John F. Kennedy on civil rights
no wonder they killed this man
John F. Kennedy on civil rights
no wonder they killed this man
'Black Jesus': Beneath the Drugs and Profanity, Is There a Message of Theological Reflection?
By Christopher House, Ph.D.
I was surprised to find that even before the airing of the premier of Aaron McGruder’s new show Black Jesus on Adult Swim that some of my fellow black clergy members took to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to urge their followers to boycott the show. The more they called for boycotts, the more I became intrigued with the show’s trailer.
I am fascinated by the study of rhetoric, i.e., the ways in which signs and symbols shape human thought and behavior. And entertainment is highly influential in reflecting and shaping how society thinks and behaves. As a Christian minister and black man, I equally interested in viewing McGruder’s artistic iteration of a black Jesus. As a professor and scholar who studies at the intersection of rhetoric, religion and popular culture, I was eager to identify the underlying messages that McGruder would attempt to communicate to his audience. Hence, questions filled my mind as to what specific moral direction McGruder would attempt to steer his audience toward. Likewise, what ideologies and values would he present to viewers as being desirable or undesirable, good or bad, or to be embraced or not.
Having watched several episodes of his other show, the Boondocks, I was not shocked by McGruder’s presentation of a black Jesus who smokes weed, drinks alcohol, uses profanity and lives in Compton. In fact, I was fascinated by it. McGruder’s black Jesus did not participate in acts of gentrification or further ghettoization of this community, rather he embodied a form on incarnational theology. He literally made is home in a black marginalized space. Even more, he socializes with felons, drug dealers, and the homeless.
Rhetorically rendering Jesus as black is not new. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Marcus Garvey, James Cone, and others have long seized and situated the ontological identity of Jesus as that of being black. While it is a foregone conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was not of European descent with blond hair and blue eyes, it is equally true that the blackness of which Turner, and the like, ascribes to Jesus was not mere commentary about his skin color. Assigning this ontological blackness of being to Jesus allowed oppressed groups to counter prevailing and oppressive ideas of blackness as a sign of biological and intellectual inferiority. In this sense, blackness used as a religious symbol to convey meaning is powerful.
Race as a social construct functioned differently in the ancient world and in 1st century Palestine than it does today in the U.S. Notions of race were present in Jesus’ day but were not used as inherent markers of inferiority or superiority. Nonetheless, the fact that the historical Jesus was a person of color is not without significance for McGruder, me or for millions of people of color like me around the world who daily deal with various form of racism. As my mentor would say, if the historical Jesus had been living in the U.S. during the 1950s, he would have had to ride on the back of the bus.
Rather than simply dismissing the show as being blasphemous, maybe we should continue to watch with an awareness of contemporary issues and a strong sense of irony. To do so, would ask us to consider what then does it mean to have a black Jesus living and moving in impoverished black spaces?
Perhaps this show offers us a corrective mirror by which we can begin to offer a (re)articulation of Jesus with who even the gangsta can identify with. In her 2012 book Rap and the Gangsta’ God, Ebony Utley, Ph.D. argues that by all scriptural accounts “Jesus was gangsta.” In fact, it is this, single-mother having, socializing with sinners, working on the Sabbath day, lover of God more than government, victim of state sponsored surveillance and violence, Jesus of Nazareth who gangstas respect “because they see parallels between his life and theirs” (49). It was this Jesus who Kanye West spoke of in 2004 when he said “Jesus Walks.” Identification precedes personal, spiritual and social salvation. Jesus become like us, all of us, in order to redeem us. When done well, satire can be socially productive. When not done so well, it runs the risk of reinforcing the very thing it seeks to satirize. I, nonetheless, remain open to the possibility that perhaps McGruder’s satirical show carries with it the potential to function much like a parable. For those among the faithful who have a critical eye to see and a critical ear to hear it, on some level this show just might provoke us into (re)presenting to those living in oppressed spaces a Jesus with knows all about our struggles. This is our job!
I think the show is a massive parable and stand by black Jesus being much more like Jesus than the judgmental, suit and tye, fried, dyed, and laid to the side Jesus that black church folks make him out to be.
Some of the folks at the churches I have fellowshiped at are going nuts. But those are the same folks that are are super conservative and anti black.
I love this woman
This succinctly explains why black people shame each other.
Sooooooooo much yes
13-year-old Mo’Ne Davis is about to become just the 17th female to play in the Little League World Series after pitching a three-hitter to lead her team to an 8-0 victory in a Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game. She killed it.
I see a lot of killings and police brutality all over my dash and raising awareness. But I wanna share some positive stuff going on
Go off sis!
Been meaning to speak on this. But yeah, she’s doing the damn thing. There’s also an all-black team from Chicago that is looking to reach the finals as well, I believe.
She gets it.
how dare you not notice me while i ignore you
Please read the whole thing. People were there and they saw it. Don’t believe the lies that the Ferguson Police Dept or the mainstream media are telling you.
About 20 minutes before the shooting, Johnson said he saw Brown walking down the street and decided to catch up with him. The two walked and talked. That’s when Johnson says they saw the police car rolling up to them.
The officer demanded that the two “get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson says. “His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk.”
After telling the officer that they were almost at their destination, Johnson’s house, the two continued walking. But as they did, Johnson says the officer slammed his brakes and threw his truck in reverse, nearly hitting them.
Now, in line with the officer’s driver’s side door, they could see the officer’s face. They heard him say something to the effect of, “what’d you say?” At the same time, Johnson says the officer attempted to thrust his door open but the door slammed into Brown and bounced closed. Johnson says the officer, with his left hand, grabbed Brown by the neck.
“I could see the muscles in his forearm,” Johnson said. “Mike was trying to get away from being choked.”
“They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt,” Johnson explained of the scene between Brown and the officer. “It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’”
At that moment, Johnson says he fixed his gaze on the officer to see if he was pulling a stun gun or a real gun. That’s when he saw the muzzle of the officer’s gun.
“I seen the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” he said. “He had it pointed at him and said ‘I’ll shoot,’ one more time.”
A second later Johnson said he heard the first shot go off.
“I seen the fire come out of the barrell,” he said. “I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close.”
Johnson says he was within arm’s reach of both Brown and the officer. He looked over at Brown and saw blood pooling through his shirt on the right side of the body.
“The whole time [the officer] was holding my friend until the gun went off,” Johnson noted.
Brown and Johnson took off running together. There were three cars lined up along the side of the street. Johnson says he ducked behind the first car, whose two passengers were screaming. Crouching down a bit, he watched Brown run past.
“Keep running, bro!,” he said Brown yelled. Then Brown yelled it a second time. Those would be the last words Johnson’s friend, “Big Mike,” would ever say to him.
Brown made it past the third car. Then, “blam!” the officer took his second shot, striking Brown in the back. At that point, Johnson says Brown stopped, turned with his hands up and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”By that point, Johnson says the officer and Brown were face-to-face. The officer then fired several more shots. Johnson described watching Brown go from standing with his hands up to crumbling to the ground and curling into a fetal position.
“After seeing my friend get gunned down, my body just ran,” he said. He ran to his apartment nearby. Out of breath, shocked and afraid, Johnson says he went into the bathroom and vomited. Then he checked to make sure that he hadn’t also been shot.
Five minutes later, Johnson emerged from his apartment to see his friend Mike dead and in the middle of the street. Neighbors were gathering, some shouting, some taking pictures with their cell phones.