The Color of Christ in the Congo

Deep in a forest in the Congo, revolutionaries might be singing this song now:

Bakatukwata, batukuma                                                                   

Bakatwela ne mu maloko                                                                   

Anu bwa Nzambi wa bankambwa a                                                  

Bupika bwetu bwakajika                                                                   

Bantu ba bungi bakabenga                                                                

Bakalonda bilele biabo                                                                     

Kabena bapeta lupandu         

Translation:
They trapped and beat us,

They even threw us in jail.

Only by the god of our ancestors

Our slavery ended.

Many people rejected the black prophet.

They followed their own wills.

They will not be saved.

Who is this “black prophet” the song refers to?  It’s likely Simon Kimbangu, whose followers believed that the Garden of Eden was in Africa, and that Jesus was black and would return as a black man.  The “prophet” could also refer to Patrice Lumumba, who shot by a firing squad only months after taking office as Prime Minister in the Congo, and after saying in his inaugural speech (June 30, 1960): “We are proud of this struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being, for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.”

The slavery itself, documented in King Leopold’s Ghost,  included punishment for not harvesting ivory from elephants, and even greater punishment for failing to extract the required quota of sap from rubber trees. Those who weren’t murdered often had their hands chopped off. The image of Leopold and each of his soldiers was of a white man in power, one with the ability to enforce his will by any means possible, and did not hesitate to do it.  Later (1964) Malcolm X would refer to Lumumba as a “the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent.”  And Malcolm X famously proclaimed that American blacks needed to reclaim their dignity and power from whites “by any means necessary.”

Lumumba’s body was twice exhumed by Belgians, cut up with a hack saw, and then dissolved in sulfuric acid.  The news of this double insult to his body soon surfaced. A revolutionary song describes Lumumba’s torture, his body being hacked apart, and then immersed in acid.  (“They killed Lumumba and smashed his flesh/They put it in acid and it burned/They killed  Lumumba  and pulled out his eyes.”) The revolutionaries remember Lumumba’s death as a personal thing, an attack on their freedom and their future.  Every torture they had endured under Leopold’s reign was represented in Lumumba’s body, as though he—Savior-like—bore their punishment. Moved from his burial spot, as the early slaves had been moved from their homeland; beaten, as had so many during the Middle Passage; hacked into pieces, like slave families divided; flesh eaten by acid, like so many slaves who simply disappeared, and like all who lived under King Leopold’s merciless reign.

In Lumumba’s body and in his death was the history of Africa.  In his words was its hope, as written to his wife only days before he died: “I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable, and with profound trust in the destiny of my country.” Patrice Lumumba was thirty-five, two years older that Christ was when he was crucified.  As Lumumba grew in Congolese memory from a man to a martyr, his wounds became Africa’s, and the revolutionaries praised him as they would a god: “Bena Congo tudilayi Lumumba wetue.” Congolese, let us shed tears for the praiseworthy Lumumba.

The films Malcolm X and Lumumba have become part of revolutionary training in the Congo.  It was not just Belgians who arranged for Lumumba’s execution, however, it was also C.I.A. operatives, concerned with his ties to the Soviet Union.  We were not so far past the McCarthy years to be free of a global conspiracy view.  Many Americans pictured a monolithic Communism spreading from China through Viet Nam and Russia, and metastasizing in Africa. At this time of ignorant imagination, many saw revolutionary movements (including Civil Rights) as linked to Communism. LDS apostle (later president) Ezra Taft Benson said this in 1968: “The so-called civil rights movement as it exists today is used as a Communist program for revolution in America” (Ezra Taft Benson, Civil Rights: Tool of Communist Deception, 1968, p. 3).

On the other hand, Black pastors like Dr. King, Dr. Cecil Murray, and others were aware of the importance of dignity.  Liberation theology invited black churches into political activism, where dedicated ministers could work to serve the poor and oppressed and to emancipate the disenfranchised, as Christ did.  Often, leaders in black liberation theology portrayed Jesus as a dark-skinned revolutionary.

