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.
All I can say is, if all the intellectual and spiritual power evinced in all 51 pages of this discussion were applied to picking up litter we'd be lucky if one Big Mac sack made it into the trash. I suggest you all go back and re-read Durkheim on the origins and social purposes of religion.
You can't even prove I replied to you, and I'm a living human being typing right now to you. If you don't want God to exist, the form of the scriptures given to others centuries ago, is hopeless, for you. God even made it simplier than that, he threw in stumbling blocks so you can trip, fall, and ignore what he said, and feel right about it. For you, you got what you wanted, and so did God.
John, God does not exist unless some proof has been found in the last few hours that I haven't heard of.
When the phrase 'Jesus loves you' gives you a shiver up your spine? When you're in a Mexican prison.
Jesus, I promise you will have the last laugh.
"Lastly"- tends to leave a smirk unjustly hanging around as the crucible of chioce.
So, you have power to grant Jesus, God, a wish? Should we all bow down to you instead?
Did you hear the one about Mohammed? No, that's because the teller was beheaded in mid-sentence.
Imagine that! Last words never spoken lost in the slew of admonitions.
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Your comments about Catholics are ridiculous and highly offensive.
For those of you talikng about an imaginary friend, who are earth are you referring to? We were talking about God and Jesus, not some "Imaginary friend". Keep up with us, please.
Your comments make about as much sense as saying something like.. "That wide receiver made an exceptional catch for the touchdown, therefore anyone who plays football is exceptional." Or maybe.. "My brother lied to me one time, therefore all brothers are liars." or "I once saw a man hug a grizzly bear, therefore all grizzly bears welcome hugs", or how about "A man in Michigan killed someone, therefore anyone who lives in Michigan is a murderer". .. I could go on.
You need to re-evaluate your world view, because it has been twisted.
Visit Fox News for the truth? Lol.
It is easy to make fun of something or someone when you don't have the balls to look them in the face.
If you're talking about our son, he doesn't exist. Not so easy to look him in the face.
Are you saying that you'd punch someone for making fun of the Prince of Peace? I guess we all know who's been sleeping during sermons, eh?
Being that this is a thread about poking fun at Jesus it seems impossible to look someone in the face who's been dead for 2000 years.
Produce your imaginary friend so we can make fun of it to its face.
Did your mom teach you to say that when the other kids were making fun of your imaginary friend when you were a kid?
My take, from a bit of scripture reading, is that Jesus would have been cool with people making jokes at his expense.
These comments show just how demoralized atheists have become. You are so infatuated with something you don't believe in.
If we believed in Jesus being some kind of vengeful god like you do we'd be too afraid to make fun, is that what you're saying? If there was a historical Jesus he probably wouldn't be too amused with being made a blasphemous mockery, like Christianity has. I feel sorry for that humble rabbi. I can't imaging the torment having that much blood on your hands would do to a person.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Jesus healed the ear, rebuked Peter, and said "he who lives by the sword, dies by it." Christians should ignore these juvenile jokesters. As Jesus demonstrated in Gethsemane, He doesn't need defending. THis makes agnostic and atheist redicule simply harmless.
You are absolutely correct when you state that we are harmless. We promote tolerance, fairness and truth. The only people that would find us harmful would be the religious believers that promote intolerance, inequity and lies, the foundation of their blissful union with their God.
It is so incredibly and blatantly clear to see what is right and what is wrong that there lies the crux of deception in the guise of holiness. It is not just the churches that continue this injustice but it is their far right organizations spewing conspiracy theories and outright lies, lies that can be fact checked and proven to be lies. Yet still they hold on to the lies.
As we evolve we will see, as we already have, the diminishing number of people that can actual buy into their rhetoric and madness. The important point to remember, however, is desperate people do desperate acts in order to bring their world back under their control.
Demonstrate your passion, don't give up the fight for the truth and fairness and point it out to the believers, give them the facts, ask them the hard questions, place them in that corner when they cannot answer. Hopefully they may finally take a look at themselves and see the misguided, misinformed world view they so desperately hold on to.
About as "harmless" as James Randi exposing Peter Popoff as a fake.
@ Prime number dont forget the next verse "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?"
There was a robber and he went to this big house on a hill Well when he saw the Priest wasn't home he went into the house Before he had even taken two steps, he heard a voice say "Jesus is watching you and so am I" The burglar turned around and saw a parrot in a cage "Oh it's just a stupid bird" he said Right after he took a couple more steps, he heard the parrot say "Jesus is watching you and so am I" "Shut up you stupid bird" he said As he continued he was about level with the dinning table when he heard the parrot say "Jesus is watching you and so am I" Before he could turn to say shut up he heard a low growl come from under the table and a huge pit bull came out The parrot said "Sic um Jesus"
Jesus gets bashed and the media don't bat an eye. Muhammad gets bashed and the response is quite different. There's a double standard. Why?
