New Jesus movie: Son of Man

Son of Man

A new Jesus movie has hit the U.S.  It is now at the Sundance festival in Utah.  I look forward with interest in how this will be received by the broader North American Church.  We will see what kind of passion we have for Jesus.  I can’t wait to see this.  I hope it hits my local theatres.  I have been waiting for something like this for a long time.  A different ethnic represenation of Jesus in the mainstream that goes against the current of the usual European representations of Jesus on the big screen.  Most recently Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”.

21 thoughts on “New Jesus movie: Son of Man

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  1. “We will see what kind of passion we have for Jesus.”

    Hey bro, hopefully our passion for Jesus will be demonstrated by how we love another and our enemies; how we serve the “least of these”.

    The evangelical church hoped Hollywood would save the faith with Mel Gibson.

  2. rick,

    Hopefully our passion for Jesus will be demonstrated by this love for our enemies and how we love the ‘least of these’. I just hope that certain historical proclivities will allow Evangelicals to appreciate a representation of Jesus from among the ‘margins’.

  3. Anthony,

    I don’t understand your statement about a “different ethnic representation of Jesus in the mainstream.”

    I think there is something off about characterizing the Jesus as depicted in The Passion as being “European.”

    I went to Israel this past summer and saw a lot of Jewish people. Some had fair skin, blonde hair, and light eyes; most had light-brown skin, dark brown hair, and brown eyes . . . like the Jesus shown in The Passion.

    Depicting Jesus as a Black man in a movie doesn’t make for authenticity, nor does it make for a grass-roots kind of relevance. In fact, to me, it diminishes from who Jesus actually was (and was like) as a man in the flesh, and lends itself to contextualizing Jesus to who we want Him to be (or be like).

    What are your thoughts to this?

  4. Thinking about Glenn’s comments:

    I would just like to see a good movie. It’s been a while.

    For some individuals, it will be useful to think about Jesus or God as black.

    Certain individuals are going to make Jesus who they want him to be and use him for what they want to accomplish. We’ve been looking the European depiction of Jesus and I don’t hear much complaining about that at all.

    Matt. 25:31-46 prompts to reconsider how the Son of Man looks. It suggests that I can find him wherever people are naked, hungry, in prison, or sick. For some reason, this scripture led me to think about the Katrina victims. Anyway, it will be interesting and stimulate some conversation in the least.

    On another note:
    I wonder if the Jewish people in Israel are the same people who first inhabited Jerusalem. I don’t think we can essentialize Jews and think that once they’ve returned from Europe, Russia, South America, and Brazil that they have not been interacting with other folks, if you know what I mean?

  5. glenn,

    Good question. Firstly, I am not so much interested in the actual phenotype (skin color) of Jesus as I am what the image has represented in the past 500 years (theologically-politically). I am more interested in how this image represents Christendom or what some theologians call Constantinianism. It is Christendom that I am interested in really. The typical ‘white’ Jesus that we often see in the mainstream is but a representation of the Constantinian Jesus that I see theologians like Stanley Hauerwas and philosophers like Cornel West talk about. It is what the image has and continues to represent in some parts of Christendom that bothers me. And the fact that many Evangelicals don’t want to talk about it really bothers the hell out of me.

    I am more interested in how this image, which can be redeemed I beleive if put in proper perspective, has been a tool by what Paul refers to as the ‘principalities and powers’ to perpetuate racialization and oppression throughout the world. I have more thoughts on white Jesus.

    Also, I chose poor words to describe this Jesus. I should have said ‘white’ Jesus not ‘European’ Jesus. There is a distinction that needs to be made there. For me white is less about ‘phenotype’ as it is about ‘power’ and ‘status’ and ‘location’ in society.

  6. Glenn,

    Thanks for your kind response.
    It’s obvious that you’ve been thinking about this issue and that I probably need to read more West. I thought your first post implied that you are concerned about the racialization or politicization of Jesus.

    I tend to be anecdotal when it comes to religion, but my first real Jesus was the Jesus of the Rastafarians and Marcus Garvey. However, it didn’t take long before I wanted to drop the racial and political dimensions of their Jesus. In the end, God is individuals who are willing to worship him and spirit and in truth.

