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.
Dionysus makes far more sense if one must have a god. But wine can be had without one. thank evolution for that. Many of the comments by the "believers" here imply to me that they are just closet control freaks who hide behind a hideous god created in their own inner likeness. Ditto the Taliban.
If I Were the Devil
So, after the resurrection the son of god returns to his hometown and opens a deli ' Cheeses of Nazareth.'
and unlimited refills on bread !!!
Try the fish on Fridays!
Mary makes a nice chicken soup. Oyvay.
Just because you dont believe in something, doesnt mean its not true.
You are right. Things we know are true are based on reason and evidence and religion is based on "faith"...faith is pretending to know something you don't know.
my invisible pink unicorn created the universe
just because you don't believe it doesn't mean I won't respect you in the morning
just because you believe it doesn't mean it is true
It tell me that we don't know what respect for ours is anymore. Regardless of your beliefs.
There is one irrefutable fact and that is we will all die. Each one of us will find out the truth in his or her own time.
The thing is if your jesus missed missed Bethleham and ended up in Kabul in Margots womb and his earthly father was Osama, his twelve buddies would have been Taliban, an accident of divine birth. A big oops!
Jesus jokes reveal that people are increasingly ready to laugh at the fairytales they were brought up to believe in.
What do Muhammad jokes tell us?
What do Zeus jokes tell us? What do Harry Potter jokes tell us?
God is what God is. None of you know or could possibly fathom the infinite mind. Neither could man at any point in any time. All anyone could ever do is to postulate possibles with absolute ignorance. Can't say I can make correlations between the tripe of the confused and ignorant, the parley of the deaf and dumb, or the rhetoric of false assumptions based on misinformation and lack of understanding. I make no such stretches with that which is unknown, nor do I stretch what little knowledge man has aquired in his history to such extroidinary lengths to think any of you have the slightest clue to anything other than the most simplistic rattlings. Your missing more than you have so you should all get over yourselves.
And so I take it you are the lone exception? Must feel good to put yourself on a pedestal.
Ah yes, the infinite and incomprehensible supernatural being and the inference of human pride.
It is really disgusting how religion brings people to such levels of self-loathing.
What is an infinite mind?
As soon as you claim to know me you lose all credibility and should be considered insane.
But you can, you pompous ASZ.
Mind Of God: I agree. I think they should be publicly ridiculed, too
Santa Claus is real.
Just search for all the 4 year old children that believe this. Bet there are lots of videos too.
How can you possibly doubt it?
Jesus .... now there is a joke and punchline in just one word
Jesus walked into a bar and told the bartender "Ill just have a glass of water, please"
None will deny the power of the Son of God when He comes to pass judgment on this sinful world. All who mock will only suffer the more in the pits of hades. Keep it up there is a day when we ALL will die, i want to see who will have the last laugh.
Yessirree, this "loving" god will torture me for all eternity when I die just because I didn't love him back.
And you wonder why everyone doesn't flock to this [albeit imaginary] evil sadist.
Your comment is a beautiful example of the utter stupidity of religion. You're doing more to promote atheism than I ever could. All I can do is tell the truth, while you superbly demonstrate the total ignorance of religion for all to see and laugh at. Keep up the good work.
" i want to see who will have the last laugh."
Yes, it will be interesting to find out if God prefers someone who finds joy in the suffering of others, or someone with a sense of humor.
Baby Jesus on a T-Rex could be adult Jesus. Read your bible!
Wow, wanting people to die and live an eternity in a hell so you can have the last laugh.
Truly, religion and the worship of god(s) is a filthy perverted disease of the mind.
jesus, blah blah fvcking blah: your god is a petty, vindictive punk. enjoy eternity on your knees, you snivelling sycophant
Jesus is a laughing stock.
Jesus showed up, he exists. It's only because of those that don't know him, yet feel that they do, that the jokes show up.
I totally believe that Christ is God and rose from the grave; you might want to temper your words a bit; remember: if He is alive He knows what we are doing; be careful my friend: visit my web site: http://www.parchmentministries.com
Translation of Sid's post – My website needs more hits, so 'm here to steal free advertising.
Jeebus watching us right now, taking down notes?
tell us, Sid, how the concept of an omniscient god jibe with the concept of free will?
"he knows when we are sleeping, he knows when we're awake, he's knows if you've been bad or good....."
There are some pretty fundamental objections to Christianity that are hard to get around. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, an “angry atheist”, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, please take the time to actually read and cogitate the objections.
If you have a disagreement with a point I make, post it. However, if you only object to the fact that I said it, please understand that I do not buy into the whole “it is immoral to be skeptical of the Christian religion” nonsense.
1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.
While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.
Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.
2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.
3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.
4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.
5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).
6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.
7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.
Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.
8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.
9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.
Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?
Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.
I think I'll quit seminary and apply to a clinical psych program.
Reading your post reminds me of the leap of faith required to believe in evolution. Check this out.
1. Everything came from nothing.
2. A nonliving puddle of chemicals somehow someway spawned the first life forms.
3. For some unknown reason, the rule that "all things reproduce after their own kind" does not apply to evolutionary thought.
For example, lizards gradually morphed into birds over time. Fact is, lizards just produce more lizards.
4. All life forms are gradually improving over time. All, that is, except for roaches, crocodiles, coelacanths, etc., etc.
...Fred, that's not even close to true, any of it. What is wrong with you?
What evidence do you have for the discrediting of the origins of the Bible?
If humanity has sinned against a perfect God, to which the punishment would be infinitely proportional, how would sending someone to hell for eternity be inappropriate? After all, a Christian would argue that if God is just in nature, then the condemnation to hell would be just.
fred, you have no clue about how evolution works, do you. Explaining it to you would be like describing the color red to a blind man.
