The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“What if I told you Jesus was a black man?”

That’s the provocative opener to a terrific essay by my Assistant News Director, Shu-Fy Pongnon, who riffs on the subject at Patheos:

“What if I told you Jesus was a Black man?”

How I came to ask Marie this entirely provocative question five minutes before the start of 7:45 a.m. Mass is a mystery to me now, but I never forgot her answer and its delivery, “Jesus can’t be Black, because I would never bow down to a Black man.” Her voice was firm and her eyes darkened under the memories of abuse she faced at the hands of various Black men in her life, including her then-husband, Max, whose fatal bout with cancer did nothing to inoculate her from his venom.


Say what you will about her logic, but her Jesus, and by extension, her God, had to be the opposite of everything — including color — of the pain she’d experienced her entire life. Her Jesus, and by extension, her God, was blonde, with blue, maybe green eyes. He was gentle, kind, patient, and best of all, loved her — black and blue — to no end.

Before I converted to Catholicism, I was a card carrying Black Hebrew Israelite. If you’re a New Yorker, you might remember these Black men on busy street corners, a fixture at 42nd Street near the Port Authority, dressed in Old Testament Hebrew garb, broadcasting their one-two punch megaphone missive: “The white man is the Devil and the Black man is the true Jew.” It was a message that defined everything about me for four years and it made my Jesus, and by extension, my God, a Black man with an Afro to rival any seen on “Good Times,” with a Barry White baritone-laced gravitas that would make you alternately stand at attention and swoon.


So, for me, God had a color, and gender — he was a man. And not just any man, he was the opposite of everything — including color — that I was taught to value through seemingly innocent social studies lessons and pop culture consumption.

Read the rest. It’s great. This kid has something to say, and knows how to say it.

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Fran Rossi Szypylczyn

posted November 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I remember briefly meeting Shu-Fy when I came to visit you at NET TV last year and I also remember her other Patheos piece. When I read this new piece yesterday, my jaw dropped. She is a remarkable writer and her expressions of faith are truly moving.

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posted November 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Really doubt that Jesus was a blue eyed, light skinned man. Expect he had darker skin, and brown eyes, as a Jew and living in that part of the world. Looks don’t diminish what he tried to do.

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R' David

posted November 4, 2010 at 6:19 am

>”What if I told you Jesus was a black man?”
You would be ignoring facts and logic. According to your scriptures, Jesus was born of a Jewish mother and father. The contemporary historian, Josephus, agrees that he was a Jew. Thus, unless we totally ignore all recorded history, it is no more possible that Jesus was a black man than a Klingon.
>”Jesus can’t be Black, because I would never bow down to a Black man.”
Nor should a person bow down to ANY man. Scripture is quite clear on this as well.
>”…Jesus …was blonde, with blue, maybe green eyes….”
This is just as impossible as his being a black man or a woman.
>”…I was a card carrying Black Hebrew Israelite…. the Black man is the true Jew.”
This silly designation and belief defies fact, and is a malicious insult to the true Jewish people, who actually can trace their ancestry back to Abraham. Those who groundlessly decide to call themselves “Hebrews” or “Jews” may as well claim to be Napoleon or the Queen of England.

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Daniel formerly from Knoxville

posted November 4, 2010 at 7:23 am

The image of Jesus as an a blonde, blue or green – eyed Aryan Caucasian has been a sticking point for a long time. It intimates that maybe God would NOT make His Son a member of a supposedly ” inferior ” race / cultural / ethnic group.
In the early years of the 21st century, that kind of thinking needs to be jettisoned. People will still envision God, & by extension His Son, in their own image, though. What color Jesus’ skin was is secondary to the message ( s ) he told us to spread to others.

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Fran Rossi Szypylczyn

posted November 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

It makes me sad to see nitpicking and what I think is maybe the missing of the point of Shu-Fy’s remarkable post.

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posted November 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

If God made “man” (and woman) in his image, how come there are so many different colors of skin in the world? Something to think about—-What color would God’s skin be? His eyes? Thought of that as I was reading this. Jesus was supposed to have been fathered by God, so does that mean God has dark or light skin and blue or brown eyes?

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posted November 5, 2010 at 12:22 am

God is Love!!! We’re all one colour in God’s eyes.

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Mary Ann Cupples

posted November 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm

My favorite Christmas carol has always been, SOME CHILDREN SEE HIM because it deomonstrates how Jesus is truly universal and beyond color or race. Some people made a big hoopla when a woman dared to carry the cross on Youth Day! But we can all identify with someone who looks like us.
However, if you want a historical and accurate depiction of him then–while he would not look like Scandinavian blonde hair blue eyed Max Von Sidow–he would not look black either because he was not African.

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Pingback: "What Does God Look Like?" « The Anchoress


posted October 19, 2011 at 3:33 am

I can not agree with the fact that we have only such opportunities Mosiu presented. There is also a fourth possibility, and this is true. Namely, that God so loved us that He gave us a choice and it respects to the end.

God’s omnipotence does not mean that he is a dictator, a tyrant, who is doing what only encourages him. What’s more, God can not deny his own nature. God is a being a simple, very uncomplicated and in Him always like to say yes and no means no. Thus, if the nature of God is love, He can not do anything that would be a denial of love. If God is Truth, it is not in him lies.

Does God have the possibility to convert all of them? Not only no, but took advantage of these opportunities. Each man received so much grace that it is sufficient to achieve salvation. However, this does not mean that everyone will benefit from these graces, because God has given each of us the opportunity to choose from.

Is that a deprivation of the omnipotence of God? Does this mean that God is angry and does not depend on him for our salvation? Do you know that the experiment is successful? Let’s try to look at these points.;;

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