Because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
For whatever reason people are afraid of the truth and will gravitate toward
other doctrine and beliefs. I am very encouraged every time I see or hear a Christian
being mocked because that is what happed to Jesus and he told us it would also
happen to His followers.
the famous christian persecution complex rears it's ugly head again
will: perhaps people do not accept YOUR VERSION of the "truth"
Because Christians dont really believe – they just say they do, for the sake of appearances. Now, people who are willing to blow themselvel up for their religion – those people are believers!!
Go back a few hundred years, and you'd find people being burnt at the stake for "bashing Jesus." Islam hasn't had as many years to mellow out at Christianity has. Eventually, they'll chill too, and someone can dis the Prophet without getting death threats. Eventually, they'll all mellow out enough that people will stop killing each other over differences in belief.
But here's a thought for any believer: Nearly every religion claims they are the "One True Way." Even variations of the same religion make that claim over the others. Logically, they can not all be right. However, logically, they can all be wrong.
Me, I've always settled on the side of logic, but the choice is yours.
Gay people get bashed, verbally and sometimes physically, in the name of Jebus all the time. Why?
"O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great dispair. Yea, admit this kind and decent woman into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there. And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give her a break."
Well, to incite the rhetoric once again, why have someone hanging on a Cross when you can have Obama in the White House? Obama is much more realistic to many Americans than Jesus will ever be. It's a pity, because Obama (not Jesus) will be gone in four years. I guess we can argue about Jesus for an Eternity.
Today is Veterans Day and men and woman have died so we have this right. Shame on CNN for promoting this type of attack on religious freedom and insulting the fallen shoulders, who probably prayed to God with their last dying breath. I would like to see you try to lay your life on the line for the freedom of others, instead of sitting behind a desk. You couldn’t do it, have some respect.
Christianity is a cult and doesn't deserve to be respected.
how is this an attack on religioius freedom? you are free to worship any way you wish
also, hiyaall, what makes you think those responsible for this article did not defend our country and lay their lives on the line?
"fallen shoulders" – are you drunk??? Assuming that you mean "fallen soldiers" – You know that you dont have to be christian to serve in our the US army, right??
"hiyaall": Dead shoulders? Do, you think that Veteran's/Remembrance Day is about rotator cuff injuries?
Seriously, though, stop trying to exploit the dead in your effort to support your religion. It's disgusting.
1: This article is not an attack on Religious Freedom. Not quite sure how you came to that conclusion.
2: Go to a military cemetery. Notice that soldiers of many religions are represented.
3: This article has nothing to do with disrespect for the men and women who served their country with honor and distinction.
4: Do not assume that the commenters here, or the author, haven't already paid their respects, or ARE, veterans.
It's Veteran's Day not Memorial Day...Veterans are the ones who survived. Memorial Day is for the ones who did not survive...prayer is like the rest of religion...you can't prove it works or fails (I am sure you have heard of the "Unanswered Prayer" explanation of why something did not go the way someone was praying it would). IF the Bible was correct and "if two of you shall agree on earth concerning anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in Heaven" then many people would never suffer or die. But people die because "God works in mysterious ways" and "We can't understand God's plan" and "They are in a better place".... IF you believe that the Bible is the word of God...then you must believe ALL of it and be able and willing to defend ALL of it...but you can't...no one can because the MEN who ASSEMBLED it were about as clueless of what the future would be like as most people are about the inner workings of an integrated circuit or the MAGIC (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) used to stack charges onto a multi-layered harddrive disk.
Anyway, I laid my life on the line – Viet Nam, 68-69 – and I'm not at all offended by the timing of this article. It came out on Nov 10, not a special day by any means. Veteran's Day is Nov 11. Get a grip.
Probably more dying soldiers (or shoulders, whatever) call out for their mothers rather than God. And if they do call out for God, so what? It doesn't mean that he exists.
Is Jesus the Same As God?
John 10:30: I and my father are one.
Jesus is God.
John 14:28: I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
God is greater than Jesus.
Your posting on John 14:28 is a misunderstanding and though it may say that and read that jesus said I and my father are one and that verse is there to help show that Jesus Christ the son of GOD was as human as we are go back and read John 14:20-31
Moses was a good man?
Moses saw an Egyptian beating up a Hebrew. He looked around, saw no witnesses, killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
And Moses did not get to go into the promised land. God punished him too. So what is your point?
Moses suffered a lot after that incident, and God decided to use him. Key word use him...
There's no evidence outside of the bible that Moses ever existed, but for the sake of argument, let's say he did. So god "uses" Moses to suit his purposes, torments and kills a bunch of innocent people with sickness, storms and invasive insects, including murdering a whole generation of male babies, makes his "chosen people" wander around in the desert for forty years, and then doesn't allow Moses into the "Promised Land" because he hits a rock twice instead of once. Let's not forget that god also nearly killed Moses because his son wasn't circ.umcised.
Your god sounds like a spoiled, petulant brat.
One more time
The Order of Creation
Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.
Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.
Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.
Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.
Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.
I told him, back when we were coding up the whole Celestial Sphere interface to NOT go to the focus group, and if he did, to by no means let BOTH versions of the script out. Knew it would cause nothing but trouble,
All taken at face value which is why you must read and study and ask GOD for the answers and with what you are posting and questioning the word of GOD ALL I CAN AND WILL DO is take your name to GOD in prayer
If your god is so loving and caring, why does it hide away and make you guess at what it wants?
