Jesus in Black and White

By Walton, Jonathan L. | The Christian Century, October 31, 2012 | Go to article overview

Jesus in Black and White


Walton, Jonathan L., The Christian Century


The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America

By Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey

University of North Carolina Press, 336 pp., $32.50

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The Color of Christ confronts the complicated history of the Christ image and racial politics in the United States. The authors' ambitious-some might say audacious--aim is to track "the creating and exercise of racial and religious power through the images of Jesus and how that power has been experienced by everyday people." Their professed task is tantamount to telling the story of American Christianity in its manifold manifestations and interpretations across four centuries. In this bold project, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey have produced a rich and readable narrative that begins with the Puritans and concludes with Jesus in the age of Obama.

Blum and Harvey are two of the more productive chroniclers of American religion on the scene today. The duo has collaborated as coeditors of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), as well as on the Religion in American History blog, where Harvey is editor. As historians who specialize in the southern region of the United States at the dawn of the 20th century, they have helped to advance the field of U.S. religious history in both print and digital media.

Readers familiar with Stephen Prothero's book American Jesus will recognize the narrative arc of The Color of Christ, but the two volumes should not be confused. Blum and Harvey's diachronic account of the changing face of the Christ figure demonstrates an impressive collection of data, which includes artwork, sermons, music and personal testimonies. They present a dizzying number of illustrations from about seven historical epochs. In the process, we learn how people of faith--most notably white and black Protestants, white Mormons, Native Americans and European Catholic immigrants--rejected, embraced and interpreted the sacred Christ image across religious, racial and class lines.

For instance, the iconoclasm of Protestant colonists clashed with French and Spanish Catholic iconography in the 17th century. During the Revolutionary era, the founders kept Jesus at bay in favor of deist philosophy while enslaved African Americans and subjugated Native Americans were "making the Son of God a son of liberty." And beginning in the 19th century, according to the authors, hypercommodified constructions of a masculine, de-Semitized white Jesus pervaded the culture.

Jesus was everywhere and on everyone's side. Northern abolitionists envisaged Jesus as a courageous, freedom-fighting martyr in the vein of John Brown, the raider of Harpers Ferry. Post-Civil War southerners wrapped Jesus in the Confederate flag and their lost cause. Persecuted Mormons affirmed the sacrality of Jesus' whiteness, along with their own, as a means of joining a perceived American mainstream that exalted white skin. Jesus intermeshed with a Paiute religious leader named Wovoka in the Southwest, encouraging the Ghost Dance movement. And everyone, from government officials to denominational mission boards, deployed Jesus as the face of American empire, an imperialistic totem that could redeem the lost, colored children of the world.

Even when Jesus sided with peoples of color, this does not mean that they believed the Christ looked like them. The rare instances of ethnic identification by blacks and Indians could hardly counter the cultural power and white supremacist logic that bolstered Jesus' image in American society. Blum and Harvey go to great lengths to demonstrate that prevailing conceptions of a Nordic Christ were not easily disrupted. It was not just that few communities of color had the mass production capacity or consumer power to create a counter-image to William Pendleton's Letter from Publius Lentulus or James Tissot's The Life of Our Savior Jesus Christ. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jesus in Black and White
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.