Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, January 21, 2005

Could Jesus be Black?

For Jennifer and I, Thursday evenings are dedicated to helping out in our church’s inner city program. We pick up 2nd through 4th graders from the projects and bring them back to the building to eat snacks, a lesson, making crafts and just being silly. Because Jennifer is very gifted towards inner city children, she will be teaching for the first 7 weeks while I ride the bus when we pick them up and drop them off. There are about 10 volunteers that gather together every week for this activity. (Side note: one of the volunteers is Chuck Lee, a former backup singer for the legendary James Brown. GOOD GOD!!!!!!)

Because last night was the first meeting, they ate snack and watched a video. The video could seem to hold the kid’s attention very well (what’s new with kids). To be honest, the video was pretty boring. I think it was an animated version of the Passion movie minus the Aramaic and torturous beating scenes. It began with Jesus’ last days on earth with his disciples and ended (because of time) with Jesus getting whipped by the Roman soldiers. While watching the film, I pondered two things.
1. In the movie all the characters are……….you guessed it, white. Peter, Judas, Pilot and even the nicely groomed Jesus were all honkies. Our inner city kids are mostly black. Sure there are a few white kids and Hispanics, but mostly they consist of African Americans. I wondered if the kids or even their culture had been bombarded with the image of Jesus being a “Euro-Anglican, mullet toting” white guy. Sure the makers of the film probably weren’t trying to make the film as accurately as possible, including the Jewish makeup of the characters, but I don’t think its fair to present Jesus as some Anglo Saxon with perfectly conditioned hair. Do I know what Jesus looked like? I don’t pretend to know, but I’m sure he would look like a Middle Eastern man, probably someone like Osama bin Laden. I began to wonder if the kids would pay more attention to the movie if the characters were black, or even intermixed. What if Jesus was……black? I’m not advocating that we make Jesus into whatever we want him to be, just thinking out loud.
2. After much restlessness and lack of attention towards the film, the kids didn’t want the movie to be turned off. Why? Well when it was time to go we were at the point in the story where Jesus is captured, convicted and was being whipped by the guards. All of a sudden the kid’s attention was focused on what was happening on the scene. “Why is he getting beat?” one kid said loudly. “What did he do to get that?” another said. They saw the injustice and questioned it; almost spoke out against it in a way. I thought about all the history the African community has been through, especially in America: civil war, civil rights movement, slavery, etc. I noticed how much hurt, oppression, injustice their people have been through and how they can still recognize and relate to others that go through that experience, like Jesus.

While I look forward to this semester and our Thursday nights with the kids, I can’t wait to see what I learn from them and how they will show me God in their eyes, their questions, their silly faces and smiles. Even though the kids didn’t enjoy the majority of the film Thursday, they didn’t want the story to end and in a way, neither did I.