What Color is God’s Skin

“What Color is God’s Skin” is the title of a song from the folk era of the 60s, by the group Up With People. Yes, I remember the song well…

The color of God’s skin and Santa’s skin came up this week  on “The Kelly File” with Megyn Kelly.  Ms Kelly says that both Santa and Jesus are white.

Ms Kelly was responding to an article by Aisha Harris in “Slate” in which Ms Harris writes a personal account of her childhood feelings of exclusion brought on by the culturally created white Santa.  Ms Harris suggests a more inclusive Santa – a Penguin.

Ms Kelly and the panel didn’t think much of the idea.  You can see their discussion here.  Personally, I don’t have any trouble grasping a Penguin Claus.  Once you give a guy magical elves and the power to squeeze his roly-poly body down billions of chimneys in one night, anything is possible.

I do have a bit of trouble with Ms Kelly’s assertion that Jesus is white.  After presenting her view that Santa is white, she said, “Jesus was a white man, too.  It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that…”

Yes, our view of Santa comes courtesy of Coca Cola and Clement Moore, and Santa is white in those depictions.  No argument there.

But Jesus’ race?  Behold the power of pictures. European art throughout the centuries have shown Jesus as a white man.  It stuck.  Pick up one of those “Bible Story” books in a Sunday School classroom and you’ll see a white Jesus on the pages.  The baby Jesus in the manger of our Nativity on the buffet in our dining room is white, blond-haired, blue-eyed and rosy-cheeked.   Millions of people watched The History Channel’s The Bible and they saw a light-skinned Jesus.

Does it matter?  I think so.  It matters historically and theologically.
Christianity is an historical faith.  It is rooted in historically verifiable events.  We value that.  So, let’s value what history teaches us about Jesus’ race.  Jesus was Jewish.   Jesus lived in Palestine.  In 2001 a team of British anthropologists and forensic scientists created a hypothetical model of Jesus’ face based on the skull of a first century Jew.  Guess what.  He’s not white. Some people are uncomfortable with that? Wonder why?

Let’s be true to history.

Theologically, it matters. It’s interesting to me that every culture makes Jesus look like them.  African Jesus.  Asian Jesus.  Touchdown Jesus.  Why?  I think it has something to do with the incarnation – you know, what Christmas is all about.
God becoming one of us.
God connecting to, identifying with – becoming us!  WOW!
God-in-the-flesh.

These different portrayals of Jesus help us to get our hearts around the theological truth that God knows us, understands us, identifies with us.
He gets us.
Because He became us.  All of us.

So, what color is God’s skin?  I’m happy with the answer given in the rest of the song: It is black, brown, yellow, it is red and it is white.  Everyone’s the same in the good Lord’s sight.

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