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Black Jesus Makes Christians Blue
Wednesday, November 15, 2006   By: Mahone Dunbar

The Transformative Power Of The Black Experience In The Movies

Yo! Wut's up wit dat, Judas?

A Case Of Cinema Non-Verite


Rocky Mountain Pictures has recently released a movie titled ‘Color of the Cross.’ The low-budget movie, which is scheduled for a limited release in select urban markets, is a presentation of in association with Nu-Lite Entertainment. The selling point of the movie is that it features a black Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Therefore, it could have just as easily been called ‘The Color of the Boss.’ Since Jesus is black, naturally plot motivation revolves around race, as is personified when Jesus’ mother, Mary, asks "Do you think they are doing this because he is black?" Elsewhere in the movie, there is speculation that Jesus was born in a manger because of discriminatory lodging laws used against his parents. And we are led to presume then, that he was arrested, convicted and crucified because of racial profiling in ancient Jerusalem?

Ahem. So what are rational people to make of this? It is a serious revision of religious history? A lost episode of the Twilight Zone? We now have a hip-hop version of the Bible, why not a hip-hop Jesus, with his last words being "Yo, pops, why you dissin’ on me, man?"

Far be it from me to argue for the historical reality of the New Testament, or its protagonist, one Jesus, Son of Joseph. I do not embrace any orthodox view of any religion. Currently, I am a practicing Nickadorian (a form of pseudo-Platonic neo-Gnostic scientific paganism – aren’t you glad you asked?) and have little allegiance to religious orthodoxy of any sort; I am no defender of any faith, save faith in the merits of freedom and truth. In fact, I firmly believe that the historical Jesus was an orthodox Jew and that Paul – who never actually met the loquacious rabbi from Nazareth – is the inventor of all that today is known as Christianity. That said, when I find that someone has flagrantly thumbed their nose at the truth, and twisted theological exegesis into a pretzel of missed-metaphors and audacious distortions, fabricated for the express purpose of boosting racial esteem, I feel the issue must be addressed. Whether it’s maintaining that the ancient Egyptians were of the same race and culture as indigenous sub-Saharans – a patent absurdity -- who flew around the pyramids on wings, or saying that Jesus was a black African, white academicians and theologians are loathe to address the issues for fear of excoriation by the mavens of the black community in America.

Let me clarify this: saying that the historical Jesus was a person of indigenous sub-Saharan origin is no less bizarre and historically unsupportable than maintaining that George Washington was actually Chinese (or perhaps that Martin Luther King was Hispanic). Both instances, Jesus and George, would have been rare enough, given the historical context of race and culture of the times, that they would have been given passing notice by chroniclers. But those rascally Afrocentrists get away with a lot due to the aforementioned timidity of the academicians, who, rather than confronting angry black people, are content to let the current generation of black American children thrive in a sea of race-based fantasy. The absence of opposition to such absurdity is reprehensible and inexcusable – unless, of course, the academics actually believe that black Americans are intellectually incapable of perceiving the truth, and figure why not let them linger in their fantasies.


The proposition that Jesus is black was born of Afrocentric theory, which revises almost every important event in history to place black Africans at the center. To the Afrocentrists, the idea that black Christians were worshiping a god of Semitic origin was unacceptable. The evidence, such as it is, they use to support their re-coloring of Jesus goes something like this: in the book of Revelation John has a vision of Jesus in which he describes him as having brass colored feet and wooly hair. Brass is brownish, and most Africans have what could be described as wooly hair; therefore, Jesus must be black (a person of indigenous sub-Saharan origin). Of course, a simple examination of the text reveals that the Afrocentrists have played woefully with the truth – or, they are an incredibly dumb lot.