Mormon missionaries in the DR-Congo mission are met by ministers of home grown religions that preach an African Jesus.  “Jesus was black,” they say, and demand to look at the pictures the missionaries carry.  The pictures are the standard ones we see in all LDS churches and temples—all of them portraying a white Jesus.

“Do you think Jesus was white?” these ministers ask.

“No,” the missionaries are likely to say.  “He was a Jew.  His skin was probably dark.”

I have finished reading The Color of Christ by Edward Blum and Paul Harvey.  I’ll have reviews up shortly (but will not review it at BCC, leaving that for another Perma).  Reading the book was revelatory in many ways, and left me thinking about the implications of our having the familiar white Jesus even in African temples and church buildings.  Particularly where white conquerors have committed atrocities, and where revolutionaries still meet to sing about a black prophet, do we have an obligation to expand our artistic view of Christ?  Are we reinforcing a message that whites will lead and teach and blacks must learn from us? Can we make necessary modifications without meeting opposition from those who want Jesus to look like them?

I won’t provide an answer, but I invite discussion.  And feel free to look at the trailer for a film which will provide more material on the Congo and Mormonism: www.heartofafricafilm.com .

Comments

  1. Christopher says:

    This is wonderful and sobering, Margaret. Thanks. I look forward to your review of Ed and Paul’s book.

  2. You need to fix the link. Great post. That has always struck me as wrong, the way Christ is portrayed as looking Irish in most LDS church materials. Another thing I found shocking is a ubiquitous picture of the Christ child as this very fair (again, Irish) child with white skin and pink cheeks in Ecuador (Guayaquil) when I was there. Christ probably looked more like the Ecuadorans than like the blond cherub he appeared to be in those pictures.

  3. Which link, Tatiana? I’m not good at these things:) I did mean to add one thing, which I’ll do now, so check back.

  4. The link to the Heart of Africa site. It should be this one Heart of Africa Film. The one you have starts with a link to this post, so goes nowhere.

  5. Our standard picture of Christ kind of looks like Elder Bednar, doesn’t he?

  6. The picture I added is by Zambian artist Chiloba Chirwa. I commissioned it. He has sent me the final draft, but it hasn’t yet arrived. In what I’ve included with this blog, we see the eyes. He said it was hard working without a model. I asked him to draw Christ as he imagined Him. Starting with the eyes makes sense.

  7. See what you think. Elder Bednar and LDS Christ

  8. I like the Chriwa Christ. I’m glad you added it.

  9. I can see the resemblance!! If you click on Chiloba’s art, it gets bigger. I’ll bet you knew that already. I am still learning things about clicking on images. I also decided not to mention Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a liberation theologist, though he is one. I knew that I would be inviting a huge threadjack. But if you read the whole speech from which one phrase was excised and spotlighted, it says true and good things. I wonder who among our church leaders, past or present, we could think of as a Martin Luther King Jr.

  10. Thanks for sharing this perspective Margaret. Even from a crass marketing perspective, your point holds great validity in paving the way for greater gospel acceptance in the many countries in which people do not look like my Northern European ancestors. Perhaps more importantly, the impact on self-image of members and non-members is not to be underestimated.

    Two additional thoughts come to mind. Christ with semitic features still looks like the conquerors of many parts of the world including the borderline between sub-Saharan Africa and northern Africa. I would be interested in comments as to how the personal features discussion plays out in that region. Second, the return of the “Great White God” to the Americas is something that played a role in at least some conversions in South and Central America. From those who live in those areas or served in those areas, how important has the image of Christ as the “Great White God” been?

  11. Margaret, what do you think of Thomas Sankara? Another man who fought for africans against the chains of neo-colonialism

  12. I also think James Cone is a very important figure to mention in terms of black liberation theology. His discussion of the cross and the lynching tree is excellent.

