Editor’s note: Edward J. Blum is a historian of race and religion at San Diego State University. Paul Harvey is a history professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and runs the blog Religion in AmericanHistory. They co-authored “The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America.”
By Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, Special to CNN
Did you ever hear the one about Jesus being Mexican? Well, he was bilingual; he was constantly harassed by the government; and his first name was Jesus.
Or, perhaps Jesus was Irish? He loved a good story; he never kept a steady job; and his last request was for a drink.
Or maybe it’s possible that Jesus was Californian? He never cut his hair; he was always walking around barefoot; and he started a new religion.
You may not have heard these Jesus jokes, but you’ve heard others. They represent a comedic trend that has animated the United States since the 1970s. More and more comedy gimmicks hit on Jesus, his ethnicity and his relationship to politics. Laughing with (and at) the Lord is now fodder for major motion pictures, barroom comedy tours, graphic novels, t-shirts and bumper stickers.
How is it that a figure sacred to so many Americans has become the punch line of so many jokes? And why is it acceptable to poke fun at Jesus when other sacred figures are deemed off limits or there is hell to pay for mocking them?
The explanations are as numerous as the laughs.
Immigration shifts from the 1960s changed the ethnic and religious faces of the country so no tradition dominates today. The Christian right made such a moral spectacle of itself that it practically begged to be mocked. The emergence of “spiritual, but not religious” sensibilities left many Americans willing to denounce or laugh about traditional faith. The public rise of agnosticism, atheism, and secularism led to aggressive mockery as a form of persuasion.
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If we pause to consider why we’re laughing, we find that the comic bits delve into some of our thorniest and unresolved problems. The jokes reveal much more about us than they do Jesus. They speak to how our society has changed, how it hasn’t, and what we’re obsessed with.
The first public jokes about Jesus were heard in the 1970s. There had been religious jokes before this, but none about Jesus had become widely popular because organized Christianity held such authority. As the economic recession and problems of urban decay collided with civil rights exhaustion and new immigration, however, some Jesus jokes emerged.
Archie Bunker on “All in the Family” was the white racist and misogynist you loved to hate and hated to love. On one occasion, his son-in-law challenged Bunker’s rampant anti-Semitism with the claim, "Jesus was Jewish." Archie shot back immediately: "Only on his mother's side."
The “All in the Family” spin off “Good Times” featured a black family that lives in an inner-city housing project, probably Chicago's infamous Cabrini Green. On the show's second episode, the oldest son J. J. astounded everyone by painting Jesus as black. The younger son loves it, and says he learned all about Christ’s blackness from the local Nation of Islam.
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As the family debates whether this black Jesus should be hung on the wall in place of their white Jesus, they “miraculously” receive $140 from the Internal Revenue Service. Feeling blessed, the family placed the painting on its living room wall, and the elated J. J. shouted his tagline, "Dyno-mite!”
From the 1980s to the present, the number of prominent Jesus jokes has multiplied like loaves and fishes:
• In “Talladega Nights,” Ricky Bobby and his family debated which Jesus to pray to (“baby Jesus in golden fleece diapers,” “grown-up Jesus,” “ninja Jesus”). Their overall hope is that Jesus will help them continue their extravagant lifestyle.
• “South Park” featured Jesus as a weak-kneed host of a local talk show who boxes the devil.
• “Family Guy” had Jesus perform magic tricks that wowed his ancient audience.
• “The Colbert Report” placed a gun in Christ’s hand and had him defend conservatives against the liberal “War on Easter.”
• “Saturday Night Live” let Jesus chastise Tim Tebow for using the Lord’s name in vain and ended the bit by declaring that the Mormons have it right.
One unforgettable scene in the rather forgettable recent film “21 Jump Street” may explain why Jesus has become such a joke.
Before Jonah Hill’s character returns to high school as an undercover cop, he prays to a small, crucified “Korean Jesus.” Down on his knees, he says: “Hey Korean Jesus, I don’t know if you only cater to Korean Christians or if you even exist, no offense. I’m just really freaked out about going back to high school. It was just so f***ing hard the first time. … I just really don’t want to f*** this up. Sorry for swearing so much. The end? I don’t really know how to end the prayer.”
The hilarity of the moment only makes sense in our time. Hill's character is unchurched and agnostic, but wants spiritual power to guide him. We can laugh at how agnosticism and being “spiritual, but not religious,” leave him uncertain of what to say, how to say it, and even how to end.