It defies human reason to contend that a black-African somehow came to be in a Hebrew family two thousand years ago, went among the Hebrew people teaching an iconoclastic interpretation of their sacred scripture – scripture which was interwoven with the body politic and the very existence of their state – and yet everyone, including the writers of the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of St. John, the Epistles, and so forth, all failed to mention the singular uniqueness of his person! This would be extraordinary, to say the least. Furthermore, the passages in Revelation used by the Afrocentrists in support of their theory do not actually lend themselves to their prized interpretation. The passage from Revelation 1: 14 is a simile referring to his hair as "White like wool, as white as snow." The simile (indicated by the use of like and as) refers to the whiteness of his hair, not the curliness of the wool -- otherwise, we could also conclude that the writer was indicating the Jesus' hair was also cold. Not to mention, if curliness was the intent of the simile, many Jews have curly hair. Also, Reading the simile literally, it could be surmised that Jesus was an old man with white hair. The second passage, from Revelation 1: 15, refers to Jesus’ feet as "like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace," (emphasis added). The simile here is the glow of the brass, not the color. And of course the Afrocentrists make nothing of the fact that his voice was "as the sound of many waters." Clearly, a modicum of intelligent reading demonstrates that this is a symbolic description of Jesus and in no way indicates that he bore physical traits that indicated he was of indigenous sub-Saharan origin.

The poor Afrocentric boobs confuse metaphor and simile with reality. When we read that someone has a ‘black heart’ we realize that this does not mean they have either a heart colored black or the will (heart again as a metaphor for a person’s will) of a black person, but rather that they have negative moral nature. In a similar fashion, saying someone is yellow does not indicate that they have an Oriental heritage, but refers to their lack of courage.

Anyone who has actually read the Bible, OT and NT, knows that it is replete with simile and metaphor, and that our ancestors were every bit as poetic in their expressions as we are today – probably more so, in fact – and delighted in literary excess, such as the use of hyperbole. If we today, black, white and other, because of the numinous sheen of the Bible, wrongly assume every word and phrase is some sort of literal expression of objective historical fact, then we are not only idiots, but we have failed to grasp the full significance of what the writers of the Bible intended.

The Gods of Culture Take A Wiz

Is That Black Enough For You?

Sometime during the 1980s, some asshole decided that the traditional holiday movie, The Wizard Of Oz, was not sufficiently black enough for black American audiences. To remedy this glaring oversight someone produced a stage play, later made into a movie, called The Wiz.

Why? you ask. The central aspect of cultural diversity appears to be a belief in the transformative power of the black experience in America. In essence, this consists of taking history, mythology or other cultural artifacts that are linked to the European or other non sub-Sharan cultural experiences, and straining them though a black filter. That means putting a suitable amount of ‘blackness’ in it. It seems pro forma these days to re-interpret white experience and improve it by adding ‘black flavor, ’meaning, more dancing, more vocal shenanigans in the singing (oggles of vibrato in the national anthem, for example, or seeing how many notes from the scale one can add to a preexistent melody), more expressions of black clothing style (think, color-blind drug-addled pimps in charge of all fashion decisions) and, finally, some sort of somber reference to racial oppression (just in case any honkies are watching, it let’s them know you’re still mad, and possibly evokes a little more guilt).

White culture, whether learning from black culture, being influenced by it, mimicking it, or whatever, is often accused of ripping off black culture; however, the reverse -- when black culture borrows, adapts, learns from, etc., white cultural influences – is rarely acknowledged. So, while it can be freely acknowledged that white musicians copied black music styles from New Orleans, or Chuck Berry’s rock n’ roll guitar style, it is anathema to mention that the sources that were innovated upon – be it the piano, saxophone, trap set, guitar, trumpet, etc., – are not indigenous sub-Sharan instruments, and that the ‘black’ musical experience owes an equal debt to European culture.

In the case of the black Jesus mentioned above, rational non-black people wonder if black people actually believe such a ludicrous deconstruction of the New Testament, and have an abiding suspicion that they're just flouting weird things like this to piss off the honkies. Or, is it appropriate to add a little ‘black flavor’ to your religion as you do to entertainment fare?

