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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Since the beginning of Churches the Churches have destroyed or hid any knowledge they found threatening. And yet the people following these massive human organizations are sure they know the truth.
That my friends, defines faith!
Really? Is that why the Church created the entire University system in Europe? To hide knowledge? Try again.
And, not for nothing, but this is not how any reasonable person defines faith; you're suggesting it's a slavish adherence to something you, defacto, can't know anything about. But religion (at least Catholicism) views God quite differently.
We educate people our way proves that they have the truth?
Can you write a coherent sentence? I have no idea what you are attempting to say.
The priest, Diego de Landa, wiped out all knowledge of the written language of the Mayans. And today as a Catholic you insist that is preserving and sharing knowledge.
And you wonder why sane people mock.
Here is what you should be saying.. "I will spin the past to better reflect my defense on my religion."
Again, your grammar aside (I think you want a "you" at the end of your last sentence), to say that individual priests have not acted badly would be ignoring history. We don't. In our own time, priests have abused children and some of their supervisors covered it up. These are an inexcusable acts ... no one denies that. But to view that as the policy of the Church would be to ignore history. The enlightenment (which values individuals – because we're all made in the image and likeness of God) came about precisely because of the beliefs of the Church. Ask yourself, why didn't the enlightenment happen in China?
I believe that Blasphemy was trying to say that the church established the university system so that they could control what people learned. They also controlled what was published. Any discoveries about the natural world that didn't support church doctrine was suppressed. Galileo's discoveries are some that most people are familiar with, obviously there are many others.
"Ask yourself, why didn't the enlightenment happen in China?"
Blasphemy should learn to speak for himself. Regardless, the idea that the Church conspired to hide knowledge is interesting. Aside from flying in the face of, say, the Jesuit, Augustinian, or Benedictine traditions (for example), I would be interested in hearing your evidence. Ok. You'll cite Galileo (a situation that was also handled quite badly by finite, fallible men) but that's one paragraph, on one page, of a very, very long book.
"why didn't the enlightenment happen in China?"
Just what enlightenment are you referring to? You do know that China is one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations.
Or did they fail to teach you that in Catholic School?
Answer: so what is your answer? It's because there was no belief that all individuals matter. The Greek tradition was the same. So you can laugh out loud at the question but there is a resounding silence by way of an actual answer from you.
It's always the idiots -who are the devout defenders- that NEVER see the progress of other nations when they themselves are so blind to the world around them.
China was at one time FAR FAR advanced compared to the rest of the world.. then they stopped all of a sudden. If they were to reach farther and looked into the technology of making glass... they would have 'conquered' the world with it's influence.
Just that one thing - glass. They had porcelain and then they stopped.
You're that impatient? Already knew you s-c-u-m-b-a-g-s were.
You know ... THE enlightenment? Descartes, Newton, Bacon, Locke ... guys like that? And I'm not saying that China wasn't a developed society. But they have never valued the individual, as happened in the west ... precisely because of the Church. And I would put you Jesuit education against yours any day, particularly if your level of writing is any indication.
k's reasoning is circular. He knows that his enlightenment brought to him by the Catholic Church is fact. That fact proves it is enlightenment.
I know.. they're all the same.
"My religion is the best. See the world was made what it is -today- because it came from my religion. The people who were scientists were of my faith.. blah blah blah."
Any person who was of their faith that brought misery upon the world wasn't of their faith. That fact is always "convenient".
It's called the argumentative theory of reasoning, and it says that humans didn't learn to ask questions and offer answers in order to find universal truths.
We did it as a way to gain authority over others. People like k think that reason itself evolved to help us bully people into getting what we want.
God's Oldest Dreamer
That was not me, a hindu, copy cat.
don't lie you terrorist.
hindu, Lucifer's, atheist call.
shut up you terrorist crook, go blow your Allah.
Once again we hear from programmed brain washed christians who are either too stupid or too lazy to research some of the more outrageous claims of their religion. Here are a few; Moses and the Israelites did not cross the Red Sea, it was a marsh called the Sea of Reeds, Mary was not a virgin, the word "almah" translates into “a young woman will be with child” and their weren't "giants in the world" as nephilim roughly translates as "men who fell from the sky" and you can look for the ark forever and you won't find it because it never existed, only in the Epic of Gigamesh.