We can also laugh at how ethnic factors color his approach. By wondering if Korean Jesus cares only about Korean problems, Hill pokes fun at the issue which was made a media spectacle in 2008, when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright could be heard preaching that “Jesus was a poor black man” as part of his support for Barack Obama. What good is a God who only cares for those who look like him?
The Jesus jokes not only reveal how tangled our religious, racial, economic and political positions have become, but also how many outlets there are for the jokes. In these tense times, when presidential hopefuls point fingers at one another and families unfriend one another over political and cultural differences, laughing may be one way to talk about the problems without killing one another.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey.
I'd like to personally thank both of you, Edward Blum and Paul Harvey, for slowing the evolution of our species.
"Evolution" D.D., is in itself a very very slow process and one should not judge evolution's changes to be fast issues but rather accept social changes on their own terms of conditional change however slow or fast they are to so be.
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
1 Timothy 2:11-12
why do christians conveniently skip over those kinds of verses?
because they're not self serving verses.
The same reason Muslims skip over Mohammad having a 9 year old wife. Doesn't fit in with modern culture and they would be ran out of town.
sybaris, I agrees with you 100%. NO ONE ever quotes the bible unless it's for THEIR convenience! OR self serving as fairy tale stated
You do know this was written because the men had abandoned the church and the women were left to teach the laws, right? the problem was that the laws were written down and, doggone it, women couldn't read. They had to teach from memory. St. Paul was trying to shame the men back to worship.
Not quite the same today.
Kill rude children:
Anyone who dishonors father or mother must be put to death. Such a person is guilty of a capital offense.
Hey! I brought you into this world. I can take you out.
I just can't wear a condom to prevent any of it.
IF YOU ARE WORKING TODAY (SUNDAY):
Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
Hay fool, the sabbath is saturday, sunday I'd the first day of the week, not the last. Can you not read the callender.
It is well that Christ fullfilled the Law and no christian is bound by the Law; for there was never any Salvation in the Law.
Jesus apparently also fulfilled the mindless trashing of gays, but you'd never know that from HYPOCRITICAL Christians.
ok, so going along with your absurdity, did you kill anyone yesterday for working? do you not follow the bible, or only the verses that you like?
You've got to bleed for the dancer
. Kristians are not supposed to call people fool. what kind of kkkristian are you
Observer-The anti Gay slant in the Old Testament has to do with the Priests of Ba'al being Gay child killers. Not many gays about today who have burned an infant to death, for Ba'al requires your first born.
Leviticus 24: 16
Whoever utters the name of the Lord must be put to death. The whole community must stone him whether alien or native. If he utters the name, he must be put to death.
All I said was that piece of fish was good enough for Jehovah!
Before the Americans with Disabilities Act
Leviticus 21: 18-20
No man with a defect is to come to the House of the Lord, whether a blind man, a lame man, a man stunted or overgrown, or with misshapen brows, or film over his eyes, or discharge from it, a man who has a scab, or eruption, or has had a testicle ruptured
Apparently this individual has never read the New Testament or the commandments of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ's new Covenant that supersedes the Old Testament....
May the Lord strike you with Egyptian boils and with tumors, scabs and itch for which you will find no cure.
Deut. 28: 27
Christ jokes were edgy 30 years ago, now it's low fruit. Christians have proven they're tolerant of free expression so everyone and their brother piles it on. They pretend it's edgy and dangerous, but everyone knows it's safe.
If you want to be edgy think of some Mohammed jokes.
What was Mohammed's greatest challenge in having s-ex with twentynine year olds? There were twenty of them.
ALLAHU AKBAR!!!!! >:-O *BOOM*
And then people wonder why there are so many Atheists today. The bible is full of messed up teachings.
The prophet Mohammed heard one of his wives was leaving him, so he rushed home where he found her on the carpet in front of his tent. He sat down beside her and said, “Why are you leaving me, wife?”
“I heard one of the other wives say that you are a pedophile!” she answered.
Mohammed thinks for a minute and responds, “That’s a mighty big word for a 6-year old!”
Genesis 19: 8
"Look, I have two daughters, virgins both of them. Let me bring them out to you and you could do what you like with them. But Lord do nothing to these men because they have come under the shelter of my roof."
Anti-woman and anti-gay. Sweet.
Unfortunately, this article ignores the REAL reason people make Jesus jokes. Psychologically, they think if they mock something, it takes its power away. This is done with politicians all the time, and with authority figures from police to teachers to parents.
It's no different today than it was 2,000 years ago. The gospels tell us Roman soldiers mocked Jesus and spat on him before his crucifixion. Why don't Americans make Muhammed jokes, Buddha jokes, or Krishna jokes? Because they don't believe those figures have any power.
