The prominent Black Lives Matter activist, Shaun King, this week argued that depictions of a “white Jesus” should be taken down because they are a “gross form of white supremacy.”
“I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down,” the 40-year-old tweeted, adding that the call extended to “all murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends.”
Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, later condemned the demand as an example of the “secular iconoclasm of the current moment”. He said that such “violence will only perpetuate the prejudice and hatred it ostensibly seeks to end.”
Meanwhile, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the BBC that he agreed that the “way the Western Church portrays Jesus needs to be thought about again” but noted that “you don’t see a white Jesus” in many churches around the world. “You see a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jesus – which is of course the most accurate – you see a Fijian Jesus,” he said.
Below is a brief sample of this wealth of multi-ethnic iconography. Some of these works come from Europe, where Song of Songs 1:5 (“I am black and beautiful”) was sometimes inscribed below depictions of the Black Madonna and Child. Others come from South America, Asia and Africa, where the faithful naturally sought to depict Christ and the saints, as Bishop Hying put it, “through the particular lens of their own culture”.
Featured image: The Black Madonna and Child of Częstochowa in the Polish cemetery of Breda in the Netherlands, after being vandalized by activists (Photo: Pix4Profs/René Schotanus).