Is Jesus Still Black? Ep. 19

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In this episode we examine what James Cone, the father of Black Theology, meant when he said, “Jesus is Black” and if it’s still true today.


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There are 3 thoughts below

  • @ericcanaday says:

    Your question resurfaced thoughts of the Sunday school literature that I grew up with that excluded black faces from it’s artwork. In my teens, Malcolm X’s critiques of Christianity escalated my feelings of cultural exclusion from the church. By the time I reached college (in the early 90’s), I was almost convinced that Christianity might just be a colonial tool of cultural assimilation. That is, until I was invited to a black church in Baltimore Maryland.

    I was blown away when the pastor stepped up to the pulpit in a Kente cloth robe and declared that Jesus is black! I had never heard anything like that in my life! He supported his position by quoting Revelations 1:13-15 which says:

    “and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace”

    I know today that white “like” wool does not mean that Jesus has wooly hair, and feet “like” bronze does not mean that Jesus had black skin. But, in that moment, the pastor fortified my identity as a “Black Christian” . He gave me hope that there was a place for me within the Christian community.

    My identity is no longer rooted in the idea that Jesus might be a black man. But to answer your question, I do hold the position that Jesus is still black. I believe this because Isaiah’s testimony about him says:

    “He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was bruised for OUR iniquities; The chastisement for OUR peace was upon Him, And by HIS stripes WE are healed.”

    For clarification, I also believe that the entire human race shares one common ancestor (see Acts 17:26). That said, I’m confident that Jesus would embrace the “blackness” that falls under the umbrella of his humanity. I’m certain he’d also lay claim to every other racial classification that we can come up with…black, white, or other.

    Thanks as always for your thought provoking podcast. In line with this topic, I would love to hear your thoughts on the curse of Ham and the impact of that theology on today’s church. ~ @ericcanaday

    • Eric–Thanks for kicking things off.

      I’ve put the curse of Ham & it’s impact upon theology/church on the list for future conversation.

      What did you think about Cone’s use of the Parable of the Sheep & Goats to come to the conclusion that Jesus is Black? Given that line of reasoning do you still think Jesus is Black?


  • @ericcanaday says:

    Yes and no.

    Jesus must be black but he can’t just be black if we are to address issues of poverty that He outlined in Mathew 25:31.

    Mass media institutions generally choose dark faces when determining who must become the poster children for poverty in America. But the dark face of poverty covers up the fact that 42% of the 45+ Million people who live in poverty in America are white.

    White 19,027,400 42%
    Black 10,312,400 23%
    Hispanic 12,853,100 28%
    Other 3,555,500 8%

    It is true that a disproportionate number of blacks are affected by poverty and mass incarceration. But millions of white people live in a vacuum of darkness because there is not a liberation ideology that gives them permission to have a voice in social issues that have been portrayed as unique to the “black struggle”.

    I would say that James cones declaration of Jesus’ blackness probably did for many what that Baltimore preacher did for me. The idea that Jesus is able to see the world through the lenses of the black struggle fortified me. But it also limited my scope in a way that did not allow me to empathize with people who white skin did not save them from an invisible form of oppression.

    Cone’s view seems to look at the visible victims of systemic oppression. As a black man It means a lot to know that God sees and identifies with my struggle. But, God does not just look at the outward appearance. He looks at the heart.

    As I expand my scope I have to acknowledge that the oppressors are in greater peril than those who are the victims. A black Jesus can (and does) restore dignity to the social construct of blackness. But a black Jesus may be ill equipped to empathize with the very real darkness that masks the oppression of people with light skin.

    Dr. Martin Luther King said:

    I choose to identify with the underprivileged.
    I choose to identify with the poor.
    I choose to give my life for the hungry.
    I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity.
    I choose to live for and with those who find themselves seeing life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign.

    This is the way I’m going.
    If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way.
    If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way.
    If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because
    I heard a voice saying, ‘Do something for others.’

    As I revisit his words I am reminded that racism and poverty are symptoms of deeper issue…the absence of God’s love governing in the hearts and minds of men.

    Black people have a unique perspective on lovelessness. There is a possibility that if the world see’s black faces loving God, loving each other, and extending an invitation to those who don’t look like us, the world might change.

    I saw a glimpse of this possibility displayed in the lives of those who lived through the horror of the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E church in South Carolina. That love was powerful enough to remove a confederate flag. But that work was done by a multicultural Jesus that seeks to redeem all of humanity. So Jesus is still black but he is also so much more.