The Non-Whiteness of Jesus

By | November 22, 2016

I got to thinking the other day about how we see Jesus and Jesus’ teachings expressed in the lives of his followers. And I began thinking about how hard it is to reconcile our Christian behavior with our Christ.

Traditionally, orthodox Christianity means a religion centered around the Christ of the New Testament, where what Jesus said and taught and did forms the central, defining properties of the religion.

Christ did not hate the Jews or want them eliminated or gassed.

Christ did not hate black Africans. In fact, some of the first disciples were black Africans. (You can look this one up. You’ll be astonished at what you were seeing all along.)

Christ did not expel the stranger or demonize the foreigner. In fact, he used the foreigner despised by others as an example of what a man acting as a neighbor would look like.

Christ did not fear and hate those who were of another religion. He even welcomed people of other faiths.

Christ did not hate or exclude women, whether from being his followers, being his friends, or even being his disciples and apostles.

The stuff you’re seeing in America right now from the Republicans and conservatives who are Trump-followers is not from Christ or from orthodox Christianity.

It is coming from people who are letting their hatreds and their fears and their demons trump (pun!) their commitment and faithfulness to Christ.

They are fallen Christians, or they never were Christians but used the Church as a safe harbor for their hatreds.

I am sorry it is coming out like this, but Christians who follow Christ will not be following Trump. Christ himself said it best: you cannot serve two masters; you cannot serve both God and money.

You must choose. You cannot choose both.

And, of course, it goes without saying that Jesus was not “white.”

1. He was not “white” as we know it today (skin color/tone and features) because he was of Palestinian/Israeli heritage going back, according to the biblical text, to Abraham. Northwest European features would not be found in the Holy Land at that time.
2. The concept of “white” is new to history, dating back only to the 1700s when Germans invented the idea of whiteness as a way to show racial delineations, heritage, and superiority. For some strange reason, Germans though that the Caucasian Mountains had the best of the “white” people, and then figure out that other people who differed on looks were both (a) from other “races” (an invented term) and (b) not superior like Germans/white people/Caucasians. I’m sure you can figure out how the Germans then proceeded to use the ideas of race and superiority in the 1800s and 1900s to develop a theory that they deserved to rule the world above the inferior “races” and the disasters which resulted from their unscientific but deeply felt beliefs about white superiority.
3. And in the third sense Jesus was not “white.” He was not in a position of power, and he was not afforded a safe place by reason of his status, his skin color, or his presumed “race.” He was ignored and marginalized. He was arrested falsely, beaten by the policing officers, tortured in his imprisonment, and killed as a common criminal of the lowest sort while being accused of the high treason of not obeying the legitimate government. He had no one at his death but his mother and a close friend who watched him die alone.

We emphasize the crucifixion sometimes for the nature of is cruelty but forget that it was also designed to shame and isolate, which is what we do to the marginalized and the non-white.

Jesus might turn out to be a brown, short man rather than a tall blond Norwegian. We might be in for a surprise come the judgment.