An All-Inclusive Jesus Christ

Imagine the figure of Jesus Christ.  What comes to mind?  Probably a male, right?  If you are a white Christian, the image of Jesus is most likely a white male.  Now, imagine this: the societally accepted, white, Anglo-Saxon picture of Jesus as black.  Is this a weird image for you?

The Regina Mundi, a church in Soweto, South Africa holds a painting of a black Mary and Jesus known as the “Black Madonna”.  Black Christians from around the township flock to this church to simply see a depiction of Jesus that is not white.  For when they see this painting, blacks are able to fully connect to this important Christian religious figure.  What if this change is extended to include gender?  What if resting in Mary’s arms wasn’t a baby boy, but a baby girl?  How would that affect the Christian community?

The fact that these depictions stand out as being odd and different is the problem with Christianity.  Images of Jesus Christ as being a white man are almost an idolatrous fixation that Christianity has held onto.  Some may argue that a personal image is not affecting anybody because it is just that, personal.  However, as with the example above, this personal image has been cemented as the only “normal” image.  As to how this reinforces a patriarchy—women are looking to men to be saved or forgiven.  Men are in power.  This has influenced and promoted a historical tradition of patriarchy within the Christian institutions.  To confirm this one has to only look at the number of female leaders compared to male leaders, or descriptions of the ideal Christian woman.  For religion to be truly empowering for minorities, Christianity needs to transition from stiff depictions of Jesus Christ.  By depicting Jesus as a western white male, it is difficult for people of different race or gender to see themselves reflected through him.

Now, I know that historically and in the Bible Jesus is stated to be a man.  I will not attempt to argue anyone on that point.  But why can’t we transition from this depiction?  If Jesus was to truly identify “with the oppressed and downtrodden…Jesus would have to be black…in the white racist American society”[1].  Even more so a black woman.  However, simply assigning a new face to Jesus would not mend the idolatry, even if it were representative of the marginalized.  If Jesus is supposed to be our symbol, why should the symbol not be all-inclusive?

It does seem essential for our imaginations to attach images to words.  So, how should Jesus be imagined?  Perhaps the solution is to move away from an anthropocentric portrayal.  Drawing from other cultures, the Corn Mother for some First Nations and the idea of Shakti in Indian culture are able to transcend the societal limitations of gender and race because they are described as energy.  Whether you imagine pulsating lights or the Aurora Borealis, Jesus Christ is now freed from an idolatrous, historically conditioned figure.  If it is essential for Jesus to have a face, imagine the face as a facet of a larger mask.  Each facet can be a different identity—female, Latino, white, gay, black, etc.

If religion, especially Christianity, is interpreted as inclusive and forgiving, then it has the potential to be an empowering institution.  The oppressions that exist within the system must first be eradicated for all individuals to fully reap the benefits of the community.


[1] Kwok, Pui-Lan, Post Colonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (p. 175)

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