As protests against alleged “systemic racism” continue to spread across the United States and have expanded to toppling statues of American historical figures, left-wing activists are now turning their attention to the supposed racial implications of religious imagery, and are calling for the destruction of images and statues of a “white” Jesus and Mary his mother.
Shaun King, a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, best known for claiming to be half-black despite both parents on his birth certificate being listed as white, declared Monday that statues, murals, and stained-glass windows depicting Jesus as white should be taken down for being “form[s] of white supremacy,” meant to be “tools of oppression” and “racist propaganda”:
Christ’s skin color and exact physical features are a subject — beyond the common-sense assumption that they were in line with the Middle Eastern population into which He was born — of frequent debate among historical and biblical scholars, as well as activists like King who derive racial or political significance from how He is depicted.
However, throughout history, Jesus has generally been depicted in alignment with the majority race of whichever culture produced a given piece of artwork, and not entirely for reasons of cultural bias. The Federalist’s Jonah Gottschalk notes that “when Christianity spread throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, independent churches made images of Jesus whose appearance and dress were familiar to community members. This includes 1500 years of Ethiopian depictions of a black Jesus.”
Such points tend not to matter to left-wing activists, who are also pressuring Christian institutions to support BLM in other ways, the Associated Press reports.
Last week, Villanova University professor Shannen Dee Williams wrote in the dissident National Catholic Reporter that statements from Catholic leaders condemning the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery “fall way short when it comes to acknowledging the church’s role in the contemporary crisis and direct complicity in the sins of anti-Black racism, slavery and segregation in the modern era.”
In addition, she demands that the Catholic Church formally apologize for its role in past racial injustices; stop closing active black parishes; increase spending on black Catholic education and scholarship; require the teaching of “Black and Brown Catholic history”; and add “anti-racist women and members of the laity” to the formal church leadership; and that Catholics “take leading roles in campaigns working to protect Black lives, eliminate racism in the health care system, end mass incarceration and bail, and secure police reform and accountability.”
Her call was echoed in a letter signed by eight bishops representing Maryland and Washington DC. The bishops endorsed BLM’s stance that “the conscience of our nation is on trial as questions of race and equality confront each and every one of us,” and that “prayer and dialogue, alone, are not enough. We must act to bring about true change.”
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington DC, one of the letter’s signatories, went so far as to elevate BLM-style “racial justice” to same level as the fight to protect the sanctity of human life from abortion. “Birth is only the first moment of a person’s human dignity, which is never lost throughout the journey of life,” he wrote in an email to the AP.
Floyd’s killing was instantly and unanimously condemned, and the police officers involved have been charged with murder. As to BLM’s broader claim of “systemic racism” in law enforcement, research actually shows that police are not disproportionately likely to use excessive lethal force against black suspects.
Further, BLM’s own stated values are intensely at odds with any authentic reading of Christianity. The group officially supports “reproductive justice that gives us autonomy over our bodies.” An estimated 40 percent of all U.S. abortions are sought by black women, meaning that Black Lives Matter supports the annual elimination of more than 344,800 black lives every year.
The group also pledges to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”
“We foster a queer‐affirming network,” BLM continues. “When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”
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