The Subtle Racism of Christianity

Happy belated Zombie Jesus Resurrection Day Easter Everyone! Here’s a post about Jesus!

Christianity is, simply put, the cult surrounding the life and death of a 1st Century Palestinian Jew who supposedly was both God’s son and God himself, born of a virgin, performed a few miracles, died for our sins, got resurrected, and ascended bodily into heaven. More specifically, he was born of a virgin whose lineage probably (if you buy the story, which I don’t) never actually left the middle east.

So how in the Hell did we get a Jesus that looks like this?

The Jesus We All Know and Love

Well… it was racism, actually.

The Bible, itself, offers no actual references to Jesus’ appearance. However, if you have any semblance of knowledge of genetics or, at least, the common sense to realize that children tend to look like their parents, it should be pretty easy to figure out how Jesus would have looked. See, Jesus was born of a Palestinian and God, who presumably doesn’t have a race. That would mean that all of Jesus’ inherited traits came from the Middle East (or at least the Eastern bits of the Mediterranean) and probably made him look like this:

Not Your Momma's Jesus

However, for a myriad of reasons (least of which being that he didn’t actually exist, so you could say that he looked like Jabba the Huttand nobody could prove you wrong), when you look at European artwork of Jesus, he tends to look European (granted, if he really existed at all, he would look European if Mary had gotten “Biblical” with a Roman soldier, but that kind of nixes the whole “Virgin Birth” thing). In fact, Jesus tends to look a lot like who ever drew him:

Black Jesus?

Chinesus?

This odd habit of molding Jesus to your desired race and culture has one simple reason behind it. Religious leaders (and, one must assume, the laity) didn’t want to believe in a Jesus who didn’t look and dress like they did. Why would a knight in the Crusades want to bend knee to someone who looked like the people he was trying to drive out of the Holy Land? Why would a Civil Right’s leader want to pray to a Jesus who looked like the people who enslaved his ancestors and tried to preserve Jim Crow? In short, people did not want to be subservient to a divine member of another race; they did not want the “perfect man” to be a member of another race.

What this does is entrench the in-group/out-group mentality that breeds racism, homophobia, sexism, and every other kind of bigotry that infects the modern world.

Now, I’m not saying that every white guy who believes in a white Jesus or every black guy who believes in a black Jesus (and so on for every race on this planet) is actively racist–they are just the inheritors of the racist musings of their forebears. And, frankly, trying to debate what race Jesus was is about as stupid and pointless as arguing what seasonings are present in the Flying Spaghetti Monster‘s Meaty Balls.

But it does beg the question: Why would you assume that your savior, the so-called “Perfect Man” looks like you do?

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5 Comments

Filed under Anti-Apologia, War on Magical Thinking

5 responses to “The Subtle Racism of Christianity

  1. Any image showing the face of Christ would be false. No one knows really what Jesus Christ looked like. Isaiah 53 says Jesus was not a handsome man. We know that Jesus was a Jew from the tribe of Judah. A descendant of David, according to the flesh.

    What He looked like is not important. Inside, He was God. He was in the flesh to be the sacrifice for sins for all of mankind.

    When we start concentrating on the flesh, we defeat the purpose of Christ, who wants us to live in love and according to the spirit.
    Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

    • Though I disagree with you on the nature of Jesus, I respect your unwillingness to project your own preferences on the person of Jesus.

    • The trouble is that pictures like this don’t just model the outsie. they also sere to reassure people that god shares their cultural background, etc. It may not be a sound inference, but the associations are going to happen.

  2. A really good read. I’ve always found it funny that Jesus was both “God’s son” and “God” and he died for our sins previous and future. Including the sin of Adam one that (if taken symbolically) never happened. So who is “God” trying to impress? Himself no doubt. Atheism it is for me.

  3. I have always been fascinated by the blue eyed, blonde Jesus. I think that many Christians are just too uncomfortable with the whole idea of a Middle Eastern savior. Good post!

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