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Is Shaun King correct in tweeting that European depictions of Jesus are a form of white supremacy?

Is Shaun King correct in tweeting that European depictions of Jesus are a form of white supremacy?
WRITTEN BY
06/24/20
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Stephanie (No)

When self-described civil rights activist Shaun King recently accused on Twitter that Jesus depicted as European promotes 'white supremacy,' it's hard not to see how these claims are getting out of control when activists set their sights on religious figures.

Not only is this clearly taking anti-racism movements too far, but it is culturally and historically inaccurate. Throughout the world, different nations have depicted Jesus as being of their respective cultures, as seen in Ethiopian and Asian versions of Jesus.

This is hardly different from having a 'white Jesus' for Europeans to identify with. Yet, King claimed that 'white people would never have accepted religion 'from a Brown man,'' an offensive comment to those on either side of the argument, given that one could have a 'white' appearance, yet have a more ethnic background, or vice versa.

Even if some do not accept 'white Jesus' as the correct form of him, this portrayal does not promote white supremacy, especially considering that Jesus encouraged love and tolerance for all, including, during his time, 'women,' 'the poor,' 'the unclean,' 'oppressors,' and 'racial enemies.'

Certainly, Jesus did not appear Caucasian - he was a Jewish man of the Near East. However, claiming white supremacy is an entirely different accusation, coming at an all too coincidental time when racism has been a central topic in the media.

This is convenient for King, as his recent tweet appears to be an attempt for him to be once again embraced as a Black Lives Matter advocate after 'his race was questioned and he was accused of being a Caucasian falsely portraying himself as black.'


Jennifer (Yes)

The image of a European Jesus, deeply connected to 5 centuries of colonialism, is one of the most potent symbols of white supremacy in existence. Mounted to the banner of conquest, white Jesus was the emblem of the colonialist era's New World Order and the religion borne by the conquerors as the only way to God.

Those who are shocked by Shaun King's suggestion that these distorted depictions of a First Century, Middle Eastern Jew should be destroyed, are perhaps unaware of the iconoclastic movement. The Orthodox Church was rocked by two such movements, occurring in the 8th and 9th Centuries. The aim was to destroy depictions of the Divine as blasphemous. And to Christians of color and/or conscience, white Jesus is, indeed, a blasphemy.

Several early depictions of Jesus display the features he would most likely have had in his time. Gone are the flowing, blonde locks. In their place is the short, curly hair men of the region wore in this era, as that was their natural hair texture.

But Christendom could never have enjoyed its massive global reach, had Jesus been depicted as he was. So, it was the European Jesus who was globally diffused, as colonialism swept across the world. European Jesus was, therefore, the face of colonialism. No longer dark-skinned and curly-haired, Jesus bore the image of the conquering armies of colonialism.

There is little question that the image of a European savior served colonialism in its 500-year march across the globe. White Jesus cemented colonialist conquest, while replacing native belief systems with the white-washed image of a suffering God.

Fact Box

  • “Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been,” King, 40, had tweeted Monday over the movement to topple monuments.
  • Reactions on Twitter were mixed. Some agreed with King’s position, while others pointed out that cultures other than white Europeans have depicted Jesus in ways that resembled the local community.
  • Christians simply relate better to a savior who looks like them, which is why, centuries ago, Western Europeans painted Jesus with white skin and flowing, golden-brown hair. And why, today, murals in many north Minneapolis churches portray Jesus as an African-American.
  • White supremacy is a term used to characterize various belief systems central to which are one or more of the following key tenets: 1) whites should have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; 2) whites should live by themselves in a whites-only society; 3) white people have their own 'culture' that is superior to other cultures; 4) white people are genetically superior to other people.
  • After the death of George Floyd, controversial and Confederate statues have been taken down across the United States: George Washington, General Robert E. Lee, Johnny Reb, Jefferson Davis, John Breckinridge Castleman monument, Confederate sailor Charles Linn, Edward Carmack, and more.
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