  13. Actually, Norman, the upcoming Hispanic celebration in the LDS Conference Center features “The Great White God” as a theme. I might go to it just to see how they depict this god. I don’t believe in the Quetzalcoatl=Jesus idea. Aztec and Mayan religions were far too complex, and Kuklcan (Mayan) initiated human sacrifice at Chichen Itza (El Castillo from Chichen Itza being the building behind Christ in Scott’s “Christ Visits Amerida”, a painting which Blum and Harvey discuss).
    I’ve noticed a growing tendency to not depict Christ’s face, but to have it in shadows. If you look at lds.org, you’ll see the latest winners of LDS art. None shows Jesus’ face. j. Kirk Richards never draws details in his depictions of Christ.
    As Mormons, we ourselves can symbolize God as ordinance workers in the temple, and some of us will be very old, black (I have two fellow ordinance workers who are black), Hispanic, Asian. I think that’s quite lovely. First and foremost, I am so eager for church leadership to reflect global membership. And I personally love the beginnings of Chiloba’s art.

  14. J. Madsen–there are so many I could have mentioned. I have an image in my mind of Desmond Tutu embracing a man about to be necklaced and thus stopping the violence. Nobody would do such a thing in the presence of Bishop Tutu. I looked at a few drawings of Christ embracing either a sinner or a saint and thought of Bishop Tutu. I wonder how many people would want a picture of that remarkable man–as short as President Kimball–saving a “God carrier.” That’s how Tutu refers to humans. One of my favorite pictures shows Tutu and Mandela embracing.

  15. I do like the idea of Christ being depicted in many different ways, emphasizing how he has stood for each one of us in his intercession. That feels right to me. White Jesus is fine for me so long as he’s one of many depictions including the whole spectrum of human features and skin tones.

  16. Meldrum the Less says:

    I think the portraits of Christ in the foyer look most like a Norse or Celtic war god.

    I have told this story before but it bears repeating. Several years ago the young men in our racially diverse stake sat around the campfire in deep discussion. The idea was offered that racial identity is preserved in the features of skull bones after death. The typical skull of an African can be differentiated from the typical skull of a Celtic. Although many intermediate examples can be found, they do not erase the basic principle. And that by such means it can be inferred that the white race has been on the earth only about 10-20% as long as the black race. This is on fairly solid ground scientifically.

    If man was created in the beginning literally in the image of God and the oldest examples of the skeletal remains of man express African or black features, then one might surmise that God is black. So the boys around the fire concluded with the question, just where did we get off on the idea that God is a white man with a long gray beard?

  17. I have really enjoyed the conversation here. What I have always found striking – whether in the Gospel narratives or in Joseph Smith’s original vision – that there are very, very, very original descriptors of Jesus at all. It seems that in giving him a face, hair, nose, cranium, that we are making our own religious meaning AND influencing how children will understand Jesus and God. At least that’s one of the reasons Paul Harvey and I wrote our book on this topic.

  18. Tutu is a saint. Amazing man.

  19. Oh for Christ’s sake (literally). Enough of the white self-hatred. Does Bibi Netanyahu look black to you? Enough already.

  20. It does not appear to me that anyone is talking about hatred of anything; I think we’re trying to wrestle with the meaning of depicting a person who is vitally important to many of us. The point is how to have a loving community of all … not hate for anyone.

  21. Tutu is a saint if you are an anti-semite. Otherwise, not so much.

  22. Margaret, I’ve shared this experience previously on this blog, I think, but one of the most powerful moments of my life concerning race was when I attended the temple in Atlanta while serving in our Stake Mission Presidency in Alabama. The endowment session wasn’t memorable in any way for me until the end – when the Lord reached through the veil and his hand was black.

    Just typing once more about that moment brings tears to my eyes once more. Surely, if we all are gods and children of the Most High God, depictions of God that reflect the diversity of his children cannot be a bad thing in any way.

  23. Seriously guys, let’s not go there in terms of third-wordlism/pro Tutu:

    [Tutu] has compared Israel to Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Apartheid South Africa, saying that they too were once “very powerful” but they “bit the dust,” as will “unjust” Israel.
    He has denied that Israel is a “civilized democracy” and has singled out Israel—one of the world’s most open democracies—as a nation guilty of “censorship of their media.”  He has urged the Capetown Opera to refuse to perform Porgy and Bess in Tel Aviv and has called for a total cultural boycott of Jewish Israel, while encouraging performers to visit the most repressive regimes in the world. [etc.]