Those of us who have spent our entire life studying the Bible and the claims of Christianity are convinced that mocking God is literally playing with fire.
Well, then, those of you are severely deluded. Sad waste of a life, really,
What a waste of a lifetime of study.
puzzled – you've never heard krishna jokes?
the only legitimate study of religion is anthropology.
So basically your god will punish people for belief or lack of belief, that god is immoral and does not deserve worship.
" Why don't Americans make Muhammed jokes, Buddha jokes, or Krishna jokes? Because they don't believe those figures have any power"
Uh, no, it's because not one of those religions dominate in the US and most people are fairly ignorant about them so the humor wouldn't go over very well.
Regardless, you are asserting that atheists joke about your god because it has power. Uh, if you don't believe that something exists then you cannot also believe it has any power.
Sorry, your logic fails.
Puzzled in Peoria
" Psychologically, they think if they mock something, it takes its power away."
Your beliefs in magical, invisible beings (and places) mock reality - maybe you do it for the same reason.
"Those of us who have spent our entire life studying the Bible and the claims of Christianity are convinced that mocking God is literally playing with fire."
those of us who've studied the bible and the ridiculous claims of xianity who are NOT trapped in the ugly, ignorant, exceedingly stupid throes of delusional thinking - are convinced mocking the imaginary god and jebus is great fun that's good for the whole family. literally playing with fire requires actually playing with fire... literally.
puzzled in peoria – you should be ashamed to be so stupid. literally.
The whole of Christianity is a big joke, and not a particularly funny one. Mostly fiction, too. And many of the ringleaders/henchmen wear funny dresses and hats.
Then why don't you and your ilk make fun of Muhammad? Because you are cowards that is why. Much to this authors idiotic premise, South Park did attempt to show the hypocrisy and was shot down by Comedy Central. Only a coward makes fun of only Christians, and the world is full of them.
Mohammad was a child molester. I'm bad at jokes.
I'm OK with humor, but there can be a thin line between joking and ridicule with the intention to harm or instigate. I think being civil minded toward each other is secular enough. I'm not for bullying someone to believe any more than I am to disbelieve.
Besides let's face it, most people believe in something not empirically proven. Most people believe in intelligent life on other planets, yet besides for some anecdotes, (and some pretty far fetched) there really is no empirical, proven evidence. Just a statistical probability, that we can't be the only intelligence in all creation. It's a belief, nothing more at this point until some first contact.
I guess I'm saying, play nice with each other, this is the only sandbox we have.
that's all sweet and nice bob... but there's a problem. there is a massive growing body politic of retarded humans who are trapped in the throes of the god delusion who work overtime to secularize their bigoted, ignorant, backwards theology. they spend a great deal of time and money to usurp the rights, liberties, and equality of others based on their idiotic religious beliefs.
they have earned every ounce of ridicule they get... and it's never going to be enough.
The Jesus character itself is a joke!
The fact that God did all of Creation so that he could live as a Jew for less than 45 years is a bit funny.
Sacred Cows make the best hamburger....
Mmmmmmmm – religilicious!
I have a great idea for a book. I'm going to call it "Nine months BC or Joseph will believe anything."
You are right on most facts, but you are just to noisy-to-read.
Jesus was born May 14, 6 BCE, when Jupiter apearing as a morning star was eclipsed by the moon. The whole December 25 story is to usurp the holiday of Ba'al, Christ's Calvanist brother, in any of Ba'als many formats.
Jt, dec. Had been the yule time for thousands of years before jewism let alone there retar ded childeren the christians.
December 25 is Ba'al's birthday, but the Church celebrates Christ's birth that day to take away his Holiday. We can know the birthday is fake because of the Roman census in Luke, one in 7 BCE and one in 8CE, historically. Consider also that Harrod the Great died in 4BCE and we can know Joseph traveld to Bethlehem in 7BCE tompay a poll tax for his Roman citizenship. If we also run the stars backwards in the sky to May 14, 6BCE we see Jupiter apearing as a morning star in the house of Israel (Aries), eclipsed by the moon. This would be interpreted: Great King is Born in Israel , by the Magi.
Fact, America was found by Christians. If you can't wrap your brain around that, leave. Simply leave. No American will beg you to stay. Stop hating the Americans that hold that dearly. Leave. I can't say that enough.
How utterly stupid. Several of the founding fathers were Unitarian, Jefferson was a free thinker that didn't believe in the deity of Christ. At least one signer of the declaration if independence was Jewish. Read up on your history before you post more ignorant nonsense that you pulled out of your posterior.
