Is Jesus Black Enough?:
Raising The Level of Consciousness.
Vernon M. Herron
Black Jesus at Gethsemane
According to demographic and statistical reports, there are five billion peoples on the face of the earth and the majority of them are peoples of color. In fact, it is reported that 2/3 of the world’s population is dark skinned. It is also reported that there are more than two billion Christians and that one third of them are dark skinned people. If that be true, color is significant to one’s perception and image of a divine order. Since the Jesus of history is “all things to all people,” African Americans ask, “is Jesus black enough?”, Jews and Arabs might ask, “is Jesus brown enough?”, while Caucasians can ask “is Jesus white enough?”
The dark skin of Jesus can be seen as Luke 1 speaks of Mary as, “The Black Madonna.” Mary was the mother of Jesus. She was a distant relative of David and Solomon who were of the lineage of Boaz, direct son of Rahab, “the Black Canaanite.” (Ruth 4:13) His existence can be found from Genesis to Revelation since He is Alpha and Omega. His earthly maternal genealogy can be traced from Adam to Noah and Ham. Therefore, Jesus was dark skinned.
That means that where there is difference in race, skin color and even location, there may be a difference in culture, modes of living and even religion. However, in all areas, relevancy of a deity is the key. That is to ask, is Jesus as a God-man sensitive to one’s total needs?
Referring to the Jesus of history rather than to the Christ of faith, the question of Jesus’ blackness, raises the issue of consciousness and at what level.
Often a people have experienced a mind-set which endured discrimination in housing, education and employment. The Civil Rights movement of the late ‘60’s was a period in which the level of consciousness was raised. Like a horizontal dial, it moved from being a victim of circumstance to commitment, seeking to end discrimination and to guarantee equal rights and opportunities to all people.
Consciousness defined is the state of being conscious, aware and alert. To raise one’s level of consciousness is to make one more aware of his or her potential to cause political or social change in oneself. Conscious-raising is a method of making people more aware of their ability to bring about change or reforms. Conscience then is the sense of right and wrong.
During the protesting years of the late ‘60’s, the community’s mind-set was challenged in various ways. We experienced a Viet Nam War, politics by assassination of which John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were killed. Various methods were used to make people become more aware of their potentials in voting, economic and educational power. Vocabulary changed. “Black” replaced “Negro” and “colored,” “Black” became beautiful; the individual claimed worth by declaring that, “I am somebody.” That language influenced speakers of every sort including this preacher.
One Sunday in ‘68, this writer preached a sermon entitled “Is Jesus Black Enough?” at the Second Baptist Church in Joliet, IL. In that sermon, the real Jesus was portrayed with high cheek bones, woolly and nappy hair, (Rev.1:14) thick lips, thinly dressed, who appears as the suffering servant, despised, rejected, wounded, whipped and beaten with many stripes, bruised and cast out. (Isa.53) This Black Jesus is in contrast to the conception of an Anglo Saxon painting of a Jesus, associated with Wall Street and as portrayed by an European artist.
That sermon inspired a listening-parishioner-worshipper-artist, Mrs. Gretta Whitted who took mental notes, went home and immediately painted a Black Jesus to whom the Black community and others could relate. The following Sunday the portrait was presented to the pastor who found a prominent place for it in his residence.
Shortly afterward, an elderly saint stood before the revealing painting and said: “Look what they have done to my Jesus. They have made Him Black. Well, my Jesus has brought me this far over the years and I am not giving Him up now for another.” That saint had a mind-set, her conscious level was not raised and she could not effect change in herself nor in others.
Is Jesus Black enough? The answer is NO, if there is no movement of a mind-set conscience which stagnates mental and spiritual growth. The answer is YES, if there is awareness of a new personal potential and motivation toward a more just and humane society.
The historic Jesus comes in all shades of colors to all people. He comes in a skin color of red, yellow, black or white. His “enough-ness” depends on how you perceive Him to be, His sensitivity and His response to the needs and cries of His people. He is a personalized God who visits when one is in prison, clothes when one is naked, feeds when one is hungry, attends when one is sick, comforts when one is cast down, restores when one is ostracized, and made whole when one is wounded. “Enough” means that there is connection with the Divine because He sees me, knows me, needs me, loves me and calls me.
About the artist:
Mrs. Gretta V. Whitted
Mrs. Gretta Whitted was born, reared, educated and employed in Joliet, Il. She developed an interest in Art while attending Joliet Central College. Gretta drew the artwork for the manuals that were enclosed with the ammunition that was produced at the Joliet Arsenal. She is a member of The Second Baptist Church of Joliet, Il.