Excerpts from Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus by Reggie William

Black intellectuals of the Harlem, Renaissance were participants in a transnational movement that was critically examining the intersection of race and religion within modern colonialism. The Christianity birthed from that merger was crafted for a type of social resistance; it was racialized and fashioned to practice social detachment  and to resist the pattern of relational intimacy and joining that would characterize the gospel’s language of incarnation in order to accommodate itself to brutality and domination. pg.42

The assembly of the Western theological academy began in this diseased imagination when native people in “discovered ” land  received Christianity as a primarily evaluative practice, equipped to merge brutality and callous indifference to suffering with intellectual formation. pg. 43

Would you serve a black Jesus?

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.