Why didn't Jesus replace the stone from the tomb when he rose from the dead?
Well, he was born in a barn!
Why did he have to remove the stone? Couldn't he just walk right through it?
The cool thing about the Bible is if you don't like what it says you can change it and people will continue to follow it because: It is the Bible!
and the good thing is anyone can change or reinterpret it and people will still think its magic and send you money
Is there not the bath tub of saltiness or the Sticky Spirit from whence came about the complex beings we smell as being the fertilizer? Are not these complex bird droppings considered by immigrants to be of a micro odiferous precise to strawberry yield? Field mice hence hanta virus ‘gives’ such to be of pesticides itself? Do we not ignore our one time longings taking great note of the hugely obese things of Farming considered as being merely a cross- pollination event? The manure of fertilization could not be if it weren't for the 'irrigation' these large sprinkler systems provide and boundaries of in-celled acreage. My body having a sore back from picking cannot be reconciled by profuse low wages and snubbing of hard work in hot sun-baked.
Love Let Us,
Sorry, I meant "...hard work in hot sun-baked fields." ;)
I think happy happy thoughts and not about much else other then sports. Every Sunday I go to a magic house with many magical statues, where a robed man leads us in magical rituals and prayers sometimes even light a magical LED candle, when its almost done we have to put money in the magic basket so the magic gets sent to our God.
and good frickin riddance
I think people on our side of the world, being continental America (south, central and north) who grew up hearing of Jesus did so in a society that did not threaten death or serious legal trouble for talking about Jesus loosely. And I mean people who grew up recently, like within the last century. I grew up in a very Catholic country in south america but never did anyone make me feel fear for having told a joke with Jesus in it, and there were jokes already aroudn that time when I was a kid in 1980. Usually we used Jesus as part of the joke to make fun of someone "you have such bad breath that even Jesus doesn't wanna listen to your prayers" etc and also jokes about Jesus himself.
In other areas of the world jokes like this about Allah or who knows who else can get you beaten up or even killed. So I think that is why we on the west are more laid back about jokes in general.
The laid backness in my original country has remained the same what has changed though is the rise of annoying Atheist people. I have noticed this here in North America as well. Highly opinionated even when not necessary, highly intolerant of every other persons faith even if that person is not even sharing anything about their faith, highly activist like online and in social circles cracking down on saying like "Oh God knows" when the person saying it is not even crazy about faith herself/himself, etc.
I live in Canada, very multicultural, it's been fine and I'm happy over here. I have not had any issues with anyone, the orient and eastern religion people have been fine, never shove their religion in my face, friendly people, my christian neighbors have been great, they throw amazing barbecues, and although they talk about God a lot and pray before they eat it never bothers me enough to stop coming for the juice steaks. Just in my city the Atheist are the ones that "preach" to me. Not to say this is the case everywhere because on a recent visit to the U.S I run into a lot of street preachers with loudspeakers, and boy these are annoying as they get, I almost feel like hitting them.
Anyway, I am spiritual but not associated with any particular group nor can I identify myself with anyone and to me anyone who shoves their faith or lack of it gets annoying and they are on the same boat in my book. Im happy to live on this side of the world.
The essence of your words are like this "Atheists should not be so forthright with their comments." "Atheists should just take it and not talk back."
Ya sure. Don't take a stance and confront the idiots on their bs.
Oh no, dont get me wrong, if someone is shoving their crap down your throat, do put a stop to it. Punch them in the face if you want. I gave specific examples, I am not asking an atheist to quietly take unwarranted preaching. I am referring to the annoying atheists and also religious people who want to force their crap on you without you asking for it. Like the Christian preachers on the street saying all sorts of things in their loudspeakers as you walk by. Like that, atheists are also, just in this website alone, just scroll down and read all the stuff some of them say, calling people names for having a certain faith or a different point of view. To me they are just as annoying as the street preacher. They want to attack and disrespect anyone who doesn't have their exact same opinion.
Okay, Nando. Your opinion has been noted.