This year I happened to watch The Wizard Of Oz again. A few days later, I had the opportunity (if you really stretch the meaning of the word) to watch The Wiz, and found myself unable to resist. The Wiz is the black version of the classic – and very white – Wizard Of Oz, and it is singularly bad in terms of the movie-going experience – horribly, uniquely, have a barf-bag handy, bad. It was made in 1983 and features performances by black vocal luminaries such as Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. (For younger viewers who may not recognize the 1983 version of Michael Jackson, and despite what your eyes may tell you, Michael is the one playing the scarecrow, not Dorothy - though today, through the miracle of elective facial surgery, he looks remarkably like Diana Ross in the role of Dorothy).

Things have changed in Oz: Dorothy is not a child, but a woman, her odyssey is set in a city, not the mythical land of Oz, and Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin man and cowardly lion all look like they're on their way to the annual Soul Train Halloween costume party. The message of the movie seems to be twofold: 1) believe in yourself; 2) in pivotal moments of danger, dance and sing.

I have to admit, thankfully, that Black Americans did not flock to The Wiz in droves, and that its audiences consisted mostly of the unwary, Jackson or Ross fans, cruel critics such as myself, and the kind of people who flock to train wrecks and natural disasters.  Notably, Diana Ross, as Dorothy, gives the most lachrymose performance of any actress of her generation. While Michael Jackson is doing mincing dances in every other scene, Dorothy is either crying, singing, or crying while singing. Dorothy is perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Perhaps, to bring on the tears, Diana was referencing her career decision to be in the Wiz.  The sets are a warehouse and a parking garage and the pace, and action, are incredibly dull, merely a slight pause to separate the song and dance numbers. Among other changes in the characters, the wicked witch’s beloved blue-faced flying monkeys have been transformed into some sort of DNA-mucked creatures who are fused with motorcycles (Were their accents and hideously large lips intended to parody black stereotypes? Beats me.)

The modernization of the story, and the black inner-city setting, kept me waiting for the chorus to start singing "Follow The White Crack Road," "Ding Dong, De Ho Is Dead," or burst into a refrain of "Hookers And Pimps And Ho’s, Oh My!" Surprisingly, these obvious lyrical paths were not taken – nor did the bad witch once exclaim, "Gimme dem mutherfuckin’ red slippers." My favorite character was Toto, who was cast against type as a little fluffy lap dog, and not the expected pit bull (which would have helped Dorothy and her friends considerably). Toto had much merit in his performance; not once did he spontaneously break into song or start a dance routine. A wise canine, he kept his mouth shut the entire movie.

After the wicked witch meets her demise, by being flushed down a toilet, her former minions, naturally, break into song and dance. After you think the routine is finished, the characters pause long enough to cast off their costumes, one by one, to reveal black men and women dressed in either white briefs or white bra and panties, and then launch into an even more elaborate song and dance number, Brand New Day, which seems to be intended to symbolize something about freedom from slavery, and perform what I call ‘The Amazing Freedom Dance.’ I finally figured out that in this stretched metaphor Dorothy’s company of characters represented the oppressed minorities of the world and that the bad witch represented "De man." The attempt to associate thematic elements with what is a harmless child’s story did not lend itself to profundity.

Did The Wiz succeed in improving The Wizard Of Oz by injecting it with an appropriate amount of ‘blackness?’ In the final analysis, I have a deep suspicion that the Wiz was actually written and produced by a team of rabid and talent-less Klansmen (or embittered Hollywood Jews) for the explicit purpose of making black people look stupid. But I could be wrong. After finishing watching the Wiz, oh, how I longed for flying monkeys, the hooked-nose bad witch with the green face, for placid white singing – the kind with no vibrato that you can throw a basketball through – and for dancing that doesn't make the assemblage look like they're capering around a jungle fire in the final throes of St.Vitus dance.


(c)1968- today j.e. simmons or michael warren