Fox News and the Color of Christ

I really like what Jean Claude Lamarre did in his making of the Color of the Cross. It is a good piece depicting the life of Jesus; in truth, there is only so much one really knows about the life of Christ. Lamarre, like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, focuses around the final days of Christ. And though there is still much conjecture and debate regarding the final days, there is a bit more substance during the final days than say his birth and early childhood. My point here does not include the resurrection — a point of contention.

What disappoints me about this interview is how Sean Hannity ignores the basic premise of what Lamarre is saying: Jesus was a divine human being; and according to Christians, died on the cross for the salvation of their sins. In the process, Jesus suffered greatly. Again, nothing different from Gibson’s Christ. Lamarre, however, presents Christ as a black man. Yet, in this interview, Lamarre again and again states that he is doing nothing different from what other directors have done: Presents what is believed to be an accurate story of the final days of Christ. Fox News and Hannity only saw black Christ. Much like Fox News Megyn Kelly who outraged folks by reminding them that Jesus and Santa could not and were not black, Hannity also focused on the race narrative.

Thus, for decades Christ has been portrayed as Eurocentric. There were few if any arguments about that depiction. But, when an artist presents him as anything but white or Arab, there is a reaction. Might this be a sign of cultural superiority? I recall noted historian Edward Blum discussing in his book The Color of Christ that most black Americans adopted the presentation of a white Christ. After slavery ended, the advent and course of Jim Crow did not detract blacks from their white Jesus. Though I was not churched nor did I take part in Sunday services growing up, I do recall visiting black churches and observing how they prominently displayed images of a white Christ.

It is my understanding, however, that many blacks did not fully adopt a black Christ until the 1960s — roughly around the time of Black Power. Hence, James Cone’s emergence of Black Liberation Theology expressed the power of black folks by, according to Cone:

Express a moral or theological appeal based on a white definition of morality or theology will serve as a detriment to our attainment of black freedom. The only option we blacks have is to fight in every way possible, so that we can create a definition of freedom based on our own history and culture. We must not expect white people to give us freedom. Freedom is not a gift, but a responsibility, and thus must be taken against the will of those who hold us in bondage.

I conclude with this: If race does not matter to the majority, why get upset when the minority creates a piece of art displaying Jesus, but in an image other than what is mainstream? Further, this clip also alludes to the fact that the filmmaker is making too much out of race, when in fact, he is doing what most people have done in the arts: Telling a story. During my last year at Capitol Heights in Montgomery, Alabama, I was in the school play in which I played Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’1843 work, A Christmas Carol.The issue was not race; we had some white people here who could have played the role of Scrooge. The message was the story, not the race of Eddie Carson playing Dickens’ white character. Hence, that is the point missed by Hannity.

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3 thoughts on “Fox News and the Color of Christ

  1. Great post! I cannot get over the fact that you were in a play. It distracted me from the thought of your post. It also made the point, I must say.

  2. (I’m saying here much of what I posted on Facebook)

    A couple of minor points:

    The primary interviewer in this piece is Alan Combs, a liberal and the clip is from a few years ago when the show was called “Hannity & Combs” (Combs was the liberal, opposite conservative Hannity.)

    I readily acknowledge that Jesus was most probably an olive skinned Semite Jew, as were likely those who persecuted him, which filmmaker Lamarre acknowledges. However he (apparently) chooses to present a black Christ persecuted by a white society. To me, there is an inconsistency between what he acknowledges and what he creates. As such, the issue to me (and apparently to both Fox interviewers) is not that Lamarre is presenting a black Jesus; it is that he introduces a racial dynamic that is not present in the gospels.

    As such, I have no problem with this film as an artistic piece that takes dramatic license to make an point about racism, but clearly it is an extrabiblical depiction of the life of Christ.

    That being said, it is certainly not the first film to cross that threshold in order to make a point.

    • Oh yes, I recall the silly “staged” positions of Hannity and Combs, whom Sean Hannity seemed the most aggressive in that clip. When I watched the movie, I felt race was not the dominate factor. The “biblical” elements in the film seemed fine, too. There were no whites killing a black man to make an additional point. The actor just so happened to be black — much like my Christmas Carol example. The quality of the film was clearly on the low end of a budget. What do you mean by extra biblical?

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