Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Long History of How Jesus Came to Resemble a White European

By Anna Swartwood House
A painting depicting the transfiguration of Jesus, a story in the New Testament when Jesus becomes radiant upon a mountain (Raphael /Collections Hallwyl Museum, CC BY-SA)
The portrayal of Jesus as a white, European man has come under renewed scrutiny during this period of introspection over the legacy of racism in society. As protesters called for the removal of Confederate statues in the US, activist Shaun King went further, suggesting that murals and artwork depicting “white Jesus” should “come down.” His concerns about the depiction of Christ and how it is used to uphold notions of white supremacy are not isolated. Prominent scholars and the archbishop of Canterbury have called to reconsider Jesus’s portrayal as a white man. In a multiracial but unequal America, there was a disproportionate representation of a white Jesus in the media. It wasn’t only Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ that was depicted widely; a large proportion of actors who have played Jesus on television and film have been white with blue eyes. [More]