Chauncey DeVega: No, Jesus Wasn't White

tags: Race, Jesus Christ, ethnicity, Chauncey DeVega, Alternet



Chauncey DeVega is editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes, which has been featured by the NY Times, the Utne Reader, and The Atlantic Monthly. Writing under a pseudonym, Chauncey DeVega's essays on race, popular culture, and politics have appeared in various books, as well as on such sites as the Washington Post's The Root and PopMatters.

The History Channel miniseries “The Bible” is one of the most popular TV shows in recent memory. “The greatest story ever told” seems to have much life left in it....

“The Bible” is not a “true” or “accurate” depiction of events. Like other TV shows and films, the final product is the result of the many decisions made by producers, actors, directors, writers, and editors. However, that does not mean that we should avoid asking some basic questions about the accuracy of the miniseries. For some, what follows is an uncomfortable truth.

The historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was not “white. He was not European. Based on the scholarly consensus, the historical Jesus would be a Middle Eastern Jew of medium, if not dark, complexion. He was certainly dark enough to have spent time in the Middle East and elsewhere, and not to have had his skin tone commented upon or noted.

This Jesus would be hounded and harassed by the TSA, looked at as a de facto “suspicious” person in post-9/11 America, and be racially profiled by the national security state. The historical Jesus would likely be subject to stop-and-frisk policies by the New York police and others. If it were too late at night, and the historical Jesus was trying to get a cab–especially if he were not attired “professionally”–he would be left standing curbside because brown folks in their 20s and 30s who look like him are presumed to be criminals....

If a Christian is a true believer why would they have difficulty reconciling their faith with such a superficial thing as changing the historical lie that is white Jesus into one that is more accurate, a man of color, whose message would be unchanged? Would it really be that hard for some white Christians (and others) to kneel before a black or brown Jesus Christ? Are the psychic wages of whiteness so great as to distort a person’s image of God?...




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