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.
Of course both are imaginary beings, but the true story is Satan is GOOD and God is EVIL. Satan tapped God on the shoulder and asked God please don't flood the earth and kill all those innocent children. God answered and said "Bra ha ha ha! I am allmighty god and can do what I want. It would please me to see those babies drown in agony! Bra ha ha ha!". Satan said "that's wack, dude! You are one cruel, sick, evil monster". So Satan left heaven and promised to help mankind against the evil imaginary God. Then one day all the people grew up and realized God and Satan are both imaginary and they went away hand in hand as boyfriends forever. That is after God asked Satan's forgiveness for all of the mean spiteful things he did. The End.
For proof God is Imaginary visit http://www.godisimaginary.com
And in case you hadn't noticed, I am a COMPLETE IDIOT
Those who believe in a mythical god or Jesus are kinda wack- as in crazy.
Actually, go read the Book of Job. Satan (not yet the devil but a member of the heavenly council) and God make a wager on whether or not the righteous Job can be tempted to renounce God. The loving, compassionate God tells Satan to do whatever he wishes to Job short of killing him in order to test him, opening the way for Satan to kill Job's family, destroy his livelihood, and afflict him with disease and boils. In the end, Job sticks to his faith, so God restores his health and gives him a new family and lots more livestock. Whoopee. Nice God. Thanks for the misery, and thanks for killing my first family. What did they do to deserve this? Oh yeah, I forgot, God is great, don't ask silly questions.
The author of this article left out my favorite sub-genre of Jesus jokes, in which he's playing a round of golf with Moses. There are several variations and punchlines, but they're all hilarious!
I love these comment threads.. but the funniest thing is
"if God did NOT exist, if Jesus did NOT exist.. there'd be NO Atheists..."
You talk about Christians pushing God to non-believers, but you are a non-believer pushing at those that believe..
It'll all come out in the end.. and NO one will be able to come back and "tell" everyone else..
Are you willing to take the pascals wager?
We'll spend FAR more time on the OTHER side of DEATH than this one.. What if Christians are RIGHT? Let that lil' thought run around in your lil' minds!
...because in the end it wont matter if Christians are wrong, no loss, no gain..... just nothing.. but if there is a God.. the loss in INFINITE!
What if Muslims are right? You'll spend the rest of eternity in Hell. Grow a brain.
If you're really searching for truth, there's no place for serious consideration of Pascal's Wager.
Fear is not a sound foundation for faith. I do not believe in God. I do not fear God. If God exists, God will not punish me for my lack of belief. God is love. If God exists, then love exists, and God loves me just as much as he loves those who proclaim their faith in him/her/it ouf of fear. I fear no evil.
If there is no God, then all of us are delusional, including the atheists because when we die none of this will matter. If the atheists do not believe and feel that the believers are getting in their way, then I suggest to wait less than 100 years for most and you will soon part and your awareness will cease to exist and no amount of arguing for and against will make a difference. I choose to believe, we made a mess of religion not Jesus and as far as I am concerned Jesus is the only one of all that makes any sense to me. For the most part Jesus taught love and redemption.
If christians are right, then it means that heaven is full of gospel music and eternal worship. I'd rather go to hell, at least the screams will sound like death metal, and I'd much rather hear that for all eternity than gospel.
If christians want to win me over, it will have to be a heaven filled with weed, 3-somes with super models, and free high speed internet.
Pascal's wager implies that the God you're betting on is a mean-spirited fool. He can't figure out whether you're sincere or just gambling, but if you don't at least fake sincerity, he'll hurt you forever. And that's who you worship? Incidentally, you could make up a similar wager about any silly belief or practice. Going to "believe" them all? At least enough to fool the monkey king, or whatever?
Pascal's wager....now that's a tired one. How about this? What if God purposely set up the rise of religious mythology to test our powers of reason to sniff out bullshit? Therefore only those who see through the fallacies and absurdity of religion actually gain entrance to heaven. I mean if God gave you a brain didn't he intend for you to use it?
All religiious dogma is wrong. There is nof "if" about it. You migh as well ask "what if ufo nutters are right?"
What if my cat is the reiincarnation of Jesus the Christ? He is the power and the glory. Pray to him, out of fear just in case he is the second coming.
