Jesus statues, police assassination plots, the continued exposure of racism among police, continued protests, and a spike in COVID-19 cases. As with everyone else trying to sort through these unfolding events, I have initial thoughts, responses, and reactions that form when anything changes. I also try to sort through everything from a Godly/Christian perspective.
As our nation and the world continues in this moment of soul-searching regarding the desire for racial equality and its implications, Christians should be at the forefront in this battle. But what should our response be to the call for the removal of Jesus statues under the claim that they are a symbol of white supremacy? Even the most passionate supporter of racial equality may be given pause at this insistence by Black Lives Matter leader Shaun King.
While people who share a European racial heritage may see various artistic renderings of Jesus sharing the same features as “normal,” not giving a second thought to the style in which the Savior is depicted, it may serve as a hurdle for others seeking a place among the Church. While legitimate reasoning could produce the result that the artist(s) produced a Jesus to which s/he could relate, any educated person knows that Jesus was not white.
I don’t think it’s an accident that we have no physical description of Jesus. It could support the rise of some form of racial superiority among his followers. However, we know that Jesus’ goal was to demolish the barriers that had been erected between races and establish a community welcome to all people that reflected the glory of God among all nations. The Bible makes clear that God created humans in the image of God, and it does not designate a particular skin color or race. Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is whether or not we see the image of God in statues more than in other people.
If our response to statues being pulled down, degraded, or destroyed is outrage, then we should probably find greater outrage when people are being pulled down, degraded, and destroyed. Which is more egregious – destroying a carved piece of stone or destroying the image of God in a person?
It does not threaten Christianity in any way to remove a stone image. We can argue all day about the historical racial implications of colonists and imperialists erecting statues of Jesus in their own image in order to establish unquestioning superiority by those who did not share their cultural heritage, but the answer is much simpler than that. If it serves to alienate people, then I believe the Apostle Paul would say something along the lines of, “Tear it down for the sake of the Kingdom of God! We aren’t supposed to build images for worship anyway!”
Christianity is not to be racially or patriotically defined. It is a worldwide community welcome to every nationality, color, class, and level of influence. Through Christ all become one.