What would American Christianity have turned out to be if this picture of Jesus was hung in churches? Forensic scientists believe this is what Jesus would have looked like. A few weeks ago, I heard someone on a podcast say that we’ve focused so much on Jesus’s deity and resurrection (as we should), but we’ve completely minimized his humanity. So many people have read (and been taught) the Bible through the lens of a white or “non-colored” Jesus. A strictly heavenly Jesus.
I once heard a man on the radio say if it wasn’t for colonization & slavery, Africans wouldn’t have known Christianity. I then heard another prominent man say there shouldn’t be a wall at the border so that those from Central & South America can continue to be introduced to Jesus. Where in the world did this superiority, caucasity, we have the key to Christianity mentality come from? If more American Christians actually read through the entire Bible, perhaps, just maybe, they would see Africa written all over it, in both testaments – the Nile, Ethiopia, Libya, and Egypt, to name a few. According to a research study conducted in 2016, 4 out of 5 American Christians have never read the entire Bible. So how do you truly know what you are accepting, believing, or claiming to represent? Going off of only sermons, Bible plans, or abbreviated daily readings is the equivalent of reading someone else’s cliff notes about your partner in lieu of spending time with them, and you still claiming to fully know your partner. If that doesn’t make sense, then why have we become so lazy in our relationship with the Jesus we claim to know so well.
I was recently told by a fellow Christian that me saying Jesus was lynched, will cause people to see the cross as a symbol of terror and not hope anymore. Just to clarify, the cross IS a symbol of terror! Again, the cross IS A BLOODY and violent symbol of terror! No need to keep sanitizing it to fit people’s taste buds.
What if we actually read about Jesus by keeping his humanity in mind? Brown, Middle Eastern, Jewish, single, in his 30s with no home to call his own, a misfit living under Roman/European oppression, and opposed by the leaders God’s people. Today, I imagine a brown, Middle Eastern man about 5’7”, in his 30s, single, quirky, sleeping on his friends’ couches, getting a ride with whoever can drive him around (or taking the bus), and having dinner with whoever invites him over. You know, the person we’d be side eyeing and wondering why they just can’t get their life together and “succeed”.
But, why was God so intentional about choosing his son to come to earth and not only identify with, but live as a marginalized man who pushed boundaries, broke many rules, and resisted oppressors (whether in the government or among God’s people)? [Side note: if your mind automatically jumped to turning the other cheek as an excuse to take abuse, I recommend looking up and reading “Jesus’s Third Way” by Walter Wink.] What if what was taught and presented wasn’t a tall, airbrushed looking, passive Jesus who complied with everything for the sake of “peace”? Would you still believe? Or would he be too brown, too aggressive, too harsh, and too middle eastern to be draped in an American flag?