Jesus Was Not White

Today we have a special guest post via @the.mirror – a friend & long-time member of the NWS community.

People often ask why does it matter what color Jesus was? To that, I want to ask: Do you understand the impact psychologically and societally of having a white savior (prophet)? To say it doesn’t matter is to ignore the historical impact of images, media and propaganda. Ignoring major tools used to justify the subjugation and enslavement of the African continent and its people. If Jesus’ color didn’t matter why did they feel the need to change it?

Seeing as how it only takes a couple of generations to turn a Black person into a White person (and visa versa), no doubt there came a time when White people decided that they could no longer acknowledge that all that they knew and had was derived from the minds and labors of Black people – even down to their religious beliefs. The logic, no doubt, being that Whites could not progress to their full potential, if they were always looking up to Blacks, as the personification of knowledge and wisdom. So a change had to be made and at some point.

Although Jesus transcends skin color and racial division, white Jesus has real consequences. If you think of Jesus most likely you will think of a white man. Involuntary or unconsciously many of us have followed a white Jesus. Not only is white Jesus inaccurate but that historical figure can also block our ability to honor the image of God in people who are not white.

The Jesus that is often presented to us is very whitewashed even though Jesus was a radical, revolutionary figure. Jesus freely associated himself with the outcasts of society: the poor, known sinners, sex workers, Samaritans (Jews who intermarried) lepers, Gentiles (non-Jews.)

He was about the liberation of the people and community organizing. Jesus was an ethnic minority and we have to reevaluate who Jesus was and with whom is fulfilling his mission.

As an ethnic minority, he was not simply interested in people who were victims of the violence approved by Rome but he himself was a victim of that violence. 

He was not interested in refugees, he was one. He was not simply interested in the poor, he was poor.

This title image is the one earliest known image of Jesus Christ, from the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt. This painting of Jesus is older than the image of the black Jesus Christ in the Church of Rome which is from the 6th century.

“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” – Jomo Kenyatta.

Christianity in the past has been used as a tool to seize territory and justify slavery. One of the largest expansions of Christianity in Africa occurred under Belgian colonial rule with King Leopard II. Missionaries were sent there as part of a “civilizing” mission which served as an excuse for the colonial project. In Washington, in the Museum Of The Bible, there is a “Slave Bible” that was used by British missionaries to convert and “educate” slaves. They also removed any portion of text that might inspire a rebellion or liberation. It was intended for use among enslaved Africans in the British West Indies, which is the modern-day Caribbeans, Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua.

The history of using Christianity lead by a White Jesus has left a psychological issue, the idea that white people can come into a Black, Brown, Indigenous area to “save them” and continue in the footsteps of White Jesus. With the influence of bad representations and the image of a constant need for charity, the Western world is left with the idea that Africa and other places like Haiti are just poor and dying. Therefore, not only do they need a helping hand from white westerners but only through them, can they get some kind of salvation and hope, a very colonial mindset.

Not only do those white westerners feel the need to “Give back”  but being loved and adored for what they are doing is also on the agenda. If they really wanted to help communities they would have started in their own countries or communities as there is so much work to be done there. Like colonists before them have done, they still feel the need to follow a colonial route to distant lands, that needs to somehow be the one to come and change things.

There is an underlining link between the white savior complex and society having a white Jesus.