Paul R. Lehman, Article on “The Race of Jesus” failed to address the truth of race.

December 31, 2013 at 12:38 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bible, Christianity, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Human Genome, Jesus, Media and Race, mixed-marriage, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion | 3 Comments
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Jesse Washington in an Associated Press article, “The Race of Jesus: Unknown, yet powerful,”(12/29/13) presented a discussion relative to the race of Jesus , and employed the comments of a number of individuals connected to the Christian religion to give their ideas, beliefs, and opinions. Although the article was interesting it failed to address the real question at the heart of the problem—race.
The comments of many of the individuals reflect a variety of concerns relative to Jesus’ race. For example, the article noted a statement from Edward Blum, a co-author of a recent book “The Color of Christ” who said ”I find it fascinating that that’s what people really want to know—what race was Jesus. That says a lot about us, about Americans today.” He continued with “Jesus said lots of things about himself—I am divine, I am the son of man, I am the light of the world,… what race is light? How do you racially categorize that?”The statement simply adds to the question rather than address it confusion.
Another clergyman, Doug Jacobsen, a professor at Messiah College with work emphasis in church history and theology stated that “Today, in our categories, we would probably think of him [Jesus] as a person of color.”The reference to Jesus’ color has to do with his birth place being in the Middle East. Jacobsen’s comment was in part a response to the Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s statement about Jesus being white that initiated a national discussion on the subject.
Other scholars and clergy commented regarding the race of Jesus and whether it was important or not. In most cases we were told that it really should not matter. However, we were told that “In America, white Jesus images started to become widespread in the early 1800s, according to Blum, coinciding with a dramatic rise in the number of slaves, a push to move Native Americans further west, and a growing manufacturing capability.” Washington noted that “Today, a white Jesus image is ingrained in American culture.” Another statement by Blum underscored Washington’s statement: “ When we live in a world with a billion images of white Jesus, we can say he wasn’t white all we want, but the individual facts of our world say something different.” Something else added to the discussion was that the image of Jesus usually matched the ethnicity of the people worshiping him all over the world.
The article concluded with the words of Carol Swain, a race scholar from Vanderbilt University, who believes that the entire race of Jesus question is irrelevant: “Whether he’s white, black, Hispanic, whatever you want to call him, what’s important is that people find meaning in his life….As Christians, we believe that he died on the cross for the redemption of our sins.” She added, “To me, that’s the only part of the story that matters—not what skin color he was.”
So, by the end of the article, the race of Jesus was never settled. Are people supposed to continue believing what they have always believed about the race of Jesus? Unfortunately, that is the conclusion we were left with after the comments from all the religious experts. The most disappointing part of the article was that the fallacy of race was never addressed. All the experts accepted the concept of race based on color without debunking the notion of race as having no biological bases. The simple answer to the problem of Jesus’ race is that he was “the son of man” and thereby, a member of the human race. As a society we continue to deny the fact that multiple races of human being do not exist. The information concerning the fallacy of race has not been hidden from us, yet we continue to live as if it does not exist or is not relevant to us. What we know for certain is that the denial of the fact is very much a part of our every day life. We continue to live the lie.
In 2001, Mr. Pierre Sane, Head of the UNESCO Delegation to the meeting of the World Conference Against Racism, and Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, addressed the conference and made the following statement:
As early as 1948, UNESCO initiated a programme which, through the dissemination of scientific facts, established the fallacious nature of racist theories. The results of the work of eminent experts convened by UNESCO were summarized in four statements on the question of race.’ These statements elucidated the genesis of theories of racial superiority. They emphasized that the biological differentiation of races does not exist and that the obvious differences between populations living in different geographical areas of the world should be attributed to the interaction of historical, economic, political, social and cultural factors rather than biological ones.
The language cannot be any clearer—“biological differentiation of races does not exist.” Rather than engage the reality of our society’s denial of the truth regarding race, we pretend that all is well just the way it is. The problems we create by not telling the truth are many and involve how our children and grandchildren will view us once they realize the reason for the hypocrisy and disingenuousness of their parents, grandparents and society. They will come to realize that the concept of race led to discrimination and the creation of racism. When they look back on our history they will recognize and understand that all the so-called values and standards promoted as requirements of good citizenship were all connected to the myth of race which was constantly defended as real.
So, what the article on Jesus’ race shows us is that the denial is still alive and well in our society and the truth is conveniently avoided at every juncture for fear the deceit and hypocrisy will be exposed. The clergy, of all people, should be the leaders in promoting the truth—saying that races does not matter is not a rejection of race; it is an escape clause that kicks the can down the road.

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3 Comments »

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  1. The ending of Washington’s article sounds like a cop-out.

  2. trust me, I make the point that race is a social, cultural, and historical construction all the time (feel free to check out my scholarly monographs in critical whiteness studies) … but reporters, news folks, etc. either don’t mention it or they won’t discuss it. Hopefully, these articles get some folks to check out the longer works that address the total constructedness of race in our modern world.

  3. “The downfall of the attempts of governments and leaders to unite mankind is found in this- in the wrong message that we should see everyone as the same. This is the root of the failure of harmony. Because the truth is, we should not all see everyone as the same! We are not the same! We are made of different colours and we have different cultures. We are all different! But the key to this door is to look at these differences, respect these differences, learn from and about these differences, and grow in and with these differences. We are all different. We are not the same. But that’s beautiful. And that’s okay.In the quest for unity and peace, we cannot blind ourselves and expect to be all the same. Because in this, we all have an underlying belief that everyone should be the same as us at some point. We are not on a journey to become the same or to be the same. But we are on a journey to see that in all of our differences, that is what makes us beautiful as a human race, and if we are ever to grow, we ought to learn and always learn some more.” ― C. JoyBell C.


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