I thought the native Americans were here already. . . .and perhaps a few Vikings?
I never knew that the indians and the vikings used to be christians...
So what. Just because early immigrants to the usa from europe were mostly christians that is no reason for anything today.
Ummm, I think that the aboriginals found it first. Who then were slaughtered, tricked, and relocated by the Europeans. Who then kidnapped millions of Africans to work as slaves. To make America what it is today. A place where Mexicans work as near-slaves. For Rich Americans. Yay, America!
why don't you leave. STFU
just make up lies as long as it fits your purposes. just like the bible babble
America was formed by predominantly Christian people, but critical contributors like Thomas Jefferson were not.
Stop lying for Jesus. Or do you actually believe what you're saying? If so, you should crack open a history and science book and put down your bronze age book of myths and stop believing everything your pastor is telling you.
You must not study history, most founding fathers were deists, meaning they believed in a higher power, but not religion. And the later tolerant christians ra ped pillaged and murdered the native peoples.
And, to all those quoting bible verses... Those are all from the OLD testament, you may also want to take a peek at the NEW testament, this would be that little part that talks about Jesus... Now I challenge you to find something inflammatory there, or find one thing that Jesus said that wasn't basically super friendly. Jesus had the same issues with the old testament that you do, that's why he was such a revolutionary figure. He basically reformed the views from the old testament and had a message of NOT judging others, kindness, patience and sacrifice for the sake of others. If you ate quoting the old testament as a way to stick it to Christians then you've missed the point of the new testament my friend... Name another religion that has done this.
The only reason you can be such a bigot to Christians with no repercussions is because of the new testament, specifically Jesus.
Anyway, if you hate Christians, good luck with that... The real joke is that you're probably miserable and angry where as most Christians I've met are kind and at peace.
Have a nice day!
Perfectly said. Have a lovely day.
I don't hate Christians, I hate religion. I hate ignorance and stupidity. Believing in 2000 year old myths is ignorant.
Jesus said "Pay the vineyard workers who only turn up almost at the end of the day, the same as those who worked hard all day". Somehow, I don't see that as an evangelical/republican/tea party belief.
You poor pathetic persecuted imbecil Christian. Does this mean we should toss out the 10 commandments as well and everything else in the OT or are you the typical hypocritical cherry picking POS True Christian®?
Deut. 28: 22
May the Lord afflict you with a wasting disease and recurrent fever, ague, and eruptions with drought and black blight and red and may these plague you until you perish.--Have a blessed day
To Luis Wu my question would be why do you hate at all?
To hate all religion and declare them all myths is itself an ignorant and stupid statement.
Some of the most close minded red necks I know are those that live in affluent urban areas and have a true fear of anything they don't fully understand. Please people, look at yourselves, by flatly hating Christians you have become what you most feared, an intolerant and small minded person.
And don't forget, the Obamas go to church and pray. Half of you have probably read some new agey book, or prayed in a moment by yourself so let us not be quite so self righteous.
Tony, you've obviously missed the point of that parable.
Jm, one of the best things I've read recently. Thanks and have a great day!
@ jm – why hate religion? Because it is the underlying cause of more death, destruction, and conflict than any other human inst-itution. Because it makes otherwise good people do terrible things. Because it is used by people to dominate and manipulate other weaker people. Because it is a form of child abuse. Because it is immoral.
What is more stupid, that some believe in Religion, or that you made a completely stupid contridictory statement?
And to in JJ, j honestly have no idea why you're so butt hurt by my comment. I actually never said I was a Christian at all. I'm just making some thoughtful observations.
Here is one lore thoughtful observation.. the thing most people today hate most about Christianity is they view it as intolerant and exclusive. Ironically these ate also two words that also describe your modern day atheist. It's a self righteous idea that others must take on your beliefs ( or lack of them) or that should be shunned. It's the atheists version of being a puritan.
Have a wonderful day!
"Most Christians are kind and at peace." You don't get around much, do you.
jm, What the non believers don't have is described by Paul in his epistle to the Christians of Phillipi in Phillippians 4:7.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Non believers don't have the peace of God, therefore they cannot understand how important it is to Christians.
I like this. I've told "Jesus" jokes many times. As well as God jokes. From where does our sense of humor come if not the Divine? If we all get along ... don't take ourselves too seriously ... and accept (or at least tolerate) what others have to say, the world would be a much better place. Jesus jokes, included.
