Shaun King White Jesus

Shaun King Calls to Tear Down “White Jesus”

on July 1, 2020

Civil rights activist and social media personality Shaun King recently made headlines declaring that all statues and images of Jesus Christ that depict him as a white European male should be removed and torn down.

King, an individual who has dedicated his life to promoting social and systemic change, has been known to frequently call for reforms in various well-established structures. He is a proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, a fighter for criminal justice reform, and the founder of the Real Justice political action committee. The Real Justice PAC supports the election of those described by the group as “reform-minded prosecutors” to county and municipal prosecutor positions nationwide.

A significant connection exists in King’s relations with the church in America and the Christian community. Following a year long stint as high school civics teacher after graduating from Morehouse College, King pastored Total Grace Christian Center in DeKalb County, Georgia. He went on to become deeply involved in the Christian faith, quickly founding his own church in Atlanta known as “Courageous Church” in 2008. Research did not find the King lists an ordination or seminary training from a larger religious body.

King stepped away from his pastoral position in 2012, claiming that the changes and transitions he was attempting at the church “Didn’t work”. Since stepping away, King has gone on record in interviews saying that he doesn’t “Have any plans at all on pastoring” in the future.

Recently, King has made it seem that he has not fully cut ties with the Church given the fact that he has made statements regarding how churches should go about portraying the imagery of Jesus Christ. In a set of viral Tweets this past week, King expressed his belief that “All murals and stained-glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down”. This proclamation comes in relation to the movement to tear down and remove statues that represent individuals in our nation’s history who owned slaves, represented the Confederacy in the Civil War, or participated in acts that are now seen a politically unfavorable light.

King believes that the images of a white Holy Family “Are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda.”

Members of the Christian faith do not have historic physical descriptions or images of Jesus Christ. As technology advances, 3D models can assist in imagining Jesus based on what we know of working-class Semitic men of his time, but we will never know exactly what he looks like until we meet face to face.

This lack of imagery has led people throughout history to portray Jesus within their own cultural context. Churches in China portray Jesus with Asiatic features. The Ethiopian Church often represents Jesus with an Ethiopian appearance. Throughout history, churches and other institutions have portrayed Jesus as a reflection of the ethnicity of the local population.

King has not been alone in his belief Jesus’ representation must be reconsidered, especially in regard to Jesus being represented as a White man. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and principal leader of the Church of England, has voiced support for the movement to reconsider how Jesus is portrayed in the Church. In an interview with the BBC, Welby points out that if one visits Churches’ around the world, you will find “Jesus portrayed in as many ways as there are cultures, languages and understandings”.

However, King does have a point to a certain extent regarding the idea that white representations of Jesus have some historic ties to white supremacy. Images of Jesus as a white man were used by European slave traders when they attempted forced conversions on various African populations and communities. The Ku Klux Klan used images of Jesus as white to justify and support their belief in white supremacy. However, it must be pointed out that the image of Jesus will most often reflect the race of the population that he is being presented to.

  1. Comment by David on July 1, 2020 at 5:54 am

    It is quite true that there has been an avoidance of portraying Jesus as a Middle Eastern person. The blue-eyed blond representations from Hollywood are a good example of this.

    The depiction of Jesus with long hair is also questionable given: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him” (1 Cor. 11:15). Also, the wearing of long flowing robes is problematic given the cost of cloth in ancient times. One could get imports from China, but they were luxury silk. The image in this article is likely more realistic.

  2. Comment by J.R. Dray on July 1, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Perhaps the controversy would have no life if the Christian Church adhered to the Commandment: ““You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above…” clearly given in Ex. 20:4.

  3. Comment by Dan on July 1, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    This takes the phrase “defining deviancy down” coined by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and updates it to “deifying deviancy.” Well, if as they say, “some white people may have to die for black communities to be made whole,” then it’s only reasonable to assume they need to crucify “white Jesus.”

