The great French impressionist Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes courage.” Who could have imagined how true his words would ring today? In the ever-widening effort to sanitize America from anything and everything the radical left finds offensive, a member of the cancel culture has issued a demand to remove images that depict Jesus Christ as white. But will destroying and obliterating art fix what ails race activist Shaun King and his comrades?
It would be fair to say that throughout millennia, Jesus, in both image and person, has managed to weather a few storms and that this latest effort by King to banish Christian iconography through the United States will amount to little more than another moment of madness. Still, such an idea on its face must be challenged on two vital fronts, both of which are worthy of discussion. One focuses on the meaning and purpose of art in our world and the other on the theology or lack thereof attached to this nonsensical demand.
King’s tweet reads in part, “Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been.” Perhaps what is missing here is the most obvious theological point: Jesus is neither black nor white, but like all of us was and is made in God’s image. One does not have to dig too far into the Bible to find this truth. Genesis 1:26 reads, “God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness …’” and in verse 27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
From Jesus of Nazareth to Jesus, the Christ, none can argue but that Jesus is beyond mere depiction because, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (Col.1:15).” So, while Jesus is neither black nor white, it could be said that he is both black and white – and everything in between. Arguing about the color of Jesus is akin to quarreling about the existence of the sun. Similarly, debating the race of Jesus is senseless because he was Jewish through and through.
When Life Does Not Imitate Art
So, what then is the purpose of destroying stained glass images, iconography, or any art that depicts Jesus as white? As is often said, “one man’s art is another person’s trash.” And therein lies the beauty of creative expression. Shall we desecrate Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son” because the artist’s eye differs from our own? Or should we embrace what he saw in the Scriptures and put on canvas because it adds to our understanding of the Biblical scene?
‘Tis a sad mindset indeed that cannot embrace beauty in all its forms. One does not have to have faith to weep at the sight of the “Pietà” or stand in awe of the Sistine Chapel. To reduce art created in the spirit, by the spirit to a matter of race is to remove the diversity and color that makes our world so vibrant and beautiful. A worldview that only sees in terms of the color of one’s skin is precisely what civil rights activists railed against in the 20th century. Above all, people like Shaun King are to be pitied for desiring to live a monochrome existence.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.