    More of a perfect bastard than a saint, I’m afraid. . . .

  24. #19 – Sister X, often comments about things in a post that simply aren’t there say more about the commenter than about the target of the comment.

    Seriously, I’d suggest a rereading that didn’t begin with such obvious preconceptions. There is a really good point (or five) in this post that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with “white self-hatred” that simply isn’t in the post itself. It can be a fascinating experience to see a very different world though the eyes of another.

  25. I see, Ray, so it’s not OK either to “uncover” anti-black racism in texts unless it’s explicit? Or you endorse a double-standard? Give me a break. OP reeks of uncomfortableness with being white – Jesus not white because Jewish? I agree He was not Nordic, but, again, ever seen Bibi?

  26. Good night, Sister X. You have your break.

  27. As a scholar, we typically do not see “whiteness” existing until the modern era. The notion that people can be defined by and categorized by perceived differences of bodies is a relatively new historical phenomenon. So Jesus of 2000 years ago in a “Jewish body” cannot mean “whiteness” – regardless of the pigmentation of skin. Good night all, and thanks to Professor Young for another fascinating piece.

  28. Tutu is a saint if you are an anti-semite. Otherwise, not so much.

    Your evidence that Archbishop Tutu is a “perfect bastard” rather than a saint–and that anyone who would maintain that Tutu really is a saint is actually an anti-semite (in Dershowitz fashion I invite you to cross reference Sippenhaftung)–is an Alan Dershowitz editorial in FrontPage Magazine? The same Mr. Dershowitz writing in the same FrontPage Magazine who complains that Tutu “compared Israel to Hitler’s Germany” in one breath while using the next to assert that “[Tutu's] call for an anti-Jewish boycott finds its roots in the Nazi ‘Kauf Nicht beim Juden’ [sic] campaign of the 1930’s”? Yikes.

  29. Particularly where white conquerors have committed atrocities, and where revolutionaries still meet to sing about a black prophet, do we have an obligation to expand our artistic view of Christ?

    I personally think we should make an effort. When I was on my mission I had the opportunity to serve during thanksgiving day, at the FAAME Church in Los Angeles (Fisrt African American Methodist Episcopalian). We gave food to the poor which was donated by various companies and organizations, including the LDS Church.

    During a break, I of course ventured around the building as I am a fan of religious architecture of any kind, and that particular building seems historical in a Los Angeles context. When I went to a large classroom in the basement, one of the walls was covered by a huge painted mural depicting biblical personages in different scenes and in chronological order: Adam and Eve, Moses, David, Jesus (among many others).

    They were all painted with black features (they were all black). One of the ladies of the FAAME Church who was there told me something like this: “I know it may seem strange to you to see that mural, but we want our children to identify with these biblical passages, therefore, we have created art around us that will allow that to happen.” As I saw little black children happily running around the building, all I could think is, she is right, they do need this imagery, they must know these passages are about people like them too.

    Are we reinforcing a message that whites will lead and teach and blacks must learn from us?

    I think the depictions of a Caucasian Christ definitely have an effect on people. I personally (as a Mexican with black hair, very pale white skin and hazel eyes), don’t find the images of a Caucasian Christ too alienating, but I do admit those which are extremely white (blond blue eyed German looking Christs), do cause some alienating feelings in me such as if someone were trying to impose a racial message in a religious context to me. So, I am pretty sure that even if unintentionally, we are sending a message of sorts even if unintentionally.

    Can we make necessary modifications without meeting opposition from those who want Jesus to look like them?

    I am quite sure we cannot without meeting any opposition from those who want Jesus to look white. Especially in the Church where several urban legends exist around how our own popular image “Christ in Red Robe” by Del Parson came about (all which have been dismissed by the author himself; and where many people still hold on to folk beliefs (in a wide range of degrees of seriousness) that God is white and any other race is a result of a curse (Like Elder Mark E. Peterson stated long ago) and that resurrected bodies will be racially white, etc etc etc.