  4. Comment by Very sad to read on July 1, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    Come on people,

    There are images of Christ and the Holy family in all different ethnic groups, don’t get involved in snipe hunt here. Jesus lived 2000 years ago, what did a Jewish rabbi look like back then? Who knows? You and I certainly do not, and neither does he. And since a traveling rabbi back then did not have a barber shop in every village or hamlet he could have had long hair.

    The point is Mr. King is playing racial and radical politics here. It’s really Christianity he is angry about since it is part of the resistance to the radical reordering of society he wants to see happen. Certainly the radical non-theists who agree with him would have no problem at all torching every stained glass window and every image of Christ around, no matter what the racial and ethnic heritage of Christ in the windows and paintings are.

    You know, there are very few pictures of Jesus with a smile on his face. Does that mean he was a crusty frowning rabbi all the time? Maybe we should add artwork of a smiling Jesus, or photoshop a smile onto all the great artwork of the Middle Ages so we can get a more universal picture and impression of who He was.

  5. Comment by DOUGLAS E EHRHARDT on July 1, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    Very true very sad.

  6. Comment by td on July 1, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    So let me get this right by current politically-correct standards- their assumption is that it is impossible for the one perfect human to have lived to look white by 2020 standards.

  7. Comment by Lee Cary on July 1, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    This is a generally a thoughtful, serious site for the open exchange of opinions relevant to “religion and democracy”.
    Hence with the word “institute” in its moniker.

    So what’s next? Peewee Hermann on uniliteral sexuality in the human and non-human species?

  8. Comment by Steve on July 1, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    I’m a little disappointed bricks haven’t started flying through stained glass windows, because I’m curious what liberal clergy would say. I’m guessing they’d put plywood in the window and say “This Is Fine”.

  9. Comment by Roger on July 1, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    One of the images that has been used as a guide for the image of Jesus, has been the Shroud of Turin. Painters of Jesus of the Shroud discovery have used that image. There may be other Mosaics of Jews of that era to get an average picture of a common Jew. Orthodox Jews still exist to day, so what does one look like?

  10. Comment by David on July 2, 2020 at 6:27 am

    Jews are still with us, but do not assume they look the same as ancient Jews.

    “The majority of Ashkenazi Jews are descended from prehistoric European women, according to study published today (October 8, 2013) in Nature Communications. While the Jewish religion began in the Near East, and the Ashkenazi Jews were believed to have origins in the early indigenous tribes of this region, new evidence from mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on exclusively from mother to child, suggests that female ancestors of most modern Ashkenazi Jews converted to Judaism in the north Mediterranean around 2,000 years ago and later in west and central Europe.”

  11. Comment by td on July 11, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    I have to assume that the only reason you are bringing up Ashkenazi Jews is to say that we have no idea what Christ looked like- because Ashkenazi Jews are known for their atypical genetics.

  12. Comment by Wayne on July 3, 2020 at 10:51 am

    One of the most famous portraits of Jesus was painted by the artist using 3 feminine figures who were ginger. People, Yeshua was a Jewish man with dark skin and dark hair. We sometimes try to “anglicize” Jesus, which is wrong.

  13. Comment by td on July 5, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Are you really using the term ginger in this comment? Please know that a large number of red heads outside of the UK consider that a derogatory term.

  14. Comment by Wayne on July 6, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    I did not mean for the term to be derogatory. I was saying a famous portrait was modeled after thee wrong gender and the wrong skin and hair color that is not Jewish. Many Christians deny our Jewish roots and my point is that Jesus is Jewish and always be Jewish.

  15. Comment by td on July 6, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Yes, i understood the overall point of your comment and don’t fundamentally disagree. However, we really do not know what christ actually looked like except by tradition. He could have have had blond or red or brown or black hair- jews are known today to have all of those. He also could have had any eye color. The whole conversation is absurb because it does not matter. However, the church and the gospels are clear that he was an observant jew with a mother who was of historical jewish lineage.

