Blackness and the Church

Young Jamal, a sloucher by habit, sat up straight for once without anyone asking him to do so. He stared at me, shocked: “I thought Jesus was white!” We were in church watching a drama that one of my sisters had produced, depicting an aspect of the life of Jesus. The actor was black.

I replied that Jesus indeed was not white, but immediately began to reflect on the fact that as black people, we are still grappling with issues that should long have been put to rest, or at least explained, or perhaps, better yet, confessed. I felt we still had some distance to go towards true emancipation.

Unfortunately, there are seasoned people in the Christian Church who would be quick to point out that Jesus has no colour. And indeed the transcendent Christ whom we Christians worship, has no race, colour or any of the labels by which we humans seek to divide ourselves among ourselves.

But isn’t it true that the historical Jesus who walked among people was human? And if he were a Middle Eastern Jew, he was brown, black or a mixture of both. In fact, if we apply the “one-drop” theory instituted by America in these modern times, Jesus would now be called black.

Why is it important for Jamal to know this? It is a question of identity. Jamal is black, as is at least 98 per cent of our population. The visual images we form in our minds from childhood influence the way we see ourselves and the world. They shape our behaviour and attitudes. These images follow us into adulthood if not adjusted.  

During this Black History Month, several schools are doing an excellent job in acquainting young children about their African ancestry of which they should be proud. I am inviting the Christian Church to seize this opportunity and tell the children the truth about the ancestry of Jesus, which is much closer to ours than they may be aware of. Indeed, while you’re at it, let the children know what was the likely skin colour of Moses, David, Joshua, Naomi, Ruth and many of the other heroes and heroines of the Bible. Association is of crucial importance to our sense of self-worth.

Furthermore, I am suggesting that particularly Christian schools here in Barbados be cognizant of the visual images they display in very prominent places in the schools. What messages, subliminally or otherwise, are you sending to black children about themselves and about this Jesus whom you are inviting them to follow?

Given our colonial history, it is important that we do as much as possible to affirm our worth, dignity and value as black people. (Unfortunately, there is an older generation who would be hard-pressed to accept the notion that Jesus Christ was anything but Caucasian. We understand the unrecoverable depths of such distortion.)

But the good thing about human consciousness is that it can change and it does grow. We don’t have to hold on to damaging concepts that have been passed on to us as essential components of our past enslavement. Enlightenment makes all the difference. The Church must play its role in the full emancipation of our people by putting into practice its own teaching: the truth shall make us free.

One Response to Blackness and the Church

  1. jrsmith February 15, 2017 at 11:11 am

    If this is where bajans are at , there is no real hope for us black people at all….
    The confusion you people have implanted in the older generation and now trying to mesmerize our young people with the same rubbish but more confusion…

    You said Jesus was not white …. ( Jesus has no colour ) this just show how lost you people are ,, well if thats true …. would you people kindly remove the tons of pictures from your homes and churches, the blonde haired blued eyed man.. ( Dont you people think its time black people have they own Jesus…….. this would stop all the confusion….

    You people always keep reminding black people about slavery, as like if you are continuously reminding blacks (( Know your place ))
    Why are we only just for one lousy month , finding the type of history our young black people need to be taught ,
    daily in they live as some where as aspiration , why not pictures of our past black heroes in churches and people homes…….
    If black people really want to be honest with themselves and want to know about God , they should consult the white man they are the ones who control the world, they control if we turn left or right or up or down…(.its how high we jump for Massa

    Black people are very good in the manufacturing of hundreds and hundreds of funny name religions , and filling they homes with many assortment of bibles , wouldn’t find jobs because they spend they time praying……..
    Black people must learn from the white man, the place he hides his money is a (Haven) And the place black people will go to when they die , where everything is free ,milk and honey is called (Heaven )…….. just one (E)……..


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