Since the recent publication of the book The Color of Christ by Edward Blum and Paul Harvey, there have been at least two discussions of the issue on the bloggernacle. The one that I found the most interesting is by Margaret Blair Young. She deals with the issue of Christ’s whiteness as it relates to the Congo (the former Zaire, and before that the Belgian Congo).
The way Christ has been depicted on the walls of Mormon churches and in LDS literature has been a favorite subject of mine, and you can read my previous comments here and here. I’ve consistently pleaded for a more universal depiction of the Savior. I find the current versions to be oddly Scandanavian.
The Congo is also of interest to me because I spent 2-1/2-year in the Franco-Belgian Mission. It was just before and during my mission term that Belgium and the CIA were actively involved in the “post-colonial” Congo. So I heard a lot of stories and had brief conversations with several mercenaries.
The Congo didn’t start out as a colony. It was originally a fiefdom of the King Leopold II of Belgium. During his rule, the Congolese were treated horrifically, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the king’s activies a holocaust. This period is described in Joseph Conrad’s classic novella The Heart of Darkness and more recently in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost (1998). Reading the latter is a little like reading about the Meadow Mountain Massacre (only times the violence by thousand).
Additionally, I usually spend about one month a year in Africa, having travelled to Uganda 5 times over the last few years. Thus anything related to central Africa is of interest to me. So what does all this have to do with the color of Christ?
According to Margaret Blair Young, reading The Color of Christ was revelatory in many ways
and left me thinking about the implications of our having the familiar white Jesus in African temples and church buildings. Particularly where white conquerors have committed atrocities, . . . do we have an obligation to expand our artistic view of Christ? Are we reinforcing a message that whites will lead and teach and blacks must learn from us? Can we make necessary modification wthout meeting opposition from those who want Jesus to look like them?
Should we be moving closer to liberation theologies?