What Color Was Christ?

This website–Tired Road Warrior–has on several occasions urged the LDS Church to develop a more universally acceptable image of Christ.  The church almost always uses a pale, blue-eyed Jesus dressed in white robes.  This Scandanavian version of Christ is becoming less and less defensible, particularly as the LDS Church expands throughout the non-white world.

Edward Blum, a history professor and religious scholar at San Diego State University and co-author of the forthcoming book, The Color of Christ:  The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, takes several potshots at the LDS Church for its historic racism.  According to the thedailybeast.com:

Most, if not all, scientists and theologians now agree that Jesus was likely neither a black man nor a tall, blue-eyed white man.

Blum says that while most Western people have historically viewed Jesus as white, Mormon were some of the first Americans to claim to have seen him and describe him with light hair and blue eyes.  “It has simply been overlooked just how ‘white’ the Mormon Jesus really is,” Blum says.

The color of Christ became an especially contentious issue during the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s.  That’s when African-Americans began to challenge the widely held notion in America that Jesus was a white man.

During the civil rights movement, Blum says, Mormons, in a symbolic gesture, placed an 11-foot, lily-white statue of Jesus at the center of Salt Lake City.  Dubbed Christus, images of the statue can be found to this day in Mormon welcome centers across the nation.

LDS Church’s Statue of Christ, Dubbed “Christus”

“The statue was and remains an icon of white supremacy,” say Blum, who co-wrote his book with Paul Harvey, and history professor and author.

While I don’t consider the “Christus” statue racist (isn’t its whiteness a function of the material it was sculpted from?), I do wish the LDS Church would lose its obsession with Carl Bloch’s and others’ images of a “Scandanavian” Christ.

This entry was posted in Art, images of Christ, mormonism, Religion, Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What Color Was Christ?

  1. Jettboy says:

    If not the great classics like Block, then whose work would you like to see represented? If you think Mormons are alone on this kind of representation then check out a few other Christian Churches. That as the dumbest comparison ever. Popular art work and sermons are apples and oranges.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I don’t consider the works of Bloch or the “Christus” to be great art. Christ as imagined by Rembrandt would be a step in the right direction. Also, instructing Mormon illustrators to lose the pasty white skin, blue eyes, and white robes would be good start.

      I’m not a big believer in symbols, but I think the way we image Christ IS an important symbol. So coming up with a more plausible representation of Christ should be given serious consideration. Particularly since Mormonism espires to be a global religion.

  2. Pingback: The Color of Christ in Africa | Tired Road Warrior

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