Friday, July 10, 2009

forget that Jesus was a racist

Here's a clip from an eye-opening, paradigm-shifting BBC documentary on the real life of Jesus:

Note to any offended fans of Jesus: this portrait of Jesus is not an attempt to depict an actual Jesus. And really, how could it be ? Jesus wasn't even white. Let alone British.

h/t: Missives from Marx & That Mitchell and Webb Look


  1. i love this sketch and many others they have done - they have me howling....
    mitchell and webb are just brilliant..

  2. "an eye-opening, paradigm-shifting BBC documentary"

    That's a joke in itself. A majority of Britons would find that to be the dumbest thing anyone could ever say.

    Also, most Christians don't think of nor have ever thought of Jesus as white. But how about you criticize certain people who think he was black. Try saying he wasn't black in certain church and you'll hear angry voices.

  3. A majority of Britons would find that to be the dumbest thing anyone could ever say.

    Even when I'm not pronouncing it well because I've got my tongue so firmly planted in my cheek?

    Also, most Christians don't think of nor have ever thought of Jesus as white.

    Maybe not, but most white American Christians do, thanks especially to a certain 1940 painting.

    But how about you criticize certain people who think he was black.

    Did you notice the title of this blog?

  4. OH, that's a great sketch!!

    It's amazing to me how commenters constantly & consistently attempt to turn the direction back on to minorities, what they do & how they slight white people. A

  5. Patrick, most white Christians do believe he was white, blond, and blue-eyed, especially white Americans. This belief goes with the pathological myth of Whites doing EVERYTHING!

  6. Please lay off the cricitism of Christianity. Why are other religions off limits (e.g. Islam, Judaism, etc...) Who declared open fire on Christianity?

    Jesus might not have been White, but he wasn't Black, Asian, Latino either. All people draw Jesus in their own image--Jesus in Africa is Black, in Asia he's Asian, etc... Why does it matter if Europeans draw him using their own characteristics?

    Btw, you have no proof that he wasn't blonde or blue-eyed, there are plenty of Jewish people with blond hair and blue eyes (yes, he was Jewish and NOT arab)

  7. Who declared open fire on Christianity?

    Who among us is firing openly on Christianity? Certainly not me in my posts. This one is a lighthearted-Friday thing, not criticism. As for the other one linked to in this post, that's not a criticism of Christianity either. It's a description of yet another thing that white American Christians, in particular, do -- imagine Christ in their own image. Why does that matter, you ask? Because it's another example of how the white imagination works; the Christian white imagination wanted to look up to Christ, as it were, and it could only do so, in a perhaps unconsciously white supremacist way, by imagining him as white. All American depictions of God that I've seen imagine "Him" in the same way as well.

  8. Anonymous, I am Christian. If you honestly believe that he was blond and blue-eyed, especially at that time, I can't help you.

    Enough with the "Christians as Martyrs" routine. They are open to criticism as is other religions. Besides, it doesn't help when my fellow Christians are doing every thing in their power to sour Christianity as they see fit.

  9. every christian knows that jesus was born in bethlehem. how ever, almost every single one, for some reason thinks jesus looks white rather than arabian.
    i dont get it.

    jeez. word.
    from a twelve year old.

  10. This made my first hour home from work! I am still sitting here laughing at the exchange.

    There is nothing offensive about this. If Jesus was in our midst in 2009-this would probably be the conversation that he would be having.

    Thanks for the giggles and smiles.

  11. Oh, Macon, how dare you pick on the true minority in this Nation. The white heterosexual christian male.

    God their life is so hard. Everyone's persecuting them, you don't have to pour salt in the wound.

  12. "Also, most Christians don't think of nor have ever thought of Jesus as white. But how about you criticize certain people who think he was black. Try saying he wasn't black in certain church and you'll hear angry voices."

    Are you kidding me? Most Christians don't think nor ever thought of Jesus as White? Lemme guess, they thought he was Native American, right?

  13. I don't think "Jesus was blond and blue-eyed" is a very common opinion. White, probably, but the classic Jesus image shows a man with brown hair and from the looks of it, brown eyes.

  14. Blue Mako, so you've never seen movies about Jesus' life? Or, you haven't seen artist renditions of him?

    Or, are you under 30? Not being snarky; but, younger folks tend to not to understand the entire dimensions of race as they are less prone to seeing them.