    I love art, and I love to study art and understand what the authors were thinking or what message they are sending or with what purpose they created a work of art. In this context, I am fully convinced, Christ in Red Robe by Del Parson (the preferred and most used image of Christ by most LDS people) is a self-portrait. After having several conversations with art professors regarding the issue, they have agreed it is actually a self-portrait. Therefore, I am ready to see other depictions of Christ used in the Church.

    For a self-portrait analysis of Del Parson and the Christ in Red Robe, you can click and see the imposed images I created here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/88869614@N07/

    Christ in Red Robe and Del Parson share the exact same facial bone structure, nose bridge, nose shape, cheek bones, facial proportions, lips, ear lobes, right eyebrow arch, left eyebrow arch, eye color, space between nose and upper lip and relaxed forehead furrows between eyebrows. So, I think I would like to see more artistic depictions of Christ that would allow other ethnic groups to identify with Him, since I think the Caucasian Christ has been the overkill image around the world.

  30. We have collected nativities from many countries we have visited and lived in around the world. Our first “ethnic” nativity was one my parents brought home from Nigeria with all black figures. Of course some of our nativities have no discernable features, let alone race. But each in its own way reflects its artist and the artist’s culture (and sometimes race). I’m thrilled by the many ways to see Him. Visitors in our home have never expressed concern or dismay at the diversity, but maybe it’s because we’re all pretty used to multi-cultural nativity scenes, and those are not the same as religious art that hangs in our churchs.

    (Of course in our stake, we now have only church-approved art hanging throughout the building. Even personal artwork (a Swindle painting of Joseph and a drawing of the Detroit Temple) I purchased for the bishop’s office was removed and returned to me. I never understood why.)

  31. Wonderful stories! Thank you. Manuel, I wonder if you were one of the missionaries Pastor Chip Murray referred to when he spoke of the humanitarian help the missionaries provided to the FAME. Paul, what we know is that artwork becomes popular when it has a business behind it. Little pieces like Chiloba Chirwa’s won’t usually get far unless they find corporate support and get mass produced. Is it actually a requirement that all art in our church buildings be church-approved? I had never thought about that, but I do see all of the same images in all LDS buildings. As for Desmond Tutu–I’ve looked into his eyes and listened to many of his sermons. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to reduce him to such an ugly name. My thoughts on hearing him preach are here: http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/05/17/bishop-desmond-tutu-and-moral-authority/

  32. marginalizedmormon says:

    very interesting–

  33. I have a friend who is an artist, she graduated from BYU and she once explained me the whole legal issues with the Church and the pieces of art they use. Basically (and don’t quote me too strictly as I have a faint memory of what she explained) the Church has specific policies with works of art, having the need to have actual written contracts with the artists (or whomever owns the rights to the work of art) for their use in the Church. The Church then has a catalog of not only approved works of art but more specifically “legally cleared” works of art for their specific use and reproduction by the Church, and by policy they request that all art used in Church materials and Church buildings come from this catalog of cleared items.

    My friend told me the contracts are very strict and in her opinion too inconvenient to the small and unknown artist, as they are required to relinquish many of their own rights to the work of art and other aspects of the contract that she did not think were terribly fair.

    Knowing the Church though, I am sure only certain depictions of the Lord will be approved and I am sure ethnic ones won’t since the Church has a huge focus on “correlating materials” and making sure you see the same things anywhere you go around the world.

    I have been doing quite a bit of research over the years on Mormon art (it all began as I was curious about the overly muscular/bodybuilder style of illustrations found in the original Book of Mormon I was given by the missionaries decades ago). I read in a pamphlet about Del Parson (where he authors explanations to some of his paintings used by the Church, that the Christ in Red Robe was actually commissioned by the Church and that the ethnicity, as well as eye color and hair/facial hair color were specifically requested by the Church. This was supposed to be a man with light eyes, auburn hair and Caucasian features. My guess is Del Parson looked at himself in the mirror and thought “Bingo!”