Please repeat after me:
Publicly mocking Christianity is good fun; publicly mocking Judaism is anti-Semitism. This is the new religious tolerance, Soviet Union style.
And mocking Islam is a death wish. Don't mock Darwinists either, else you will be labeled an idiot.
A scattering is upon us in these trying days and Age. Leave your wantings behind and never take wind of one's longings for the weightiness of one's longings will smite even the most influential. Carry away nothing and leave. Head to the places inside one's being and do not keep ajar your door for many will want to enter in and should not. Your loving this Life is for the world to have and you should not heed the rumors from others as to just what is truly right. It is therefore best for mankind to simmer in their juvenile pottages never rationalizingly 'assaying' one's diffuse detriments, the very smallest of life's grains. As smitten breeds, our splendors reveal one's characters to be traitorous to one's analogous fold. Where then does Life end and living begin?
I understand the unbelief and criticism, Jesus Christ doesn't seem realistic. I spent the first 23 years of my life going through the typical motions of Christianity because I was raised that way. It took some major events to see that Jesus Christ is Lord. Four months ago God brought numerous people to me claiming they were demonized.... I was just like most of you thinking that these people are crazy. I've spent the last 4 months delivering people of these parasites. When you have had numerous accounts with demons trying to fit their hands around your neck stating " I would kill you if it wasn't for your Lord Jesus Christ"..... you can't miss the power of His name.
I am not a "delusional person", I'm 24 year old business owner that lives a typical life with a twist of spiritual warfare. I've seen prayer and spiritual gifts work through God's hand time and time again. I'm not expecting to change anybody's beliefs with this comment but do want to ask this question. "How sure are you Jesus Christ doesn't exist?" That is the most important question you could ever get wrong. Pray to God and ask him to show himself to you, He will.
If things get rough in this country, I pray that you think of the possibility of Jesus being able to pull you out. I know I am covered!
yep, you're delusional.
I was raised that way as well. But when I reached my mid-teens, I began taking a great interest in science. I started thinking logically, using reason and objectivity. At that point I saw religion for what it really is, ancient mythology, nothing more.
If you believe in demon possession you are delusional, just because someone claims to be possessed does not make it true. Demonic possession has been claimed for all kinds of problems, but not one case has ever been independently substatiated.
I'm am just as sure that your god doesn't exist just as you are sure that Zeus or Ra or Quezoacotl or thousands of other gods don't exist.
Wow! very well said! I myself have seen things people will tag as very strange. And I am not ignorant, I am not uneducated, actually I am quite very educated(will be a doc in 1.5 years) I have only chosen to accept that science does not explain everything like we like to think.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world" If our world is not Christ's Kingdom then, where is this world to be where Christ's Kingdom is to be so found? The Mormons would have one believe that a celestial planet named "Kolob" is where God's Kingdom should be lain. You would be wrong and foolish to believe such based upon Luke 17:21 stating, "The Kingdom of God is INSIDE YOU." How so is this to be that the Kingdom of God is 'inside' us?
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] GOD'S BUILDINGs. Our bodies are much more than mere residential buildings; for many bodies/buildings make up Godly cities so to say. Some embodied buildings are as storehouses keeping inside these storehouses much need treasures of the Divinely Sublime Gods, the Sons of the first God. Some embodied buildings are residential in the natures of Godliness keeping so together the Sons of the first God's family members and their servants.
Who before this day's Age is found worthy of Godly praise? Who after us will find peace set before them? Who in today;s timeline is this "son of man" that many should fear him for his worthiness stance? Who above can see the below? Who that is below can see what be above? From the very smallest crevice to the most high chasms, the Sea of Nothingness is the Holy Spirit. May the elemental Gods find favor in this found son of man that he may not be afflicted with this world's power but rather he should carry upon him the angst from his manhood till his natural death.
@luis Wu science only strengthen faith. The consciousness still exist and is a part of the universe we live in. Scientist have yet to fully describe it. Faith says God created water, some scienctist says no it was hydrogen and oxygen. From a logical standpoint God has not been factored out of the equation because you suddenly understand the variables in the formula. Since no human being is omniscient I regard most claims of understanding the universe and all it's mechanisms as shear ignorance. All throughout history claims have been made and disproven. Evidence and books destroyed for their threats against the establishments. To say that a being like Christ is too irrational to have ever existed is to say the Universe, with m theory, and possible multi verses, is some how limited simply because you can't fathom it. We are all prisoners of our time, go back 1000 years and explain to man that humans would one day land a machine on Mars and you would have been mocked and possibly killed. Same concept, use your logic, study sociology along with science and the pieces will come together.
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