A question for all my white, conservative, evangelical friends: Have you ever walked into a black church and seen a painting or picture of a black Jesus? How did it make you feel? If you felt any awkwardness or discomfort or thought to yourself (or said out laid) “What is this?” This short blog-post is for you.
What color was Jesus and why does it matter?
In preparation for my Sunday before Christmas sermon I did some research on the earliest paintings (or drawings) we have of Jesus and the Holy Family. Here is a simple truth: The earliest paintings and drawings of Jesus and the Holy Family show him, and them, being very dark to brown. NOT ONE SINGLE PAINTING BEFORE THE RENAISSANCE SHOWS JESUS OR THE HOLY FAMILY BEING WHITE! Not a single one. Here are few of those paintings. All of them are dated between 100 and 300 A.D.
Now, here is a picture of the Holy Family during the Renaissance.
Here are pictures of two of the Nativity Scene I have in my office.
Finally, here is a picture someone sent me that I found funny, but not in a humorous way.
Now, here is the question: Why did the Holy Family change their color and ethnicity?
I have my suspicions as to why?
Now the BIG QUESTION: Why does this matter?
It matters because of representation!
It matters because truth is truth; and the truth is, Jesus was black or brown, not white.
It matters because we have made Jesus, and the Holy Family, into something they are not, and if anyone shows them differently, it makes us uncomfortable.
It matters because the greatest threat we have in our churches today is White Christian Nationalism. And maybe, just maybe, it started in the 1300s when we changed the color of Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, the best way to get rid of the cancer of White Christian Nationalism is to get rid of all our pictures of Jesus that make Him look more European than Palestinian.
If it doesn’t matter, then replace all your nativity scenes with a black Jesus.