  34. John A.C. says:

    Great post. I’m curious to what extent the Church’s commitment to a certain narrow aesthetic (“realist” in the mode of Parsons, Greg Olsen, etc) reinforces this ethnocentrism. A cursory search for African, Asian, or Latin American religious art yields a lot of works from non-representational or at least non-realist traditions. My sense is that if we ever were to expand our sense of what’s possibly racially or culturally in religious art, we would necessarily need to expand our sense of what’s possible in art, period. Which would be wonderful!

  35. John A.C. (35) you raise an interesting question. Certainly we see some evidence of what you write in the smattering of entries from the international art competitions that get printed in the Ensign & Liahona from time to time — those are often considerably less “realist,” yet as far as I know, none have made it into the “approved” artwork for the church.

    Manuel, thanks for that background about the church’s legal arrangements. Does that suggest that a privately purchased work could not be displayed in the church because someone it’s not for public consumption? I’m not challenging what you’ve written or even the church’s policy, but would be interested to know how the copyright or other similar laws apply.

  36. There was a stunning exhibition earlier this year at the Detroit Institute of Arts titled Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus that featured images of Christ by Rembrandt and his students from 17th Century Amsterdam. Rembrandt was likely the first European artist to use an ethnically Jewish model to pose for a painting of Christ. One painting in the series was on loan from the BYU Museum of Art. I wish the Church would use this image broadly, since it presumably owns the rights to reproduce it.

  37. Manuel, I just clicked on your link. YES! It looks like a self-portrait. Oh my. Funny. I love the eyes in that Rembrandt, DTR.
    I was thinking about _The Other Side of Heaven_, which depicts my family. John Groberg is my uncle. (I announce as often as possible, especially around Tongans.) My grandmother was portrayed by a good actress in the film. Frankly, though, the actress didn’t come anywhere near to the woman I remember, nor was she as beautiful.as my grandmother was. But the director’s goal wasn’t to have Jennie Groberg re-captured in the film, but represented. I think the point Edward Blum makes about “whiteness” not really being an ethnic concept until recently is an important one–and he and Paul Harvey elaborate on that in their book. It comes into play with a modern interpretation of a “great white god” and even the use of color in the Book of Mormon.
    I am picky about the Christian art I have in my home. I have some Greg Olsen, but it has sentimental value to me, since it was a gift from some Hispanic sisters. I think of them when I see the Olsen images (and there are several in what they gave me). I requested one in particular from my husband last Christmas: Bloch’s “Daughter of Jairus.” In it, Christ and the girl’s father and another companion are indistinct presences just entering the house. The main scene is the mother grieving her daughter’s death, unaware that hope is about to illuminate all the gloom of death. This is a picture I look at often as I go through trials with my children. I have been privileged to be stretched by some prodigal children, and have grieved for them at times. That picture, regardless of how Christ is portrayed, is redemptive for me. I am focused on the daughter, whom the Savior addresses as “Talitha,” or “little lamb.” I would guess that the real daughter of Jairus had hair like wool.
    The issue of representation does bring significant questions, however. It’s a particularly important one for Mormons because of the proxy work we do. We represent deceased family members or others as we do temple work. I believe this is more for us than for them, because the repetition reminds us of our divine identity. I can represent a woman of any ethnicity, and someone in the Ghana temple can represent one of my ancestors. We are meant to bear one another’s burdens, and to transcend–as best we can–any barriers which would separate us. That’s another reason for providing more images which remind us that we are family, all of us, and members of the body of Christ.

  38. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks for the post, Margaret.

  39. I don’t think it makes sense to depict Christ as different races, because he was only one race when he was on the earth. So, wanting him to be something he wasn’t would just be false. It seems most reasonable to assume he looked about like the Jews look today.

    However, I was in the temple this morning thinking it would useful for all the actors to be Black, Asian or Hispanic for use in temples around the world where they would fit best. It’s time for new temple films anyway, don’t you think ?

  40. Brian T–I agree! I wonder if that has ever come up for discussion among the people who would have the power to make the changes.

