Saturday, March 10, 2007

What Color is Jesus?

Hopefully by tomorrow, or Monday at the latest, I'll be able to carve out the time to both

a.) respond to PamBG's most excellent comment on my last post, and

b.) post my response to James Cone's theological defense of violence in the name of Black Power.

In the meantime, I'm still wrestling with Cone's text in my little free time from school-required reading and writing, and found this powerful paragraph this morning:

Where does [Christ] lead his people? Where indeed, if not in the ghetto. He meets the blacks where they are and becomes one of them. We see him with his black face and big black hands lounging on a streetcorner. "Oh, but surely Christ is above race." But society is not raceless, any more than when God became a despised Jew. White liberal preference for a raceless Christ serves only to make official and orthodox the centuries-old portrayal of Christ as white. The "raceless" American Christ has a light skin, wavy brown hair, and sometimes - wonder of wonders - blue eyes. For whites to find him with big lips and kinky hair is as offensive as it was for the Pharisees to find him partying with tax-collectors. But whether whites want to hear it or not, Christ is black, baby, with all the features which are so detestable to white society.

Reading this I remembered the church in South Louisville - a predominantly white, blue collar part of town - where I served as the Youth Minister. For a time, under a more liberal pastor, we - an almost all white church (I remember one black man, his Korean wife, and a few Hispanics among the sea of white faces) - partnered with a predominantly black congregation. We held pulpit exchanges, where our pastor would preach in their sanctuary and their pastor would preach in ours. We also occasionally held joint worship services, with potluck dinners afterwards.

As a reminder of our ongoing friendship, this black church gave us a painting of the Last Supper. Sure enough, in that painting Jesus and all of his disciples were black. The painting was immediately hung up in our sanctuary, a proud testimony to our ability to see Jesus on the side of and made incarnate in the marginalized and oppressed.

But our liberal pastor was soon replaced by a fundamentalist, and shortly after I left to pursue my own failed attempt at a pastoral career. That partnership dissolved, and I have no idea where the painting of the Black Last Supper is.

Can we really stomach looking into the face of those we have dehumanized, and seeing there the face of Christ?


PamBG said...

Now this quotation from Cone I can agree with 100% - I'm assuming, of course, that he thinks that Christ also comes among the Dalits (et. al.) as one of them.

Can we really stomach looking into the face of those we have dehumanized, and seeing there the face of Christ?

I think this is getting close to what I was trying to say in my last post. Thanks for apparently understanding me as I was really struggling with words. I'm looking forward to your further "chewing".

crystal said...

That reminds me of the art of the African Mafa.