    Not being snarky, I'm just curious.

  15. British humour ROCKS *thumbs ups*

  16. gooblyglob, I concur absolutely. I've been watching "The Young Ones" lately. Bloody brilliant! And not afraid to be absolutely, brilliantly stupid.

  17. This is the most extraordinary blog I've ever come across. I just discovered it tonight at 11pm - its 3.45am and I can't stop reading.

    Thank you Macon.

    I'm not white and I've always had very high expectations of my white friends to challenge things, (you know those subtle covert things that most white people don't notice) which is now starting to dwindle; I'm 34. Now I see that lowering my expectations is simply an endorsement of their innate conditioned racism. Thanks for putting me back on track.

  18. I think if you'd take a poll asking American Christians if Jesus what white/blond/blue or white/brown/brown most would choose the latter.

    If you took a poll as to whether Jesus really looked like the very European guy in that painting, I think you'd have a pretty high percentage say no. Even among those, I doubt many would want to give up their Euro-image of Him though.

  19. great stuff. impressive blog. its sad we still have racism today. its pathetic that we have it at all.

  20. You're welcome, Bitingstardust. Thank you for reading, and I'm glad to have restored some faith for you in the possibilities for white people unlearning at least some of their conditioned racism.

  21. Though her overall argument is dead wrong, and quite naive, the anonymous commenter who thought that it was perfectly plausible that Jesus was blond/blue eyed because she has seen some modern Jews with that coloring did make one very good point which is that "all people draw Jesus in their own image".

    Christians began creating images of Jesus in the third century (date?), and recent research shows pretty clearly that early depictions contain some level of continuity but are modified in each region. There are several common "images" used, even has his ethnicity is adapted to that of the people creating said images. For reasons I can't quite articulate articulately (sorry, alliteration) the idea of early christians adapting Jesus to make him "one of them" is sort of appealing to me, it seems sort of... democratic?

    Fuzzy democratic feelings aside, the image of Jesus-even as it was adapted, was heavily influenced by debates surrounding idolatry in the early church, and of course by Roman aesthetic norms. Interestingly, depictions of Jesus as an Adult with a Beard and long hair (rather then an infant or youthful shepherd) begin to pop up at roughly the same time that the Emperor Hadrian re-popularized the beard in Rome.

    I guess what I want to get at (after all that trivia) is that the image of Jesus as a white d00d had its origins in a tendency among early christians to adapt depictions of christ to the local population, and is in and of itself innocuous. What makes the concept of "white Jesus" problematic is the roll that the image of Jesus had in colonization and conquest by Europeans whose Jesus was designed to look like them. Also the adoption of the image and idea of an anglo-looking Jesus by white supremacists, who have created whole sects of christianity devoted to "white identity". Ick.

    Disclaimer: I'm an atheist who was not raised in a christian church. Most of my knowledge of this stuff comes from ancient history classes, though within ancient history my primary interest has been in systems of government and I haven't done any specific studying of Christianity outside of the ways in which it touches other things I'm interested in (like the history of beards). So, yeah, sorry for the vague, would rather be vague then specific and wrong.

  22. Isabell, Jesus wasn't Arabian. He was from Palestine. Palestinians and Arabs (from the Arabian peninsula to the South East) are seen by both each-other and by geneticists as being distinct from one another. Genetic testing suggests that Palestinians are the decedents of the prehistoric inhabitants of the region that is currently divided up into Israel, the occupied territories and Jordan.

    Speaking Arabic doesn't make the Palestinians Arabs, anymore then speaking English implies that someone is British. Arabic is the lingua france of the muslim world (as latin was in the ancient world, as english is becoming on the internet), and it is a language spread by conquest that is not explicitly attached to an ethnicity.

    Look Gaza and the West Bank, rather then Saudi Arabia or Yemen for people who "look like" Jesus might have.

    Americans misguided assumption that the middle east is a homogenous block where everyone is an "arab" surely helps promote a disastrous foreign policy that ignores the long, detailed and interesting history of the many ground that reside in the middle east-especially in their relationships to one another and the factors that have contributed to the development of the modern islamic world.

  23. Good one Macon.

    "hair like wool" and "feet of bronze." maybe not black per se, but certainly a person of color by our contemporary standards and not the blond eyed Jesus of European/Hollywood/and the White imagination.

