes the narrative. It makes sense and speaks to the black community in a way a white Jesus never could.

Except black Jesus is as much a myth as white Jesus.

The history of the Middle East is the story of conquest, invasion, and migration. Wave after wave of peoples were pushed in and out of the area, from Africa to Asia to Europe, the region has been in flux since the dawn of recorded history. Pointing to a modern group or sub-culture as proof of Jesus’ true race is a fallacy. It assumes that if people living in a place look like this now, then they must have looked like that 2,000 years ago. We have paintings of Judeans from the time period, but that is as close as we can get to nailing down what Jesus looked like and that means little.

What we do know is that every culture and ethnicity adapts the image of Jesus to fit itself. This tradition goes back to Paul himself adapting Jesus message to the Gentiles, seeing more possibility in converting Romans than convincing the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Unsurprisingly, early Christian art found in Roman catacombs shows Jesus and other biblical figures as very Roman looking.

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