  7. I meant to write:

    In the end, God is looking for worshipers who are willing to worship him in spirit and in truth.

    Always have to get my practical cosmic point in there.

  8. glenn,

    that sounds like a great idea. i have been preparing an 8-week course on racial reconciliation in the church I attend. maybe talking about white jesus could help me flesh out my thoughts.

  9. Hey Anthony, dang am I looking to hear what you have to say at church…can’t wait!

    I think phenotype is an issue as in: how come Jesus’s been allowed to stay white all these years? Of course…he, My Heysus has a nice, ruddy Olive complexion. In fact he looks more Arab than anything. If Jesus went walking down our streets, he’d get shot at twice a week…none of you all would be able to tell him apart from Osama.

  10. first off, i like the fact that this movie will make the church at large uncomfortable. faith stagnates when you put it in a box and start saying things like “this is just how it’s supposed to be”.

    what i’m wondering is if the studio’s presentation of Jesus will be dangerous? i don’t mean the phenotype. i read an article that quoted some of the execs as saying that “Jesus preached equality” and that’s not true, he taught us to be servants.

    any thoughts?

    p.s. i enjoy your blog!

  11. eric,

    we are going to have a great time at church on this issue :).


    I see what you are saying. Jesus being conscripted for liberal democracy…at least the progressive version of it makes it suspect. This can be dangerous given the nature of ‘equality’ in Western culture. This can be just as dangerous as the semi-Docetic Jesus of Mel Gibson’s the Passion. I pray for discerning hearts.

    But what will prove interesting is how this this-worldly Jesus will be received. I hope that a glimmer of light will shine through the pervasive gnosticism of Western Christianity. His mission, it seems, is connected to this-wordly oppression and injustice…which isn’t far from the Jesus of the Gospels.

    But I agree…I don’t want Jesus to become a poster boy for liberal democracy…but rather the kingdom of God.

  12. From an anthropological standpoint most honest scholars would agree that Jesus did not have Caucasian features and would not be considered “white” if he were walking around in our society today. Jesus was a Hebrew, which falls in the semitic ethnic group. The term semitic has more to do with culture than color, but Arabs and other Asiatic peoples are also considered to be semitic. The sole identification of semitic with Jewishness is a prevalent misconception. Semitic people are by definition multiracial for lack of a better term. There is also a wealth of evidence to suppport a substantial African strand in Jesus’ background, which would not have been unusual during that time. If the 1/8 rule were still in effect, he might be considered black.

    Now let me be very frank and not mince any words since Anthony has chosen to be more diplomatic on this next point. The white Jesus is clearly ahistorical, but the signicance of such a portrayal goes far beyond the issue of scholarly and artistic integrity. This representation was the bedrock of the ideology of white supremacy. By making the Son of God a white man, whiteness was attributed with divine qualities and therefore associated with superiority in relation to non-white people. Praise God in all of his infinite wisdom, because had Jesus been Caucasian, the mythology of white sumpremacy may have been further legitimized by this false logic: “God chose to incarnate himself in the form of a white man, so white people must be better than everybody else.” Thankfully, from a social and political standpoint, this was not the case.

    I am grieved when I see this white Jesus, which I perceive as an idol and symbol of one of the most oppressive systems in history. I am even more disturbed when I see this image in predominantly black churches. If color does not matter, than let us start to portray Jesus as African, Asian, and Latino in church and in popular culture for the next 500 years since the other portrayal dominated the past several centuries. I’m being a little facetious on that last suggestion, but I hope I have made the case.

  13. “There is also a wealth of evidence to suppport a substantial African strand in Jesus’ background, which would not have been unusual during that time. If the 1/8 rule were still in effect, he might be considered black.”

    Rod, I hadn’t thought of it in these terms, but that is 100% correct, which by implication means Jesus is a brother. lol

    On a more serious side, I think your point about his portrayal, while not novel, needs to be heard.

  14. I just posted something last week on my site regarding a mural of an anglo Jesus at a university I attended. Interesting to read more thoughts here. By the way, found you through J Evans.

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