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.
Lord Jesus, there is anger in this blog and I cannot root it out.
I know that I should calm down and offer the hurt and disappointment to You
but my emotion is running away with me.
Help me to overcome thiese non beleivers and give me peace of heart as well as mind.
Let me learn from this experience and grow into a better human being. Amen
We're not angry Stella....we're flabergasted at your gullibility. After all only delusional people believe in magic. Your superstitious beliefs are not supported by any evidence whatsoever. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so bloody sad.
Stella for the record stevie is a foreign agitator, probably without value in its own country and here trying to undermine American values without success. I recommend treating it as the vermin it is. There's your sign
"Stella" has been at it all night. Doesn't really come across as an actual believer. Not sure why, just doesn't sound right somehow.
i don't think you should calm down.....i think you should get upset...scream, yell, throw things....
And captain america is a hateful anti-american idiotic troll. Captain america doesn't in any way represent the good people of America and real Americans have called it out on numerous occations.
Oh Stella, did those mean atheists make fun of your sky fairy and get you all worked up over it?
Here, try saying one of your magic spells from your magic book and that will make it all better.
Stella: As much as I believe you're delusional, CA is not a true American.
CA: Finally buy the rights to CNN??? Didn't think so...now please crawl back under your bridge so the adults can talk in peace!!
Iwas hoping the muffin and tea would calm you down, oh well. Since you have been posting all night you may want to slip a little gin in the tea and then get some sleep, your imaginary friends will forgive you.
Unless you believe that God receives your prayers easier through your posting them on this blog what you're actually doing is aiming them at us, which reminds me of this verse
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
Stella… If the unbelievers hate you and hate God, feel free to hate them back, there is nothing wrong with you hating evil. But don't stress yourself out over it. You will not be able to change the mind of the unbelievers. So don't even try. They are fodder for the lake and are merely fulfilling scripture. Even Jesus himself stated, "the end cannot come until he has been rejected of this generation". Thus, the much more you see fools like these coming out of the woodwork, the faster the end shall come…
Proverbs 8:13 – The fear of the LORD is to hate evil…
Psalms 97:10 – Ye that love the LORD, hate evil:
Proverbs 139:21 – Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
Deuteronomy 32;41 – (God speaking) If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.
So rest assured, Stella, not one shall escape. For vengence is coming upon all those who hate God, and they shall receive their reward on Judgment Day…
Nothing like a big, heaping bowl of schadenfreude to start the day off right, eh?
Stella, my root is yours, bend over for it.
@ the Muffin Man. Stella's got a muffin? No wonder she's cranky, it ain't gettin' any. Prolly waiting to have a virgin birth of her own.
Future Tell: We do not hate you or Stella. We do think you are delusional. Enjoy your Christian Persecution Complex
Also, Future Tell, your god is a vindictive, petty pr!ck.
Get back your knees, b!tch
HAIL, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born Of a most pure Virgin At a stable at midnight in Bethlehem In the piercing cold At that hour, I beseech Thee, To hear my prayers.
Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.
Boy...you really have gone off the deep end haven't you? Virgins don't give birth....never have...never will.
Good morning Dear Stella
Take the time to make a pot of tea and have a healthy whole wheat muffin and don't forget to pour a cup for all your imagninary friends.
Are Christians just incapable of hearing there own crazy?
@ the Muffin Man. Stella's got a muffin? No wonder she's cranky. It ain't gettin' any. She's waiting for her own virgin birth.
Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.
DEAR INFANT JESUS
IN A SHORT TIME
YOU WILL COME
TO VISIT US
AND YOUR HOLY, DIVINE COMING
IS FULL OF PEACE, JOY AND LOVE
FOR ME AND EVERYONE.
OUR HEARTS ARE FULL OF YOUR LOVE
IN OUR DAILY LIFE.
DEAR JESUS PLEASE HELP
ALL YOUR DEVOTEES
AROUND THE WORLD.
THANKS MY DEAR L O R D.
Hate to break it to ya but your bronze age rabbi has been dead for 200 years. Time to move on doncha think?
Stella: Santa is also coming to town as is the Easter Bunny.
May the Holy Spirit soothe your tormented souls. In God's name.
Soul??? Can you please provide the scientific data that proves a soul exists or do you simply enjoy sounding crazy?
My shoes are just fine thank you!
good morning everyone. Praise the Lord!
Godd morning. I'd rather praise the Flying Spagetti Monster...at least he offers hookers and endless beer. But that's just wishful thinking in any case. Imaginary friends offer nothing of consequence...be it Jesus or Zeus or Ra or the best of them all the mighty FSM. Ramen.