  41. SisterX,
    I am from Israel. I’ve even met Bibi in person a few years ago. Guess what. Lots of European Jews have European ancestry. I grew up in a town which consisted mainly of immigrants from North Africa. While even among them (and Yemenites), there are fair-haired and light-eyed people, they tend not to look European like Bibi.

  42. “I love art, and I love to study art and understand what the authors were thinking or what message they are sending or with what purpose they created a work of art. In this context, I am fully convinced, Christ in Red Robe by Del Parson (the preferred and most used image of Christ by most LDS people) is a self-portrait. After having several conversations with art professors regarding the issue, they have agreed it is actually a self-portrait. Therefore, I am ready to see other depictions of Christ used in the Church.

    For a self-portrait analysis of Del Parson and the Christ in Red Robe, you can click and see the imposed images I created here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/88869614@N07/

    Christ in Red Robe and Del Parson share the exact same facial bone structure, nose bridge, nose shape, cheek bones, facial proportions, lips, ear lobes, right eyebrow arch, left eyebrow arch, eye color, space between nose and upper lip and relaxed forehead furrows between eyebrows. So, I think I would like to see more artistic depictions of Christ that would allow other ethnic groups to identify with Him, since I think the Caucasian Christ has been the overkill image around the world”

    Funny thing is, I have a friend back in Israel who is half Kurdish and half Moroccan. He looks almost exactly like Christ in that painting.

  43. Brian T, I don’t see a problem with depicting Jesus as multiple different races. It’s already almost certain that we as an organization officially depict Jesus with a racial look that is not accurate. We unofficially have depictions of Jesus in activities that either we have no evidence for or that He certainly didn’t do, like playing with the birdies, wistfully tending the sheep, or helping the blonde kids across the stream. I think that encouraging and supporting realism is a good thing, but not at the expense of our tradition of likening Jesus to us personally, He is also a symbol for us that represents our ideas of complete love, caring, and our hopes for our future.

  44. Bryant Smith says:

    I think that this is kind of the point of the OP. We already liken Jesus to ourselves, but we don’t liken Jesus racially to everyone equally, and this restriction may be interpreted by some negatively.

  45. I agree with Bryant Smith. Ultimately, we do not know what he really looked like. We simply don’t know. I don’ think we even know the range of ethnic features found in the area where he was born at the time where he was born, so I find it a little strange to say “let’s paint it as a Jew,” then to some it seems like Jews are supposed to look Irish and to some it seems they ought to look Egyptian, etc. There seems to be little consensus as to what an ethnic “Jew” is supposed to look like, let alone what they collectively were supposed to look like two thousand years ago.

    Each of us is supposed to reflect His countenance, and about our relationship with others He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” We are also supposed to find Christ in everyone around us.

    On the other hand, art is art. And when it comes to biblical passages, they are expressions and interpretations of the author, not really reliable depictions of actual events. I am sure most people are familiar with the amazing chiaroscuro masterpiece “The Calling of Matthew” by Caravaggio. I am certain that the way they are dressed is not accurate with the event being portrayed, yet, I love the painting.

    I don’t mind having art portraying Jesus in many different ways. But when you have an institution like the Church, which claims to teach the restored gospel, which in turn bothers to limit the portrayal of Jesus to a specific aspect, then in turn that same organization doesn’t mind having among its own catalog the blonde blue eyed German looking Jesus of Greg Olsen (not to mention the young German looking blonde blue eyed actor in the movie The Testaments); then that feels a bit odd (very odd to some) and once again, it comes across as racially convenient to the Caucasian majority of that Salt Lake City elite white social bubble that clearly exists around the people making these decisions in the Church. The clear message to the rest of us minorities: “Jesus obviously looked like us Caucasians.”

    Let us have imagery of Jesus that allows EVERYONE to identify with him.

  46. I enthusiastically applaud any effort to expand our artistic visions. Personally I have the Rembrandt image in my home. I also recall a wonderful Christmas song that I heard nearly 30 years ago, “Some Children See Him,” which supports a multiethnic view. I’ve always been puzzled and intrigued by the medieval art that places Jesus in desert robes in the middle of 17th century architecture and people.

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