Remember last Christmas when there was a minor kerfuffle going on with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. She was talking about an author who wanted to do away with the idea of a white Santa. Ms. Kelly found the idea to be ludicrous and insisted that there are some people whose ethnicity you cannot touch. Jesus, for example, was a white guy – you can’t change what it is.
Here it is…
Now, here’s the thing. There were a lot of people making fun of Ms. Kelly. I even cracked a few jokes like:
Of COURSE Jesus was white. Who on earth would want to worship a middle eastern Jew?
Please understand that the previous sentence is a joke – I’m not serious. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus was a middle eastern Jew.
In the midst of the discussion about Ms. Kelly’s goof there were some accusations of racism. We need to be careful about the words we use, because I don’t think racism is at play here.
Racism is treating people as inferior because of their race.
What happened on Fox News was not about inferiority. It wasn’t racism. It was racial bias but not racism. And racial bias is normal. It is a normal human trait to imagine stories from our own perspectives. When we read our imaginations usually make the characters look like us. Even when the author is clear about a character’s description we will often overlook that description in our heads.
There were many fans of The Hunger Games who were upset when the character Rue was cast as a little black girl. They failed to recognize the description the author provided and filled in their own gaps from their own perspectives….
The story of Jesus is no different. We don’t have any photos of the man, so we are left to use our imaginations to see him. Left to ourselves, we fill in the blank spots from our own experiences, culture, and background.
Megyn Kelly wasn’t being racist. Ignorant, sure, but not racist (and honestly, it’s hard not to see Jesus as white when the majority of sacred art we’re exposed to is European…).
One of my most prized possessions is a book called “The Life of Jesus” (1978, Buechner and Boltin). I don’t think it’s in print any more, but you can get it used on Amazon.
It’s the story of Jesus combined with sacred art from around the world. Let me show you some famous art of Jesus…
We all tend to fashion the Bible from our own background. Is it wrong to see Jesus as a white guy? As Japanese? As African? Historically, sure – he was a middle eastern Jew. But the whole point of the Incarnation is that Christ is WITH us. God is not far away and removed – He is one of us. So the God who left heaven to be like me might look like me. What other god ever bothered to become like us?
The mystery and magnificence of YAHWEH is the Incarnation. His name is Emmanuel, which means: God with us.
Ms. Kelly should have apologized for her cultural bias and ignorance but I don’t fault her for seeing Jesus from her background and heritage. I don’t really expect my blog will ever cross her path, but if you do know her send her the link, okay? 😉
This Easter season take some time to reflect on the idea that God cares enough for us to become like us. To feel like us. To suffer like us. To die like us.
Yes, even to look like us.