    Genetically, we can only speculate on physical characteristics due to the virgin birth; God was in control and could have done whatever he wanted. It appears that the early church did not make much note of his physical appearance. However, we should not throw out how the early church did choose to portray him.

  16. Comment by John on July 3, 2020 at 11:16 am

    Why should not the people on Europe portray Jesus as a white man? As to the supposed use of a white Jesus by slave traders to force conversions on Africans, that is part of a total misconception about how the trade worked. One reason that Africa is not settled by large numbers of European settlers as North America is that the Continent is inhospitable to them. in most places. No way that they would just start a colony in West Africa for the same reason that the French in Panama had to abandon their attempt to dig the canal. That was their vulnerability to the climate and its diseases. Rather they had trading stations where they bought slaves from local Africans tribes. The supply was huge as it was all over Africa. The overland and sea trade in East Africa brought as many slaves to the Muslim world as came to the New World. Maybe some know the irony of Cassius Clay as having traded his original name for that of Mohammed Ali a famous ruler of a kingdom with many slaves.

  17. Comment by Delbert Stanton on July 3, 2020 at 11:32 am

    A Christian understands that Jesus was a man, his image probably is related to one’s culture, which is acceptable. Today, we are guided, empowered, and filled by the Holy Spirit. The physical presence of Jesus in the world today, is the Holy Spirit.
    Perhaps it is time for people to understand what it means to be a Christian. We do not worship an image.

  18. Comment by Joan Sibbald on July 3, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Shaun King, in his words, is a “proponent of Black Lives Matter” a global Marxist organization.

    Happy Independence Day, America!

  19. Comment by Penny on July 3, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    I did read the information in the link posted by David, and I take exception to a probability that Jesus begged. There is nothing about that in scripture. On another note, the woman wanted to get close enough to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, so I myself would assume she wouldn’t be talking about an undergarment, an “only” garment — he had also a shawl or robe of some sort.

  20. Comment by David on July 4, 2020 at 7:02 am

    There is the notorious incident during the arrest of Jesus in the garden where a young man was seized by his garment. It came off and he ran away naked according to Mark.

  21. Comment by Penny on July 5, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    But most commentaries will tell you that “naked” meant wearing only a loin cloth.

  22. Comment by David Gingrich on July 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

    “White Jesus” is just one more Liberal lie. Christians understand that Christ came to earth as an ethnic Jew.

  23. Comment by Rebecca on July 4, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    The article was fine until the last paragraph when the author said he does have a point.

  24. Comment by Penny on July 5, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I would like to add on to my comment above about Jesus begging. At birth his parents were presented with some expensive gifts. Also, he had a treasurer (Judas) – and they asked for tax money from him, which meant he had assets – thus the coin from the fish’s mouth.

  25. Comment by Larry Waddell on July 6, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Shaun King is a white man who pretends to be black. He has no credibility, much like Rachel Doleza.

  26. Comment by Ron on July 17, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    This is the most Ludacris point of contention any Christian can dignify. First of all check out

    The representation of Jesus is a dependent on the culture of the believers. As most people know, the Apostles were sent to the lost sheep of Israel and Paul was sent to the Gentiles. Certainly each group had their cultural visions of who Jesus was. Iin the North there was the eastern church (ROME) and and the western church (CONSTANTINOPLE ). Two different cultures and different visuals of Jesus I wonder what Jesus’ resurrected body looked like???? Black, White, Brown…?

    Does it REALLY matter how each individual Christian visualizes Jesus? Does it REALLY stand for White Supremacy?? Can another than white Jesus be erecter or drawn?? This public disagreement and destruction of art is certainly not scriptural: Welcome those who disagree with you (Rom. 14:1–2); Those who have freedom of conscience must not look down on those who don’t (Rom. 14:3–4); Those whose conscience restricts them must not be judgmental toward those who have freedom.

    (will) They know us by our love?

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