It’s Easter time around the world and homes across the land are overflowing with colourful foil wrappers discarded in order to get to the hollow chocolaty goodness inside. Ressurrection Sunday is a time of great celebration for Catholics and Protestants a like. Come on! Christ’s resurrection is the original Super Hero story. Jesus was betrayed by his friends, crucified and rose from the dead? Move aside Iron Man, take a seat Bat Man (no, really, Ben Affleck’s Bat Man needs to take several seats) this is Jesus season and He’s slaying all you hoes. Throughout history Jesus has been presented in art and film as a white man, in Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of the Christ, blue eyed, devastatingly handsome Jim Cavieziel was cast to play our Lord and Saviour. The real Jesus up in heaven took one look at Caveziel, said “not on My watch” and struck the actor with lightning. Let me not blaspheme and say I know what Jesus was thinking when He sent fire from heaven to sting Caveizel’s ass but I like to think it was because Jesus wanted them to know his corporeal form was not that of a white man but of a brown man. I wish I could go as far as saying Jesus was a black man. That he looked like Idris Elba, but that like white Jesus, is a fallacy, a falsehood, a plain lie that plays to our egos and not to the reality that Jesus was a man of the time and location in which He existed; a brown Hebrew man.
Writing for BBC.co.uk, Joan Taylor explains “representations of Jesus were symbolic - they were all about meaning, not historical accuracy.” The casting of Jim Caviezel over let’s say Mousa Kraish is not about historical accuracy but about meaning. Whiteness has long been a symbol of purity and goodness, as opposed to blackness which signifies to many impurity and evil. This idea transcends the a psychological idea is applied to race. To be caucasian is to be good but to brown or black is to be bad. Where Mousa Kraish looks more like the scientific rendering of what Christ might have looked like as presented in the 2001 BBC documentary Son Of God, Caviezel is the more acceptable of the two. Caviezel’s whiteness and attractiveness mean that he is more palatable as The Christ. This great white lie that has been perpetuated through the ages despite the existence of evidence to the contrary makes me wonder, would Christianity be as wide spread as it is if brown Jesus was as highly praised. Sometimes I wonder if I would be Christian if brown Jesus was the norm?
Both Christianity and Islam “played an important role in enslavement in Africa.” If not for the Europeans under the guise of doing God’s work, my ancestors would not have been bought and sold in the transatlantic slave trade. I envy my friends from Nigeria, Ghana and across Africa who speak their mother tongue with confidence and great spirit. As a Jamaican, my mother tongue was stolen from me. While Patois, the dialect spoken in Jamaica, is not English, it still is not as potent as Yoruba, Swahillia or Shona. Religions and beliefs that would have come more naturally to me as an African were denied to me, ripped from my consciousness and replaced with white Jesus. Without doing a DNA test (which I'd have to pay for) I do not even know where in Africa I descend from. In Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Mask my lamentations are perfectly articulated
“:..the old religion was held up to ridicule, ethical standards were degraded or disappeared and gradually all over Africa spread the inferiority complex, the fear of colour, the worship of white skin, the imitation of white ways of doing and thinking whether good, bad or indifferent."
I am always at logger heads with the religion from which my faith stems. Even re-watching The Passion’s trailer I realised Satan was played by a woman. *huff* I’m learning that I have to be real about all the aspects of the religion; the good, the bad and indifferent. To buy into the lie that Jesus was a white man is to agree that the crimes perpetuated against women, people of colour and the LGBTQIA community were just then and remain so today when that is not the case. I cannot ignore that Christianity is still used as a tool to oppress people. That being said, Jesus himself, the same Jesus who called lightning from heaven to check Caveizel and who rose from the grave is a friend of mine. The grotesqueries of humanity have twisted and bastardised the beauty of the bible and Christ to uphold white supremacy. The irony lies herein; the same bible used to justify the enslavement of my grandparents' grandparents is the same bible I use for comfort and counsel. It makes me sad sometimes.