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CNN: Was Jesus a man of color? Why this question matters

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This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak, UltimateNewswire and others. To learn more about syndication opportunities, visit About Us.

Debate has risen over Jesus’s skin color and ethnicity.

Some note that while many traditional Christian images depict Jesus as white, most scholars believe he likely had brown skin and dark features resembling a Middle Eastern Jewish man.

“When I see the Easter story, I see Jesus being a victim of state-sanctioned violence. I see Jesus surrounded by Black and brown people who wish they could do something, but had no power in the moment,” social psychologist Christena Cleveland said.

“And I see people being victims of a system that can’t see their full humanity and assumes the worst of them. And yet there’s hope in the end,” she said. “The universe does bend toward justice, even though the arc is long.”

Some Christians of color prefer depictions of a darker-skinned Jesus that they can relate to, while others argue his message is universal.

“I am so sick and tired of people making a issue out of what color Jesus was or what color were the twelve tribes of Israel or if God is black or white. For me, I personally I DON’T CARE what color any of them were or are. There is no verses in the bible that I know of that make an ‘issue’ out of skin color of people in the bible,” one X user wrote.

“Suddenly there appeared to my mind’s eye a picture of the Christ just as if it were on my drawing board,” artist Warner Sallman said.

“It was so iconic that to combat ‘card-carrying members of the Communist Party,’ one American minister wanted every Christian to carry a small print of Sallman’s Christ in their wallets,” wrote Edward J. Blum, co-author of “The Color of Christ.”

“Heaven isn’t exclusive for the rich or the fair-skinned,” author Christina L. Barr said. “God’s arms are outstretched to all.”

“By the time he offends abortion providers by saying God hates hands that shed innocent blood and rebukes Americans for our covetousness, he’d be called a bigoted coon and thoroughly canceled,” she said of Jesus’ return.

The debate involves issues of history, theology, identity and the politicization of Jesus’s image.

Both sides have raised thoughtful perspectives, but there are no definitive answers as the Bible does not describe Jesus’s physical appearance in detail.

“Whether Jesus is depicted in contemporary artwork and icons as white, black, brown, Hispanic or Middle Eastern, it shouldn’t matter, because Jesus’ physicality was merely a vessel which was used to carry something a lot more important — the spirit of his father; God,” writer Antony Pinol said.

“It does not fundamentally change what he stands for and the sort of message that’s central to Christianity and what Jesus stood for in his life and actions,” Pino said. “He could be any color and that would not change his message.”

“As an ethnic minority, Jesus didn’t simply care about people who were victims of Rome-sanctioned violence, he was a victim of Rome-sanctioned violence. Jesus didn’t simply care about refugees, Jesus was a refugee. Jesus didn’t simply care about the poor, he was poor,” Cleveland wrote.

“It limits our ability to understand the historical Jesus, who wasn’t a White man and didn’t walk through the world as such. He was under Roman occupation — not unlike someone living in Gaza right now. We miss a lot of the historical Jesus’ story and teachings because they were coming from that perspective.”

“Why would it really matter to you that Jesus wasn’t White — unless you need Jesus to be White?” she said.

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