PRAISE THE LARD! PRAISE THE LARD!
If atheists are supposed to be better than us (or so they claim), then why are so many of them filled with vile hate as seen in the posts on this forum? It's telling, isn't it?...
If you wish to see "vile hate", arrogance, and condescension then just peruse any story on the belief blog regarding gay people. It's very telling.
Not filled with hate! We are not telling others how to live or who to love based off a book that only backs itself. Christians are the ones full of hate...hate for women's rights; hate for gays; hate for anyone who doesn't believe in their imaginary friend (ie; the threat of hell); hate for innocent children (praying instead of seeking proper medical attention); hate for anyone who makes a mistake....not so damn good after all.
sounds like you have a large burr jammed up your rectum, jgda.....perhaps some atheists feel they are smarter than faithful. some faithful feel they are smarter than atheists. what is your point?
vile hate? review some of the posts of the faithful who weild their faith as a hammer.....promisiing a lake of fire for nonbelievers..........then tell us of vile hate
Keep strong, JGDA
STELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA: The short bus is waiting little one...time to board it for your special classes...maybe today they'll teach you some science and about how man shares 96% of his dna with chimps or maybe they'll teach you that imaginary friends like your god and baby jeebus are not real. Have fun little one and don't forget to blow kisses to the sky!
midwest rail – why should I go there when I see all of of those things right here.
sam stone – some people don't know the difference between love and hate. If someone tells you the truth – even that you're going to hell if you don't change your ways – it's love. But if you hate them for telling you – it's hate.
Stella – thanks.
TruthPrevails – if you really did have any truth, you wouldn't be saying some of that crazy stuff you're saying.
because you obviously have no wish to see the proof of hypocrisy by contemporary Christians. Not surprising that you wish to bury your head in the sand though. It was expected.
Well then, in the interest of my love for you, I must warn you that you are going to wind up in whatever hell the Devine Felines, Cat and Proxy Cat can dream up for your failure to believe in thier Warm and Comforting Furriness. I shudder to think what this hell might be as they have not revealed that Knowledge to me, but I imagine fleas and dogs and fleas on dogs play a large role there. Do not hate me for bringing this Truth to you for it is truly done out of Love.
Thank you God. I am thankful for all you have provided. THANK YOU.
Yeah thanks god for all those diseases and cancer and hunger and all that kill all those innocent kids. You effing jerk.
Nothing quite like taking credit from those to whom credit is due.
Stella, you can give thanks after I have bent you over.
Christians CANNOT and WILL NOT BE SILENCED!
We don't want you to be silent. It's too much fun to ridicule such nonsense.
By all means keep talking. The more you fundies talk the more appealing atheism looks.
STELLA the YELLA?
That's because christians lack a sense of decency and courtesy. Their inability to shut up has probably driven as many people from their ranks as the complete and utter lack of evidence to support the existence of their god.
Shouting doesn't make your delusions and fairy tales any more real...it only furthers our cause. Christards need to be silenced and institulionalized (at least christards like you). Maybe if you actually read your buybull you'd comprehend why we find it bat shit crazy...fact is that most Atheists are such because we have read your book of fairy tales.
good for you, stella. stick to your guns and speak about your faith, if you wish. but don't complain when you are ridiculed
it is quiet now.
No it is not with all your shrieking . Now get back down and finish mouthpainting my rug.
That's because your on the internet, you fool. We're not talking, we're typing.
Thank you Lord for quieting your critics......
They are sleeping because they have jobs.
Quieted? Not a chance! You keep that dreaming up Stella while the rest of us reside in the 21st century and do your thinking for you!
we are criticizing those who purport to speak for god.
Merciful Lord, who prayed that there be one flock and one shepherd,
I ask the light of faith
for those who are related to me
and do not know You in Your Eucharistic Presence.
Give them the joy of Your protecting presence.
Bring them into the one fold
of which You are the master and Lord.
Forgive them their sins and teach them the way of repentance.
In the end bring them into the larger circle of Your family,
to God our Father,
to Mary our Mother,
and to You our beloved Brother.
Why thank you Stella but I didn't do Mary. Much.
Hm. Stella, I can't decide if that was funny or not. On one hand, I think you were being serious. On the other hand, how silly is it to try to prove your piety by typing a prayer on an internet message board?
I think I'll go with funny, because it did make me laugh.
hey, ya never know.....the big guy himself could be on these message boards, and will surely favor stella in the future
If god was playing on a blog, it would probably to get away from drones like Stella, not to look for them.
What is whispered in secret will be shouted from the rooftops
Stella, your mindless rants are doing a lot to reveal the utter stupidity of religion and furthering the cause of atheism. Keep up the good work.
