It was only a matter of time. Activist and writer Shaun King has taken aim at images and sculptures which depict Jesus as white.
On Twitter, King said:
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. In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went?EGYPT!
Tear them down.
There are a few issues with that. For starters, in Matthew 2, when Joseph and Mary take the newborn Jesus from Bethlehem to Egypt, it was not because they would “blend in.” They left their territory to go outside the jurisdiction and influence of Herod, so he’s wrong on that front.
King is also making the absurd argument that art which depicts Jesus as white is ALWAYS an example of white supremacy.
The roots of Christian art go back a long way. There are artistic depictions of Jesus which go back to the early centuries of the church. Hundreds of years.
And across cultures, throughout the centuries, people have often depicted Jesus as looking like them. European art depicted a European Jesus, Japanese Christian art depicted a Japanese Jesus, Ethiopian Christian art depicted an Ethiopian Jesus.
King assumes the worst and calls it an example of white supremacy. Isn’t it possible that you have centuries of artists who had no idea what Jesus looked like, who didn’t have the internet, or TV, or photos and who didn’t always necessarily know what an Israelite would have looked like and that the artist just painted what they knew? That strikes me as the more reasonable conclusion. And artists in earlier generations influenced the artists of later generations. King says that depicting Jesus as white has always been an example of white supremacy.
Are other cultures also being cultural supremacists when they depict Jesus within their own cultural context?
Who is King to assume the motives of centuries of artists?
King later doubled down on that Tweet:
Yes. All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.
Is the key to a better and more tolerant world to tear down the past and destroy art? To erase history? In the last few weeks, too many people are becoming too accepting of censorship as if that’s going to bring us to utopia. Should we also burn books, Shaun?
I’m not disputing that a European looking Jesus is historically inaccurate. And over the years, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with artistic depictions of Jesus in any format. But that doesn’t mean the mob should be able to dictate what churches and museums can depict.
King has made a mockery of himself with this ridiculous argument.
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