GOD does not hide and he does not make me guess what he wants I know what GOD what wants from me he wants me to love him with all my heart soul mind body and strength and he wants me to love my neighbor as myself and you are my neighbor so i love you as I am commanded too and I am also asked to take your name to the lord in prayer so I will do that. GOD loves you you are his creation and he would like it if you loved him back. So may GOD BLESS YOU
All that effort into loving a deity leaves no room to love others. Sad.
There is pleanty of love for other people but you have to understand that the love for others comes GOD because with out his love for us and we couldnt show other people love because he helps us love one another pick up a bible and read 1 john4:18
Bold claims call for bold evidence. Christianity has none. Christians and Jesus are mocked because of the pettiness and self-righteousness of contemporary Christian culture in the US. Race has nothing to do with it. But for sake of argument he was a Palestinian and probably had the skin of a Palestinian.
First of all, pretty much everyhthing "Ricky Bobby" is involved with is tasteless, so no surprise there. South Park is just disgusting and rude, and Family Guy is pure crap, with a sidetrip to hateful. The Colbrert Report tries to be funny and never succeeds. Saturday Night Live hasn't been funny for over 40 years... It is a sad take on the American way of life or TV viewers taste in just about anything to say that these are revered shows! I confess I never watched w1 Jump Street... After viewing that other trash, why should I? You want to knock someone try the tasteless comedians that abound on the upper channels of your cable box— or some of the "realirty" shows that pretend to know anything worth knowing — and are not worth your time. Amen.
South Park is actually very often poignant satire that is a commentary on contemporary culture in the US. If you took it at its face value you'd be correct.
SNL hasn't been on the air for 40 years yet... South Park is oure satire, nothing more.... Colbert mkaes you stop to think about the hypocrisy of what someone is doing or saying, but Jon Stewart is a little funnier at it I think. Go back to your Romney shrine in your den, keeep watching Faux "news" and the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) ... don't forget to send them all you have, because as Goerge Carlin said ... "God needs YOUR money!!!!"
So in other works, Richard, it doesn't make you laugh, therefore it must not be funny. I'm curious, Richard. What does make you laugh? What is your paragon of humor?
These shows are popular because they use crude, but very sharp wit to skewer the absurdities of our culture, and nothing is truly sacred. Most people can laugh when their foibles are exposed in a humorous way, but sadly, a lot of conservatives and christians are too self-absorbed to admit their own flaws, much less laugh at them.
From previous pages:
Now, now, now, let us be fair as we bring equal time to Mohammed at the risk of having CNN's headquarters blown up:
"Yo Mohammed so stupid, I told him to makeup his mind and he put lipstick on his forehead.
Yo Mohammed so cross-eyed he threw a bolt of lightning at the Earth and missed.
Yo Mohammed so poor he eats cereal with a fork to save milk.
Yo Mohammed so ugly cartoonists are afraid to draw him."
A terrorist blows himself up and goes up to Heaven where he sees St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and says, “Are you Mohammed?”
St. Peter says. “No, he’s further up.”
He walks up further and sees Jesus. “Are you Mohammed?”
Jesus says, “No, he’s further up…”
Walks on further and sees God with a big beard. “You must be Mohammed!”
“No,” says God, “I’m God, take a seat. Would you like tea?”
The terrorist sits down and says, “Yes, please, I’d love some tea.”
God calls out loudly “Mohammed! Two teas now and make it quick!”
From Google Translate:
من الصفحات السابقة:
الآن، الآن، الآن، دعونا نكون منصفين ونحن جلب الوقت يساوي محمد في خطر وجود مقر CNN في تفجير:
"يو محمد الغباء، وقلت له لماكياج رأيه وانه وضع أحمر الشفاه على جبهته.
يو محمد حتى أحول العينين ألقى صاعقة في الأرض وغاب.
يو محمد حتى يأكل الفقراء الحبوب مع مفترق لحفظ الحليب.
يو محمد قبيحة حتى رسامي الكاريكاتير يخافون من يوجه له ".
A ضربات إرهابية نفسه وترتفع إلى السماء حيث يرى القديس بطرس على أبواب لؤلؤي ويقول: "هل أنت محمد؟"
يقول القديس بطرس. "لا، انه حتى في المستقبل".
يمشي حتى أبعد من ذلك ويرى يسوع. "هل أنت محمد؟"
يقول يسوع: "لا، حتى انه مزيد ..."
مناحي على مزيد من يرى والله ذو لحية كبيرة. "يجب ان تكون محمد!"
"لا"، ويقول الله: "أنا الله، شغل مقعد. هل تحب الشاي؟ "
الإرهابي يجلس ويقول: "نعم، من فضلك، أنا أحب بعض الشاي."
الله ينادي بصوت عال "محمد! اثنين شاي الآن وجعلها سريعة! "
A well written – if a bit vanilla – article with which I have only one disagreement; 21 Jump Street was hilarious.
There is no such thing as god, karma is limitless, there maybe higher or other beings in the galaxy
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.