Thank you sir. Im glad you understood I wasn't trying to say one entire group was worse than other. I love America. Couldn't tell you just how glad I am to be here.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 John 4:1-6 NKJV
The fact that everyone is supposed to be a creation of god and then "he who is not of God does not hear us. "
You idiots are so funny. XD
So much for John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world".
"Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
"And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
The authority of the bible is equivalent to that of any book. You can quote it all day, but it has no more power than humans on earth give it. You might as well be quoting one of the Twilight books.
So, by what authority do you speak, and why should we listen to you?
I speak with the authority of logic. Whether you believe me or not is up to you.
Congratulations. You've learned how to cut and paste.
Now go learn how to think critically. It's harder.
The biggest joke of all on Jesus is how little Christians listen to him.
The fact that they worship him demonstrates that.
The idea is that they accept his sacrifice, dying for sins. Jesus himself said to worship God.
Yeah, I would get in on that scam had I not been cursed with conscience. Drats!
@ John: What sacrifice are you referring to? God sends a tiny piece of himself to Earth in human form – Jesus. This tiny bit of God lives for a bit, dies, comes back to life and returns to God. That's not a sacrifice. I said it earlier – that's like Bill Gates lending you a penny for a nanosecond, knowing that he has an infinite supply of pennies, and that he has the power to get the penny back – no questions asked, and in fact he does get the penny back. God hasn't sacrificed anything; Jesus hasn't sacrificed anything. That part of Christian dogma is just silly.
Jesus died for your sins so you can kill others for theirs.
Who can be for Christ when many declared Christians cannot understand His Words? Did not Christ say that this world of ours is not and cannot be His Kingdom? Did not Christ reportedly declare that His Kingdom is not of this world? Are we not left up to our own vices for living here in this world that is not Christ's Kingdom Domain?
this world of ours, will be, Kingdom of truth absolute Allah, goon of Jesus, if necessary, BY FORCE.
Forgot to mention, John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world"
"E" whose 'goonies' are you referring upon? Me? Or?
no, goon Jesus, denier of truth absolute Allah, ignorant
Hey, Eliminate – turn off the random word generator.
Ya, goons, my Taliban father fig ure, grangmaster Mullah told me, force is absolutely permitted to eliminate Jesus, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist gays, all, criminality of Jesus, according to Sunni ism, crime of truth absolute Allah , Wahhabi criminal crooks, have no doubt about in your mind, ignorant skuns.
At least you don't get the "two Jesuses walked into a bar".....unless it's a Monty Python skit.
And the bartender says, "hey guys, how's it hangin'?"
And the bartender asks, "A couple of Rusty Nails?"
See that lamb in the picture above? I'm getting ready to put him on the bar-b-que pit. Love those lamb chops. Wash it down with a frosty cold one.
Don't forget the bread! For Christ's sake don't also forget the wine!
Nothing funny here. They nailed me to a cross. I think they then to liberty with my harem.
You say potato, I say pototto, You say stigmaita, I say stay stigmotta. So, you know, let's call the whole thing, off I guess.
To call Jesus, human ism, corruption of truth religion is a under statement, doofus ism, corruption of truth is secu lair ism, a crime against truth absolute GAWD, FOUNDATION OF EXISTENCE ISLAM and HIS hum enity, desire, of Jinnat hoors, vir gins. worth not of just a joke, but elimination for Jesus, Islam among hum anity by implementation of consti pation of allah, if necessary, BY FORCE. BY LAXATIVE TEA. PERIOD.
Remember those late-night infomercials for the salad shooter?
This is what happens when you feed one a dictionary.
No. This is what happens when you feed one a Koran verses, goon.
Atheist believe all life came from blind chance. The belief in Evolution breaks scientific laws. These crazy atheist are just as crazy as the religious. They need to come up with new material then just saying they are smarter then everybody else. I also don't get why they are so angry all the time. True science disproves there myths
True science eh?
The ID-iots still want their troops to keep these taglines.. pitiful.
Those crazy atheists with their crazy facts. SO crazy!
No one claims "blind chance". By using that argument you just show your ignorance. And even if it were wrong it does not therefore mean "god did it" and certainly not your god.
Name ONE scientific law broken by evolution.