NOT mindless. VERY mindful. Explore your world.
Whatever. Just keep it up, please. I'm sure you're converting at least a few biblebabblers to atheism.
Ummm Stella, you wanna tell everyone I butt banged you?
@stella............... gosh I hope not! I whispered some pretty nasty stuff to my wife the other day.
Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. ... What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops.
Yeah, the Pope's butler tried to do just that....
and all of your dirty deeds done in secret , they will be revealed and shouted from the highest of the mountaintops!
stella, can you engage in conversational english?
God, can Ijust thank you for creating the devil too... COz your eternal war with the devil sure does keep me entertained!
Luke 13:1-5, “ Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! BUT UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU TOO WILL ALL PERISH.”
Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” “
I can repost this as often as you post your - Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.
Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.
The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.
"Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!
Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! – Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything." – The Emperor's New Clothes
Of old time there was a great king. One day a man came before him and said, "My king, I shall weave a turban such that one born in wedlock will see it, while the ba.stard will see it not." The king marveled and ordered that that weaver should weave that turban; and the weaver received an allowance from the king and tarried a long while. One day he folded up this side and that side of a paper and brought it and laid it before the king and said, "Oh king, I have woven that turban." So the king opened the paper and saw that there was nothing; and all the viziers and nobles who stood there looked on the paper and saw nothing. Then the king said in his heart, "Do you see? I am then a ba.stard"; and he was sad. And he thought, "Now, the remedy is this, that I say it is a goodly turban and admire it, else will I be put to shame before the folk." And he said, "Blessed by God! Oh master, it is a goodly turban, I like it much." – The King’s New Turban
A merchant that thought to deride a miller sitting among company said to him, "Sir, I have heard that every honest miller that tells the truth has a golden thumb."
The miller answered and said it was true.
Then the merchant said, "I pray, let me see your thumb." And when the miller showed his thumb, the merchant said, "I cannot perceive that your thumb is gold. It is the same as other men's thumbs."
The miller answered, and said, "Sir, the truth is that my thumb is gold, but you have no power to see it, for it has the property that he who is a cuckold shall never have power to see it. - The Miller with the Golden Thumb
Frayed: I think your knot is slipping:) Have you actually resorted to using fables in your defense of Atheism?
why not, DF? people use fables in support of theism all the time
Judgment day is coming. it may not be tomorrow, but it will be here. YOU will need to account for your actions.
Judgment day, my ass. You fundies have been harping on judgment day for years. It simply isn't going to happen. It's all superstitious nonsense. Wake up, chuck those delusions and join the sane people.
You christians have been claiming that for 2000 years now. Heck, Christ said he'd be back before some of the people he was talking to had even died. I guess he had the date wrong by a couple of millenia.
The thing about these hollow threats is after a while, sensible people look at the facts and realize that it was just another claim from just another mystery cult.
To Dippy & Tallulah13… The bible even speaks about people like you…
2 Peter 3:3 – Knowing this first, there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Rest assured, Judgment Day is still coming and God has a reward for scoffers like you...
bible quotes are only applicable to those accept the bible. how hard is that for you to grasp?
can you understand that people cannot fear retaliation ("judgement" to you pious folk) from a being in which they do not believe?
that being said, you seem to paint "god" as a petty, vindictive pr!ck.
i hope you fear judgement from that petty, vindictive pr!ck.
Two thousand years, future tell, and we're still waiting. Jesus set the time frame himself and missed it by a couple of millenia. Your threats are just as hollow as your belief.
It's a crying shame that people like you and Stella need these kinds of threats to structure your lives. You can grovel all you want, but even if irrefutable evidence that your god exists did surface, I still wouldn't worship such a primitive, malicious jerk. Only a real b*stard would need to murder an innocent man in order to forgive people for behaving like people.
Today as we join together may our celebration of US enhance the Holy Spirit's ancient search for the diverse ways in which we can flower into expressions of divine beauty and joyous being.
In this spirit we sing Hallelujah.
Your singing sucks. Stuff something tubular in it.
THE PRAYER OF JABEZ
1 Chronicles 4:10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested."
Welcome Akeel. Together we can do battle against these non-believers. They are trying to stop us, but NO. NO NO NO. I will scream from the TOP of the mountains. YOU CANNOT SILENCE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Didn't Christ advise the wealthy man to sell his earthly goods and give to the poor? So why do you pray for your own profit? I doubt it's for charitable reasons, unless you can get a tax write-off.
"I will scream from the TOP of the mountains"
Please do...the mountain creatures need food and you'll be perfect...might just shut you up!
Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it not be to my sorrow!" God granted him that which he requested.
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.