    Random anecdote: I went to a Jesuit university where a series of courses in religious studies was required. In our section on the "historical" Jesus versus the fictional Jesus my white professor confronted the "what color was jesus question?"

    As a scholar of ancient Christiandom he answered that by contemporary standards he would be considered a person of color in the U.S.-with the qualifier that his race/ethnicity would be uncertain.

    The White students became enraged. Some walked out, others were brought to near tears. I thoroughly enjoyed the car wreck.

    It is funny how folks will say the color of Jesus doesn't matter, but these same people hold onto the idea that he was/is White with a death grip.

    The BBC had a great piece on this "controversy" see:

    a choice excerpt:

    Deciding on skin colour was more difficult, though. But the earliest depictions of Jews, which date from the 3rd Century, are - as far as can be determined - dark-skinned.

    "We do seem to have a relatively dark skinned Jesus. In contemporary parlance I think the safest thing is to talk about Jesus as 'a man of colour'." This probably means olive-coloured, he says.

  24. 'Forget that Jesus was a racist'? This implies that Jesus was a racist. Either you believe he was or you lied to make your heading more attractive.

    If you're joking, it's not funny. It's like a sexist joke.

  25. Jesus would most likely be of middle eastern appearance ie. the stereotypical racial profile for terrorists (because the IRA and the KKK are obviously not terrorists /snark)... he was from the middle east after all.

  26. Something that I keep seeing in this and pretty much all race-oriented forums, strangely enough, is the idea that there is a certain "Jew look". Um, no. There isn't. Judaism isn't a race. It's a religion that has roots in a certain group of people from a certain area, meaning that it started out with that group's physical characteristics (dark skin, dark, curly hair, vulnerability to Taysachs disease, etc.) and has remained relatively isolated for thousands of years, but it has not been completely quarantined. Jews have settled in countries all over the world, and interbred with local non-Jews wherever they settled. Modern Jews tend to look like the majority members of whatever country their families came from. In the US, most Jews are white. Jews from Yemen and Ethiopia are very much not white - they look exactly like everybody else in Yemen and Ethiopia. And yes, there are African-American Jews. Repeat after me: it's a religion, not a race.

    (Okay, so it's a little more complicated than that, and a Jew doesn't stop being Jewish if he becomes an atheist - like me - but ultimately the Jewish culture and ethnicity are derived from the religion.)

    It's utterly ridiculous to postulate that Jesus might have been a blue-eyed blonde because some modern Jews are blue-eyed blondes. Nobody in Bethlehem was blonde and blue-eyed during Jesus' lifetime. The Jews had not yet interbred with blonde, blue-eyed races. At that time, the only "foreign influences" commonly seen in Palestinian Jewish blood were mostly Egyptian, stemming from a long period of slavery in Egypt. So all Jews in Jesus' area during his lifetime fell somewhere inside a spectrum of identifiably Semitic features, which did indeed include features we would consider African (remember the Egyptian influence.) Most, if not all, of them had dark skin, dark eyes, and dark curly hair, and nobody in their right minds would classify them as "white people".

    (Except for Moses, obviously. He looked like Charlton Heston.)

  27. Macon, I revisted this post and it made me think of something. Speaking of racist? In the bible we all know the tale of the GOOD SAMARITAN. Most of us probably don't know that Samaritans were a group of people with a different take on Judiasm. Interestingly, geographically speaking, this group and the place called Samaria, would be in Iraq or Babylonia as it's known today.

    Thinking about it: the tale of the GOOD SAMARITAN implies at least in my mind that they were generally bad people. I mean that's what I got out of it. Isn't that in itself racist? I mean, is that not pretty much the same thing as a "Good Negro" or a "Safe Negro"....?

  28. @Chaunceydevega I agree that by modern American standards, Jesus would most likely not be white. But the description of Jesus you cite is actually "hairs white as wool." Also, the entire Book of Revelations is very metaphorical. It also says Jesus had a sharp sword sticking out of his mouth but I doubt that was a physical description.

  29. Butters wrote,

    'Forget that Jesus was a racist'? This implies that Jesus was a racist. Either you believe he was or you lied to make your heading more attractive.

    I choose the latter.

    If you're joking, it's not funny. It's like a sexist joke.

