Race, Religion, and The Color Of The Cross

As I was browsing around CNN looking for news stories to write about, I came across a CNN-hosted video link about a movie that depicted Jesus as a black man.

Of course, the video link didn’t work.

So after some searching, I got to CNN’s Entertainment website, where I found the story. After reading the little piece there and visiting the movie’s website, I decided to do a piece here about what was on both CNN’s and the movie’s websites.

The CNN site opened it’s report with a mention of all the controversial (if not serious) movies about the life of Jesus that’s been made throughout recent history. The list includes everything from the classic The Life of Brian to the recent and very controversial The Da Vinci Code and The Passion of the Christ. Even though these three movies deal with very different aspects of Jesus’ story, they all have one thing in common; all of them feature Jesus as Caucasian. Even Jim Caviezel, who was reportedly cast as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion due to his dark, Mediterranean-like features, is actually of Slovak/Roman-Swiss (father) and Irish American (mother). The Color of the Cross, takes a totally different approach and casts Jesus as black.

Unknown Haitian director Jean-Claude LaMarre directs, and also stars as Jesus in this film, which is garners “the first to…” in another area as well. The film depicts Jesus’ last two days before his crucifixion, hinting at the notion that his crucifixion was racially motivated. CNN’s report included commentary by Stephen Humphries-Brooks.

Humpheries-Brooks states that “For the first time you have a depiction of Jesus in the hands of an African American director and an African American cast that says what their particular community’s understanding of Jesus is.”

According to Humpheries-Brooks, the fact that the film depicts Jesus as black is almost inconsequential to the fact that the film, in the same stroke, attributes the crucifixion of Jesus as a racial matter. “The ancient world didn’t conceptualize race as the contemporary world does. My guess is the film is really translating an American black experience back to the Gospel era. In my reading, every Jesus film has been about the current moment. Film is primarily a medium of communication between a contemporary director and a contemporary audience. There’s never been an authentic, historically accurate Jesus put on film. Will there ever be? We shouldn’t expect it.

That statement, I believe, puts this whole debate to rest. The matter of the fact is that none of us will ever know for sure, in this lifetime, whether or not Jesus was black, white, middle eastern, or any other race of human; in fact, that fact proves to me to be very inconsequential, indeed. What ultimately matters is His life, His teachings, and how we choose to follow them and pattern ourselves after them in this day and age.

How Jesus looked, if you ask me, makes absolutely no difference on the change His life made on our world; whether you believe His message or not, you cannot deny the impact He has made on the course of the history of the world. I can tell you that from the perspective of an African American, that most of us, deep down somewhere within ourselves believe that Jesus was not the white, long-haired and bearded man many of us grew up seeing in stained-glass windows and pictures on the front of hymnals.

I think Mr. Brooks was correct in stating that The Color Of The Cross projects modern African-American experience back into the Gospel era and onto the silver screen. I cannot say for sure, as I have not seen the film myself, but I am glad someone finally took a chance and did something that goes against (probably erroneous) popular thought and opinion. I’ve always been a proponent of free thought in the arts, and taking a chance on the race of Jesus is no exception.

But if you really want to know, I do think Jesus was something other than white…but that’s just my personal opinion.



~ by Deuce on October 29, 2006.

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