If humanity has sinned against a perfect God, to which the punishment would be infinitely proportional, how would sending someone to hell for eternity be inappropriate?
That perfect God designed us to be imperfect. Designed us to "sin". In doing so, we're just being human, as designed. Hell doesn't exist, at least not in terms of infinite punishment. How would it ever be appropriate to punish someone infinitely for committing a finite "crime"?
Why would a perfect god require acknowledgement? A perfect god should not need anything.
Colin, I hate to say it, but you are wasting your time. People here are either already in your camp – and have fundamental misgivings about religion as a whole, and Christianity in particular, or are staunch believers who will fall back on existing faith and won't allow anything to disturb said faith. They believe, and no amount of evidence or logical questioning will change that.
Well written though. Just wish it wasn't falling on deaf ears. Or blind eyes, as the case may be.
We have been allowed to sin because the redemptive nature of a God would ultimately bring more glory to himself. Prideful? No, because there is nothing above God, therefore the greatest thing that God could glorify is himself. In regards to infinite punishment to a finite crime, the punishment is infinite because he who is being sinned against is infinite, therefore making that an infinitely proportional punishment.
Two counter questions: What evidence do you have outside the bible that the bible is anything but a work of fiction? Can you support the claimed origin of the bible as the revealed word of god using anything but the bible itself?
Your second question assumes that there is an aforementioned perfect god against which to sin.
>>"In regards to infinite punishment to a finite crime, the punishment is infinite because he who is being sinned against is infinite, therefore making that an infinitely proportional punishment."
That's horrible, and unjust. I'm not voting for that guy, ever.
Brad, your opinions are just that, opinions. No one could ever hope to "know" what God intends, or how God operates. Anyone suggesting they do is supremely arrogant.
You have a misshpened view of the Bible and Christianity; visit my website for articles on various issues you mentioned: http://www.parchmentministries.com
So, even if people find the belief in the Devine hard to connect to, what in the ' teachings ' of Jesus is so wrong ? Love thy neighbor, be kind , help the poor.......take the mystical out and you have the basis for a morally sound society. Greed and narcissist behavior is the cancer in world.
to the Jews a stubbling block, to the natural man – foolishness. You prove God's point. To the called we speak about what we have seen with our own eyes, that He loved us and keeps us, Jude. You want to know God, then repent from your wicked ways and thoughts and turn to Him and He will heal your deadly wound and make you live.
'In regards to infinite punishment to a finite crime, the punishment is infinite because he who is being sinned against is infinite'
that makes absolutely no sense at all.
and why would god need to punish anyone? what does it matter to him what happens after someone dies? why would he get upset enough to want to punish someone? that isnt the sign of a perfect being.
So a serious question for you Chrstians following along on Colins thread... Let's pretend for a moment that the Christian Abrahamic concept of God is correct and he actually exists.
Standard Christian dogma says that God is perfect. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. The implications of this are many, but one implication in particular is that god would be unchanging. God would never need to change his mind or alter his plan because he knows what is going to happen and he does not make mistakes.
Considering this, please explain to me how prayer is necessary or effective? God already has his plan. He is not chagning it for your request. Therefore you have just spent time in a useless endeavor.
"why would he [god] get upset"
An omniscient being would have no emotion
why are you all so blind at understanding? Since when do you have authority and understanding greater than God. You don't even know what tomorrow brings, but you are going to act like you know everything.Didn't you read what I said. Unless the objective Truth gives you sight and understanding, you will never come to the knowledge you claim to have or claim to seek. You hypocrites, repent and seek God's favor, perhaps He will have mercy on you.
Colin, WOW !! Walk-off Home Run. Well Done. My Baptist upbringing required too much faith/ not enough fact. My truly moral/ethical/tolerant lifestyle, (albeit by, my own personal definition...), makes reasonable, moderate sense, for me and mine. Should I show up at the "pearly gates" and be denied, I'd be awfully disappointed....
daniel: since when do you have the authority to speak for god?
Since He came to me and recreated me. I was once like you, but according to His mercy He gave me a new heart and mind, Proverbs 42:5. Now his Spirit lives in me and I am His. It's different when you know, the former blindness is so obvious and sad. All I can do is warn and encourage others to take His free offer.
Why did jesus cross the road?
Because he was riding an equally plausible magic unicorn that decided to cross a road.
Btw Blum, Your partner in crime is No Paul Harvey. First you have to cover the myth then report the untwisted truth. That you haven't begun to do. But, then again, what are you two, Mormon's?
Good Times was not an All in the Family spin off.
good times was a second generation spinoff from all in the family. all in the family begat maude, which begat good times
Didn't All In The Family begat the Jeffersons, too? Why am I asking, I can just go look it up...
If Christian's postulate that their religion makes them more "Christ-like," why are they harassing atheists. And if athiests say that they can be kind and accepting without acknowledging a religion, why are they harassing believers? Seems like neither side is making a very good point.
we do not harrass atheist; at least I don't; but I am not afraid of challenging them; anything wrong with being challenged??
athesist dont harass belivers, they respond to the religious lot
Good point Sheila, I think both sides are insecure in their beliefs.
"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."
Bogalusa...you are wrong...it was an attorney on Lake Bistineau who mocked God and was struck and killed by lightning.
Not Cross lake.
I mock the ridiculous Christian sky-fairy all the time. I'm still here.
The point is, if you want to mock god, stay away from lakes!
Mostly, don't fish during a thunderstorm. And if you do, don't stand up in the boat like a damn fool.
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.