Saturday, January 02, 2010

Consequences of Absolutizing a White Jesus

If we understand the incarnation as the enfleshed self-revelation of God (John 1:1-14), then we can, I would suggest, assume two things. 

1.  That this enfleshment would have a cultural particularity.  That is, God would be revealed in a person of a particular gender, ethnicity, language group.  The Scriptures are clear that this particularity was as a first century Galilean Jew.  He spoke Aramaic and possibly a little Greek -- considering the large Greek population of the neighborhood.  He was, obviously, a male.

2.  This enfleshment includes and yet transcends the particularity.  For us to understand Jesus and his message, we must understand him in his own Jewish context.  But, at the same time, each of us perceives Jesus and his message through our own context.  Thus, I am a white, male, middle class, educated Euro-American.  Jesus can and does speak to my context and from within my context.  But this is also true of people of other contexts and situations -- ones far different from my own.

Having said this, I'd like to return to Curtiss DeYoung's insightful book.  Having noted the difficulties presented by an absolutized white Jesus -- one that is historically inaccurate.  Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, which meant, according to our author's reading, he was Afro-Asiatic in background.  The white Jesus, which was culturally appropriate in one sense, became absolutized, and became useful in the subjugation of other peoples.  In other words, to look back to Albert Schweitzer 's observation that the search for the historic Jesus involved looking into a well and seeing our own reflections -- and then using that reflection for our own purposes.

DeYoung writes:

A white Jesus has not only seemed foreign; but has often been perceived as the enemy by people who encounter the message of Christianity.  Sometimes this white image of Jesus has been used to signify that God was on the side of those who ere conquering or enslaving people of color.  "When western Christians brought Jesus to Asia, many also brought with them opium and guns," writes Chung Hyun Kyung.  "They taught Asians the love of Jesus while they gave Asians the slow death of opium or the fast death of a bullet."  If the Jesus of the oppressor appears to endorse your domination or your death, he hardly seems like your savior.  (Curtis DeYoung, Coming Together in the 21st Century, pp. 57-58.)  

The first question then is:  how do we envision Jesus?  The second question is:  How do we make use of this vision?

Note:  I found this collection of African images at Glocal Christianity, the Blog of Matt Stone


Thelema said...

Interesting posts you have, though I think Christianity is dead and will be redeemed and brought to fruition and perfection through Thelema. Check out my blog at if you will. Love is the law, love under will. ;)

Anonymous said...

Those images were fun. I almost got knocked upside the head by my wife though..

I got a kick out of "Jesus was a dissident". "Church-Tank" was cool too. David Mc