I often find myself disheveled by the Black church, yet not surprised. An institution with such collective power but chooses to yield itself to antiquated ideologies that serve the oppressors. Yes, the Black church has become one the biggest purveyors of capitalism, but, attempts to shield itself with spiritual jargon. In the words of the Otis Moss III, “The church has become capitalism in drag.” It has lost its will and vision to produce a liberative theology for the captive, and, opted, for a seat at the table of capital gain. In the particular structure: truth, honesty, and integrity fails in comparison to popularity and maintenance of the status quo.
Salvation is a mere focus upon redemption of the soul with no concern for the freedom of the body. Therefore, preaching resembles messages that believe its God’s will to get your head beat in, by police, as long as you fervently pray for your enemies. But, there is nothing remotely sacred or Godly about protesting bodily harm. The church that we have inherited “is so damaged that at the moment it does not provide an effective rallying point.” Those parenthetical words are the words spoken Howard Thurman in 1965 but still speaks, vividly, today.
The threat of white evangelical theology is one of eminent danger. It introduces a god, a jesus that is pimping Black and brown people in these yet to be United States. (By pimping, I mean leading in a way that is unproductive for our systemic and structural growth.) It is not the Black Messiah, the revolutionary, Palestinian Jew who stood tall for his people. The one that stood for injustice in the face of death and held strong to his culture while disrupting the empire.
The Black Messiah is not what most Black churches represent today.
We are in a time where your pictures speak before your mouth does. As I entered a Lutheran church Sunday, I was blown away by the gigantic moral of the 30 foot white Jesus on the back wall. This white Jesus spoke more to me than the very message that was preach. This white Jesus though pictured as welcoming was the most unfriendly sight that I have ever seen in a church. This white and manicured Jesus, I assumed, was supposedly the Jesus they thought gave his life as a ransom for me. This white Jesus with a triumphant smile and arms spread abroad signaling, “May the Lord be with you.”
The entire service all I could think about was the picture of this white Jesus.
Honestly, as a fellow ELCA candidate for pastoral ministry, I didn’t feel valued or respected. This picture did not encourage me to want to be in fellowship with this particular church. It made want to leave the ELCA in its entirety. The premise of a white Jesus has more negative implications than I have time or care to discuss. What I will say is that as a black male, the invention of a white Jesus is inconsistent with building multi-cultural churches…
Dr. Andre Johnson drops some pivotal knowledge on Janet McKenzi’sJesus of the Peopleportrait. He details some interesting insight on the intrinsic values that are laced throughout the portrait. He articulates Jesus in Garveyite form with pure genius.
As I was watching television last night, the station continually showed these pictures of the person they said was Jesus. The thing that got my attention was that every picture they showed was a picture of a blond haired, blue eyed Jesus. Truthfully many of the great theologians are depicted with white faces; St. Augustine, Origen, Tertullian but upon discovery we find that they are actually black. This really began to play with my psyche and disgust me. I wondered if most white, evangelical Christians would really serve a Jesus that looked like me. Now the Bible, as well as other articles has always clearly shown that he could not be a person with white skin. But amazingly, many of the images show that he was a white guy with blue eyes.
I remember watching Good Times and seeing this played out on the screen. JJ had painted a portrait he called “Black Jesus” and Michael hung it on the wall after taking down the picture of the white Jesus. When Florida came home and saw the picture, she went loony. She said, “this is the only Jesus she knew”- that being the white Jesus. She bought into the mis-education that Jesus had to be white in order to rule. This is really how it is in many of the black households, rather we want to accept it or not, Jesus is depicted and is a white man. In many black churches you find that the image of a white Jesus image.
When challenged on the fact, many would respond with “it doesn’t matter, he is still Lord.” But I wonder if that is really true. The impact of having a savior that resembles you is highly emblematic and extremely problematic if he does not resemble you. The Willie Lynch theory is a massive undertaking that has really rocked the black community for years and still has a lasting effect- whether true or not the implications are real. I know older folks who will not hire blacks to do anything, but manual labor, and definitely will not allow them to do anything that requires the handling of money. But in retrospect, they love Barack. So to have a black Jesus would appear unrealistic as they have become indoctrinated to the fact, that Jesus does not look like them.
As for my white brother and sisters, I wonder how they would take it as well. If we found out today at 2:00pm that Jesus was definitely a black dude with dreadlocks; how would they receive that news? It would be a hard thing to call a black person, a nigger after that bit of information. I am not inquiring that all whites call black people niggers, but it would be like me saying that I have never called a white person a cracker. We both have done it and when the moment gets heated enough will probably do it again, if not careful. I wonder, can white America really bow to a Jesus that is black? I wonder, would all the churches throughout America take down the pictures of the white Jesus and place pictures of the black Jesus?
I don’t think that would ever happen because deep down white supremacy effects the movement of the church. White evangelical pastors really would be lost for words if this happen. Would RC Sproul really be able to pontificate with such vigor if he saw Jesus as a black man? Could Jonathan Edwards really have stood before people and made claims of Christ, knowing he had people enslaved at his crib that looked just like Jesus? So I understand the plight of the Black Liberation Theology and truthfully it is needed in the black community. When an oppressed people have an opportunity to experience freedom you must believe that they will do all they can to stay free.
Let’s be clear that when folks think about Christ, they see a long haired blonde guy with blue eyes. It is instilled and embedded in the minds of us all. But when I think about Christ I see a strong black man. Now that did not come overnight but I have destroyed the myth that Jesus was white. Now some may say that I am making a big deal of this truth, but I think that it is the other way around-a big enough deal is not being made of this.(Edward Blum and Paul Harvey have written an text on this called the Color of Christ.John Jackson, Dr. Ben Jochannan and Ishakamusa Barashango have also written more scholastic works on this topic than I could name.)
So if you can’t insert a black Jesus into you Jesus structure and have the same relationship with him as you do now. You may want to eat some carpet–pray.