Real Dark Jesus


So my church showed this video of Jesus doing a bunch of miracles. Great production values. All non-whites, mostly authentic languages, culturally and ethnically reproduced to how it would look in the first century eastern world.

But — I was amazed and amused by the reaction of the church attendees (most of whom are classically westernized i.e. white). They were squirming like crazy the entire video. Like very, very bothered. It wasn’t hard to read.

I was smiling ear to ear that this video mostly got the “look and feel” of the actual first century east. But soon I became angry and sad that the church was so squirmy because they didn’t see western interpretations of white Jesus on the screen.

I’m sure this sounds silly and petty, but our preconceived ideas of Jesus, the east, and the grit of the first century plays a lot into how we view culture, faith, and “the foreigner.” Whitewashing is a big trigger word that’s overplayed, but it’s real.

And for evangelical Christians who are used to seeing a tall, handsome, blonde Jesus, this ain’t how it was. Not even close. By all biblical reports, he was ordinary, unattractive, unremarkable, and dark. Christianity is built on a guy that most of the west is scared of by default.

I’m super-glad my church risked an authentic interpretation of Jesus, and super-sad it bothered the church so much. I also had to wonder how many normative images I have in my head of beauty, truth, heroism, and villainy—and how these images have harmed how I see others.

J.S.


Photo from Image Catalog, CC0 1.0

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4 thoughts on “Real Dark Jesus

    1. I was also wondering if I couldn’t view this. Our (my) westernized concepts are deeply entrenched. I need the visual cues placed in my head. I have been told, since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, that Jesus didn’t look like me, but I’m a visual learner. Call me Thomas, but a picture would definitely help.

      Another thought, though: seeing Jesus like me is more relatable. Wonder where my mind would go with that? Maybe I would squirm while my concepts rearrange themselves in my body? Maybe my squirming wouldn’t be rejection so much as rearranging concepts inmy head – an uncomfortable, but needed, reassessment?

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  1. Sadly, so many Christians want Jesus to be in their image and likeness. They do not want to submit and be in the likeness of Jesus. He was dark and definitely Jewish, not western. His love, mercy and compassion is what attracts not his physical appearance. I trust the Holy Spirit is moving on the ones in the congregation that were uncomfortable with the video and squirming!

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