I got a call this week from a celebrity football player whose name I do not remember. It was a recorded call and the football player wanted to tell me about a life-changing new movie being released later this month called “Son of God.” He felt the need to tell me that Jesus is even better than football and he wanted me to urge my congregation to go see this movie. He also suggested that I order group tickets for the church. I won’t be doing either one. The more “powerful and inspiring” this movie turns out to be, the more dangerous it is because in this movie, as in every Jesus movie I have ever seen, Jesus is White.
Is that such a big deal? Can’t we enjoy the film and all it’s strengths while knowing that Jesus was not White? Recently, in our Sunday School, one child pointed to another saying that “I’m Brown and you’re Black.” This was not just a factual comment; there was a belief on the part of the first child that being lighter-skinned was better. Both children were Latino immigrants and they were not born with this idea. The teacher decided to read a book about God being a God of all colors. “But God is White!” the children said. These children, in a Spanish language class where none of the children happened to be White, were certain that God is White.
Children are concrete thinkers. Young children do not say, “This is how this artist draws Jesus. This is how this film-maker depicts Jesus. Jesus was born in the Middle East and while we don’t know exactly what he looked like we do know that he wasn’t White.” If children observe in every movie and picture that Jesus is White, then Jesus is White. And if Jesus is the Son of God, then God is probably White too. Like it or not, we are communicating to children that a White identity is God-like and that a non-White identity is inferior. We are teaching children that God and church are aligned with White supremacy.
Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” I am going to tear my eyes away from this kind of movie and cut off my support. Then, I’m going to take the money it costs to see the movie and donate it to Crossroads anti- racism organizing and training which does a lot of great work in churches.