I was perplexed when I read the article about the all white Sunday school class in St. Louis sending literature featuring a white Jesus and other white biblical characters to an all Black Sunday school in Kenya. This on the heels of an article on racism in a previous issue, and even a letter to the editor in the same issue regarding racism.
We have got to stop pushing the idea that Jesus and other biblical people were white. We don’t have a clue as to what Jesus looked like. Isaiah says He had no “form or comeliness” about Him, but this could have referred to what He looked like on the cross. Or it could mean that He really wasn’t an attractive man for a good reason. He wanted to attract people to Himself because of His love and teachings, not because He was good looking. Every picture ever made of Jesus shows Him as a very good looking man.
CPH continues to feature such pictures in its Sunday school literature, its Sunday bulletins, and other publications. This is racism, whether you want to admit it or not. The image we have become accustomed to was first painted by renaissance artists who were just guessing. And, of course, since these artists lived in Europe, they made Him to look like themselves.
I wonder how the children in Kenya felt when they received these pictures. In our own country Black Muslims criticize Christianity as the “white man’s religion.” Is it any wonder? How do you think children in a white Sunday school class would feel if all the pictures of Christ showed Him as a Black man? There would be an uproar from the parents from sea to shining sea. This would be just as wrong as portraying Him as a white man. The bottom line is we should stop portraying Him at all and just wait till we wee Him face to face. I think we’ll all be surprised at what He really looks like. I think the part of the first commandment that forbids us to make graven images applies here.
I’ll never forget a Christmas poem that appeared in the old Lutheran Brotherhood magazine about 30 years ago:
Do you see Him Black or fair,
This child to whom you raise your prayer?
Do you see Him yellow with almond eye,
This baby Jesus praised on high?
Oh children of all lands, you see,
God made His Son to look like thee.
Pastor Jerry Lossner
St. Philip Lutheran Church
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