    Humor is in the eye of the beholder, no? Did you watch the video, which "says" the same thing? If so, did you think that was funny?

    I did, and others here clearly did too. I wrote a post title to go along with the content of the video. I also wrote a note at the end of the post that "this portrait of Jesus is not an attempt to depict an actual Jesus." All of which is to say, yes the post title is an attention-getting lie, and clearly acknowledged as such in the post itself. If the resultant humor is still offensive, I do not see the parallel to sexist jokes. Women as a group are still effectively oppressed by men as a group. Who as a group is effectively oppressing Christians as a group?

    RiPPa, I see what you're saying. In fact, I think that problem with the phrase "GOOD Samaritan" that you point out is the very foundation of the comedy sketch in the video. And who knows, if Jesus really did distinguish a "good Samaritan" from the rest of them because he thought they were all "bad," then maybe my post's title isn't a lie after all!


  30. The video was funny but the heading wasn't.

    Anyway, I've noticed that in these conversations people are ignoring the historicity of discourse. These concepts of 'good Negro' and what it means to be racist were irrelevant to Jesus' time. Let's not project modern standards of political correctness onto ancient times, for the love of God.

  31. I'm seriously interested to know how butters found that joke sexist at all!

  32. @Butters
    "Let's not project modern standards of political correctness onto ancient times, for the love of God."

    Not even if its funny?

    Besides, many religious folk seem keen on projecting ancient standards of political correctness onto modern times. Why is it only a one-way traffic?

  33. Uhm, has anyone here actually read that part of the bible? Nowhere does Jesus use the term 'good Samaritan'. That is a title/label created by the (white) publishers some 2000 years after Jesus' time.

    As I understand it, Jesus was trying to reveal the racism in the hearts of the religious leaders of his time (who were regarded as oh so 'holy') and the wider community (who were prejudiced against Samartians and thought of them as dirty and good for nothing). They believed that by being Jewish and religious they were all going to heaven, so to speak, while the Samaritans weren't.

    Jesus was speaking to an 'expert in the (religious) law' who have shown themselves time and time again to be prejudiced against minorities, the poor, women, etc and in this instance was trying to justify not treating them as 'neighbors': "But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"

    Hence, he used the story to show that going to heaven wasn't about your race or ethnicity, but about your heart.

    While the clip is funny, both the clip and title of this post is misguided IMO (by, perhaps, prejudice against Christianity, if I may interpret it that far).

  34. Oh wow!!
    How did I miss this. That skit is so full of win.


  35. I love the end!
    Disciple: "Jesus Christ!"
    Jesus: "What?"


  36. I've never though if him to be "white".
    How do people think he was, being born in Bethlehem and having been raised by parents that were from Nazareth as well?
    Then again, everyone has their own depiction of the Son.
    Brown hair, eyes, and a tan complection : that's what I think of him to look like.
    looks to be a funny video, will watch when people aren't sleeping right now as I cannot find my earphones, haha~

  37. As a heterosexual christian, I feel that people can criticise me however they wish, i turn the other cheek, but as a human being, i must say with honesty I do not consider Jesus to be a white blonde haired blue eyed person, nor have i ever... i am over 30 too... i was raised Catholic and the images we were shown most often of jesus depicted him as brown haired with olive skin... after all he was jewish... we were also shown pictures of him as black, and many other races and taught that as there is no real indication of what a jewish person looked like 2009 years ago, he could indeed have been any colour, and quite frankly it does not matter, and any true christian does not care whether he was blue with pink polka dots... so stop the silly debate... it really doesnt matter what colour he was on Earth, just the fact he died for us...

    peace be with you x

  38. I think there is some misunderstandings here. Some conspiracy theorists like Eric Phelps is something you guys want to check out, especially a topic about race on the unhived mind forum. Eric says that the Egyptian people consisted of Semitic and Japhetic(white) peoples before the hamitic came to egypt. And Jacob, who is the progenitor of Israelites and the Jews, took a Japhetic wife(who was white), and that's where the Jewish race came from. One half Semitic, and half Japhetic. So I can see why some Jews today are white looking while all the other Israelites are brown. It's kind of messed up if you think about it. But what else can us minorities do.

  39. However, the Jews have been acknowledged by Eric Phelps to be subordinate to whites, partly because of their Semitism.


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