I took Pascal's wager, and Kierkegaard's leap of faith . . .but landed in another faith (nonchristian). What happened? Did I jump the wrong way? And why didn't my wager result in me becoming a Christian? I now believe in several gods, so what's up with that.
I'm startin' to question whether Pascal's wager results in a good return on investment. And the leap of faith? Jeez, it can land you anywhere. . .
Brad must be a busy boy. If he's afraid of being wrong, he must be worshiping every one of the thousands of gods humanity has invented. That's a lot of time and a lot of money.
Of course, if he only considers the possibility of the existence of the christian god, he will sure be sorry when he dies and discovers Anubis waiting for him, or Hades.
Have you ever been surprised? Say for example you opened a coffee can and a bunch of rubber snakes flew out. You believed beyond a shadow of a doubt there was coffee in that can. The label said it was coffee, someone told you it was coffee..but it wasn't. It didn't matter what you believed was in that can. I can tell you what I think might be a nice idea. But that isn't the same thing as being able to say that an idea is a fact. Its all OTT so why not laugh about it.
"No amount of belief makes something a fact." – James Randi
Prayer changes things.
Some of the kindest Christians I know are atheists.
What an offensive, unfunny joke re Jesus being Irish? News flash: as with all jokes that are designed to play off of stereotypes of ethnic groups, your joke was insensitive to say the least and smacks of outright bigotry. But, because the ethnic group your offending are of Irish decent rather than say African Americans, or Jewish Americans that makes the negative stereotyping acceptable.
Can you imagine the backlash against this article had the authors chosen a "joke" that plays off of other equally ignorant,
disgusting stereotypes of says Jews or Blacks...e.g. "Or perhaps Jesus was Jewish after all? He was too cheap to buy a wedding gift to the couple at cana, so he saved a ton of dough multiplying the fish instead." "Or perhaps Jesus was black? After all, he was a convict"
The fact is any " joke" that relies on such ignorant negative ethnic stereotypes should be shouted down at every turn, including this one. No matter what the group, Italians, Jews, African Americans, and the list goes on and on.....it shouldn't and doesn't make a difference....it's wrong!
Negative ethnic stereotypes of all kinds should be avoided, period. End of story -
Anal retentive much?
I still haven't heard a "Jesus joke". The entire topic mystifies me.
You need to bone up on your Scripture. Jesus didn't multiply the fishes at Cana – he turned the water into wine.
Funny how atheists often know more about the Bible than believers do.
LW – nice retort. You should be proud.
Fish, wine – Who cares, you totally miss the point and it was very clear – ethnic stereotyping is wrong.
The last temptation of christ was to pleasure himself with the holes in his hands.
Dear fellow Americans,
Could it just be that these things go on moslty in the US? I was born and raised in Europe before spending 30 years in the States. I now currrently reside in Italy.
I can assure you those things don;t happen here. Why?
Lack of freedom of speech?
Hmmm. Perhaps because Italy is a highly catholic country, what with the pope living there and all. Or perhaps you just aren't paying attention. Or perhaps no one jokes with you because they don't think you have a sense of humor.
How do you know an evangelist or Mullah is spewing delusional verbal diarrhea? Their lips are moving.
Joking about Jesus is Blasphemous, but not even ackowledging him is even more sad. I feel sorry for both sets of people, but more for the people that don't know the peace and love of Jesus Christ. Mocking and scoffing are commonly negative traits, just like satan. There's a time and place for joking, but not for making fun of the one that loved you so much and took upon your sins.
Have Jesus text me his message of love. Unless I get such, he does not exist.
You mean the peace and love two children feel just before they get shot by their mother because Jesus told her to?
How arrogant is it to say that you know more about god and truth than I do because I don't believe in your ancient scripture? How arrogant to tell me that I don't know the love of creation?
@Jason - Feeling sorry for a group is just another way of saying you consider yourself better than members of that group, which makes you pretty sick. Take your air of presumed superiority and shove it!
Jesus has a sense of humor.
Silly, silly person. God is imaginary and so is Jesus,and telling jokes about them is not only harmless It's fun!
I get what you are saying, even reading the jokes in this article just made me feel sad at what we have become.
Franco – So it's sad not to believe in ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense? You're pathetic.
I used to be an atheist but, your post has changed me. Jesus must be a God. The fact that you exist proves that Jesus is God and HE HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR.
