Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jesus Was White?

One of the most laughable bits about modern portrayals of Jesus is when he is rendered as a white European. It's laughable for the simple reason that Jesus was a Jew born in first-century Israel. The debate goes back and forth over whether a historical Jesus existed, but assuming that he did there is no confusion whatsoever about his ethnicity. That is, apparently, unless you're Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Wednesday assured children viewing her program that both Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were white men even though some liberals were trying to make them black.

There's so much wrong with that statement I'm going to address it here before moving on. Not only was Jesus not white, he was also not black - that is, not of African ancestry. And I can't say that I know of any "liberals" arguing for an African Jesus. That's just as silly as a European one. It's central to the Christian interpretation of Jesus as Messiah that he be a Jew of the line of David. So the only way in which Jesus could be thought of as "black" is if the term simply means "not white," which frankly is just goofy.

“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly said. “But this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But Santa is what he is.”

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know?” she added. “I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa — I just want the kids watching to know that.”

Contrary to Kelly’s assertions, Jesus Christ was a Jew of Mediterranean descent and not the white European figure often depicted in paintings and movies.

Clearly Kelly needs to read up on not only her history, but the basic theology of her religion. It's pretty amazing to see this sort of ignorance on display in a mainstream news program. And as for Santa Claus, the closest historical figure to the popular icon created in the early twentieth century is probably Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was a fourth-century Greek bishop and thus also of Mediterranean descent.

UPDATE: Megyn Kelly has now released a statement that she was being "tongue-in-cheek" with her comments about Santa Claus being represented as a white man, mostly ignoring that everybody is slamming her for her comments about Jesus. She added: “By the way, I also said Jesus is white,” Kelly said, “As I’ve learned in the past two days, that is far from settled.” According to Kelly's biography she's Roman Catholic, and I'm sorry, but anyone who could grow up Roman Catholic thinking Jesus was supposed to be a white European is simply so stupid that they should be kept as far away from relating actual news as possible. Who knows what other basic facts she's shockingly ignorant about?

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Donald Michael Kraig said...

I would respectfully suggest it would be more accurate to write that IF a person named Jesus as described in the four gospels of the the Christian bible actually existed, his physiological characteristics would have been that of a Mediterranean person.

Scott Stenwick said...

Right. As I said in the article:

"The debate goes back and forth over whether a historical Jesus existed, but assuming that he did there is no confusion whatsoever about his ethnicity."

YowYow said...

I would also offer this consideration. If the Christian religion was co-opted by the Roman Empire to consolodate power among the various religious factions then the image would reflect the Roman Emperor. Many religions from the time of the Egyptians have tried this in order to take away the political influence of religious leaders on the masses. So I propose that the concept of the "white Jesus" reflects the image of the ruling party of the Roman Empire and the emperor Justinian I. Another thought was the influence of Henry VIII creation of the Church of England. To continue cutting ties to the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire, the image of the white Jesus would be developed to further Henry's religious goals within medival English society. So the image of Jesus would be white and English.

Scott Stenwick said...

Most of the "white Jesus" representations that I've seen are Medieval or later, and from the Western side of the Catholic/Orthodox split. Images of Jesus from the Eastern church clearly depict a Mediterranean individual.

It's no big mystery that misrepresenting Jesus' race was done for various political reasons throughout history, and you're probably right that the "British Israelite" concept had a lot to do with attempts to shore up the Anglican split from the Roman Church.

The big thing that gets me and is the point of the article, though, is that it amazes me a major news organization (even Fox) would put forth such ignorant nonsense. I know that they skew right politically, but don't they have fact checkers for something as basic as this?