Extra credit if you can explain it.
Please don't be stupid. Last i checked its a 'Theory' not a fact. At the same time my own faith may be changing as I read these comments! Maybe some of you are half monkey or ape or whatever your dogmatic doctrine teaches
Hate to break it to ya, Pedro, but Evolution is not an Atheist idea.. it's a scientific fact that is agreed upon by pretty much the entire scientific community. Most atheists just tend to accept it as a fact because we are rational people and denying scientific facts is irrational.
I'm always so amused when some bozo who can't figure out the "there"/"their" thing attempts to tell others all about evolution, and then follows up by making himself look even more idiotic by making some inane comment about apes and monkeys.
Pedro, when you actually make it through high school, send out an announcement.
'Second law of thermo-dynamics' and living matter cannot come from non-living matter
Go on.. explain the next law of thermodynamics. XD
Pedro is trolling, his idiotic arguments are too obvious and cliche
And here is some tip for you by 'sickened'..
You show a toddler's level understanding of Christianity. How pathetic. Do some reading about something and find out what it really says before you make idiotic comments like this.
You will notice the word "Christianity".. I would like for you to replace it with the word "science".
quantum physics explains that there is matter that can faze in and out of existence...something from nothing. There is never zero matter in any space.
Poor Pedro, using ESL (poorly, I might add) to try and show he's not delusional, and actually is smart.
U guys are retarded.
No, Pedro, you're stupid.
@Sane Person "Those crazy atheists with their crazy facts."
These crazy atheist, crooks, are just as crazy as Pedro, goon of Jesus, denier of truth absolute Allah, Al, The, La, second law of Thermos Dynamics, consti pation of truth absolute GAWD, ignorant.
'Second law of thermo-dynamics' and living matter cannot come from non-living matter."
Not even a good try. You probably don't even know what themo-dynamics is, much less the 2nd Law. In any event, the 2nd Law does not pertain to evolution because it only applies to a CLOSED system. Living creatures are OPEN systems; they get their energy from outside themselves. Abiogenesis is also not a problem for evolution. Theory of Evolution says NOTHING about how life began. It "merely" explains how, to quote, Darwin, "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
Anybody with a rudimentary high-school education should know these things. Unless they choose to be willfully ignorant.
Gravity is just a theory.....so go jump off a bridge.
Ultimately, all systems are closed. If you want to go outside a given system, you will just find yourself within a larger system. You need to do yourself a favor and look up "necessary existence". Set aside the brainwashing you were given in school and open your mind. You'll feel muchh better for it.
These anti-science arguments from "true believers" get tiresome. Even the most hard-core creationist Web sites have started quietly telling their followers to stop using a whole host of arguments (like "evolution is just a theory") because they have been soundly debunked OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
Theories are not educated guesses, bozo, nor do the best ones someday get promoted to facts. Theories are ALWAYS provisional, because the science behind them is always subject to challenge if better information is found (unlike religion, which relies on stories told by Bronze Age people who thought the sun went around the Earth).
I like the suggestion that if you don't believe in the soundness of theories, go jump off a bridge and test the theory of gravity. Or stick a fork in a wall socket and test the theory of electromagnetism. Go hang around sick people and test the germ theory of disease. Have fun. Of course, you could always pray to God to stop you from getting smushed like a bug, electrocuted, or sick. Good luck with that.
Ever hear the joke about God sending his son who is also him but not him down to earth by impregnating a virgin who was engaged to someone else, so that she could give birth to God/Jesus so that he could grow up and be tortured to death to apease himself for something he started in the first place?
It's an oldy but a goody.
Genesis 6:6 "When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved. He gave himself to justify himself because he is just.
My mom, Mary, told me she was not a virgin. She go nailed by some of the goats. Not sure if that counts, but she thinks so.
"God will not be mocked." Sam Kennison, the comedian, made a career out of Jesus jokes, in particulare, mocking Jesus on the cross. Sam Kennison was killed in an car crash, and was buried on...Good Friday. God will NOT be mocked.
Sickened: My dad forgives everybody. He did not cause the car crash.
sickened: your god is a vindictive, petty punk. get back on your knees, you snivelling sycophant
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.