Please. Can you please do humanity a favor? Like the many God I have heard of they are mostly male-made. With 7 billion people on earth, having religions around along with unbounded stupidity is such a risk we need to avoid. We don't need an imaginary friend to teach love. We human learn to care or love for each other because it's a matter of survival. The evolution of cooperation tells us that our chance of survival might increase if we learn to care and work together. So please, go tell your Jesus, flying angels, tinker bells, or walking holy cows that we human are sick of it.
Reblogged this on allthingshipblog.com.
TG, before spouting such pure unadulterated nonsense, you might want to take a course in world geography. The City of Babylon was never in its history surrounded by the River Euphrates. In fact the only thing which surrounded the city was its great wall and the wall's eight gates, the most famous of which was the Ishtar Gate, rebuilt many years after its initial destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar II.
NSL: no one cares. Your correction, if it's actually true, has absolutely no bearing on the substance of this article.
I care. If someone can't get this right, what else have they gotten wrong?
Christianity IS a joke. Like ALL other religions.
You proudly proclaim your ignorance as you toss out the baby with the bath water.
No, I believe in science, logic, reason and objectivity, not ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense.
Religious people are the ignorant ones. They blindly accept ancient mythology and superst!tious nonsense, while rejecting modern science, logic, reason and objectivity. Grow a brain.
you beleive in science??? Lol that's a good one. Even the most important scientists said that science can explain how things work BUT if you want to know how they got there or how they were made you need only to look for God, any other answer will make you look foolish & incompetent.
@Say it ain't so – Which God??? There are so many. All of the gods that have been worshiped since the beginning of history would fill 10 football stadiums. But of course YOURS is the only one that's real. Grow a brain.
Say it ain't so: "... if you want to know how they got there or how they were made you need only to look for God, any other answer will make you look foolish & incompetent."
Good approach to life in general. I guess long ago we should have stopped looking for answers to anything and just attributed everything to God, rather than waste our time on science. We could still believe the sun goes around the earth, disease is punishment for our sinful nature, mental illness is due to demonic possession, and as for all those things science has given us – electricity, flight, medicine, and so on and so forth ad infinitum – well, who needs them when God will provide everything we need?
This is a typical argument by believers – if science can't answer every question right now, then it is flawed and the answer must be "God did it" (the "God of the gaps" argument). However, science has continued over the centuries to fill in those gaps, forcing God to retreat. In another century, we will have even more answers to the big questions. God's realm becomes tinier all the time.
Stay away from all religions. We do learn how to care for each other. We don't need to wear on ourselves a "Holy" uniform to commit to hatred, intolerance, and LIES. You christians are "LIE" monger. You either lie or love to be lied to. Isn't it ironically pitiful?
When does the Pope say, "Jesus Frickin' Christ"? That would be right after another multi-million dollar lawsuit is filed against another Diocese.
Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children and the murder and enslavement of thousands of women and children in Numbers: 31.
6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.
You know your a bigot when you spend so much time attacking those that do not share your beliefs. I speaking about Luis Wu. If you feel this is all nonsense, why the great attack?
Top one sign that you are a bigot...You create this list...
Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
how many times do you post the same cut and paste?
I am an atheist, by the way.
You should read, "Is God a moral Monster?" You'll probably find it an interesting read.
11. The evidence for the Bible being true is greater than any book in history and nothing about its history has ever been proven unreliable. but people like you still choose Hedonism.
Ignorance and stupidity should be opposed at every opportunity. e.g. all religions.
Luis Wu, you've posted at least 3 times in this thread, with anger directed toward Christians. If you are looking for the 'problem' perhaps you should start with a little self reflection. Your 10 points about Christians are so off the mark about real Christians, that you only prove you are guilty of the very ignorance you are wanting to find in people outside yourSELF. The blanket statements you make are chock full prejudice, and hate. Why do you suppose it is okay for some people to HATE, but not for others?
@Damaged goods – I posted here because I feel strongly that ignorance and stupidity (religion) should be opposed at every opportunity. You are a case in point.
That settles it, I'm officially not a christian.
The more facts i read about it- it seems less likely we came out of macroevolution though. Things just don't "happen"- and the complexity of this world and life infers remarkable design. Do the math, think about the probability. From the coding in DNA to the big bang to the idea that we all move toward patterns and order...like, if we were really random then why don't we crave noise? When did the last explosion you saw 'create' order? pattern? formulas? and time for that matter?
Look, I value science- I teach mathematics. I don't know everything but when i think about the probability needed for such a string of events to happen??
One of my co-teachers told me once that, "a flipper would have to become a bad flipper long before it became a good leg" and that idea still resonates with me today. The transient fossil record is...lacking. A book i read by Bill Bryson i think, talked about the current science and i got the picture he was uncomrfortable with some of the assertions coming out the actual fossil record– and i don't think Bill is a Christian by any means.
The strength in Christianity is the fact that you can joke about it without fear of creating a riot or being victimized. Non-violence and acceptance of others is supposed to be the cornerstone of Christianity. Those who hide bigotry, hatred, fear, and intolerance of others whom they perceive as different under a "religious veil" and in the name of Jesus, are not true Christians. It's time to "lighten up" when it comes to religious rhetoric, the greater the rhetoric, the greater the backlash against religion. The extremism of the Evangelical Christian right and their constant proselytizing and whining has no place in true Christianity. It's time to live and let live and to accept people for who they are, America is becoming more diversified every day with a greater variety of beliefs, religions, and cultures. True Christians are willing to accept this and set an example by being tolerant, non judgmental, and caring of those who look at life differently than they do.
While the things that you say are true, it should also be noted that whenever any sect of christianity has had authority and power in any government, then it always becomes intolerant of criticism and in fact, anything that is not christianity. This is true of any organized religion.
To "Jean" – That is why the founding fathers of America incorporated the "Separation of Church and State" when the US was created. They were very wise.
If god is so morally perfect, why didn't he impregnate a girl that wasn't already married?
If there is a god, it's pretty clear now that he/she has a liberal bias.
A liberal bias? What are you talking about? Jesus said that he is the only way to heaven. He said the path to heaven is narrow and few will find it. He told the woman at the well go and sin no more. He didn't tell her to apply for food stamps, and it doesn't matter if she keeps whoring. Jesus not only condemned promiscuity, he condemned fantasizing about it. Jesus did not say the lazy and the immoral shall inherit the earth. Jesus condemned greed but he never advocated for government redistribution.
Doug- What does liberalism have to do with being lazy pr promiscuity? Oh right... Fox News, gotcha!
Bet you don't have the baIIs to write an article like this about the beloved mohammed, I dare you. Just don't mention him by name or show any likenesses of him and maybe they won't be calling for you head.
Humor reflects the culture in which it exists, and currently, while there are Muslims, they are a relatively powerless minority in the United States at this time. In the US, there is no need to really concern ourselves with the potential of islamic rule, as it is unlikely in the extreme. Christian rule is a possibility, however, as Christians are more or less a majority here and there are groups of them who are eager to try to turn this country into a chrisian theocracy.
That is of concern to freedom loving Americans and that is why you will see more articles addressing Christian influence in our society, not fear of an Islamic boogeyman.
Best way to explain this is that those who claim to worship Jesus only worship the version they make up of him. This apocalyptical character of fiction is certainly not universal, but individual to the point that one Jesus is never worshipped, and millions of different versions of him are.
Peter was at the bottom of the hill when Jesus was on the cross. He heard Jesus cry out. "Peter!"
"I'm coming Lord!" Peter shouted and proceeded to try and climb up the hill to his Saviour.
But the Roman soldiers beat him and kicked him back down the hill.
Then he hears Jesus again shout "PETER!"
"I'm coming Lord!" Peter shouts and again tries to climb the hill.
But once again, he's beaten and kicked back down the hill.
Then Jesus shouts even louder "PETER!!!"
This time Peter fights and claws his way up the hill to Jesus' feet.
He's all black and blue and bloody from his beatings by the Roman soldiers.
He says, "What is it Lord?"
Jesus replies, "I can see your house from here!"
LOL, good one. Haven't heard that one before.
This clip has been out for years. I first saw it about 5 years ago. I didn't know it would be shown here.
If Myth Romney and the Repubs had won, they'd order it taken down.
As an Agnostic person, this does not have much effect on me, but I believe it can scare religious people.
Wait till you pass away. The video only mirrors what was before the earth and known at the begining of the earth. People have always had trouble with the truth. There are so many words missing from this video which is pretty good for non believers of which there will always be untill a certain time of Gods choosing. Let us wait.
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