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December 13th, 2013
09:30 AM ET

Call Jesus (or Santa) white? Expect a big fight

Opinion by Edward J. Blum, special to CNN

(CNN) - Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly sparked outrage this week by insisting that Jesus and Santa Claus are both white, saying it's "ridiculous" to argue that depicting Christ and St. Nick as Caucasian is "racist."

"And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white," Kelly said, "but this person is arguing that we should also have a black Santa."

Kelly was responding to an article in Slate that said St. Nick needs a makeover from fat, old white guy to something less "melanin-deficient."

The Fox News host would have none of it.

"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," Kelly said. "Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure; that's a verifiable fact. As is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy, in the story, and change Santa from white to black?"

Arguing about St. Nick, who was originally Greek before Currier & Ives got their hands on him, is one thing. But as for Jesus, people have been arguing about his skin color since the earliest days of American history. You might even call it an American tradition.

What's new about this latest brouhaha is how swiftly Kelly’s remarks were attacked. Thousands of people have rebuked her through blogs, articles, Twitter posts and Facebook updates.

Comedian Jon Stewart accused Kelly of "going full Christmas nog."

“And who are you actually talking to?" Stewart said on "The Daily Show." "Children who are sophisticated enough to be watching a news channel at 10 o’clock at night, yet innocent enough to still believe Santa Claus is real — yet racist enough to be freaked out if he isn’t white?”

It seems that now, if you want to call Christ — or even Santa — white, you should expect a fierce fight.

The immediate and widespread rebuttal showcases how much America has changed over the past few decades. The nation not only has a black president, but also has refused to endorse the Christian savior as white.

Since the earliest days of America, Jesus was thought of as a white man.

When white Protestant missionaries brought Bibles and whitened images of Jesus to Native Americans, at least a few mocked what they saw.

Taking the imagery seriously, the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh asked future President William Henry Harrison, “How can we have confidence in the white people? When Jesus Christ came upon the earth you kill’d and nail’d him on a cross.”

It was not until around 1900 that a group of white Americans explicitly claimed Jesus was white.

Concerned that large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, especially Jewish immigrants, were “polluting” the nation, anti-immigrant spokesmen like attorney Madison Grant asserted the whiteness of Jesus to justify calls for exclusionary legislation.

READ MORE: From science and computers, a new face of Jesus

Making Jesus white was a means to distance him from Judaism.

“In depicting the crucifixion no artist hesitates to make the two thieves brunet in contrast to the blond Savior,” Grant wrote in his xenophobic best-seller "The Passing of the Great Race."

“This is something more than a convention,” Grant continued, and suggested that Jesus had “Nordic, possibly Greek, physical and moral attributes.”

Even Martin Luther King Jr. claimed that Jesus was white, after being asked why God created Jesus as a white man.

King responded that the color of Christ’s skin didn’t matter. Jesus would have been just as important “if His skin had been black.” He “is no less significant because His skin was white.”

READ MORE: Turkish town cashes in on Saint Nick legacy

Challenges to Christ’s whiteness have a long history, too.

Famed evangelist Billy Graham preached in the 1950s, and then wrote emphatically in his autobiography "Just As I Am," that, “Jesus was not a white man.”

But Graham was far from the first American to contradict the whiteness of Jesus. That honor goes to Methodist and Pequot Indian William Apess.

In 1833, he wrote to white Christians, “You know as well as I that you are not indebted to a principle beneath a white skin for your religious services but to a colored one.”

Almost 100 years later, the Jamaican born, “back-to-Africa” spokesman Marcus Garvey told his followers, “Never admit that Jesus Christ was a white man, otherwise he could not be the Son of God and God to redeem all mankind. Jesus Christ had the blood of all races in his veins.”

In our age, the color of Christ has become both politically dangerous and the butt of jokes.

In 2008, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s words “God damn America” and “Jesus was a poor black boy” almost derailed then-Sen. Barack Obama from winning the Democratic primary.

Now, Kelly bears the brunt of attacks and, in no surprise, was pilloried by comedians like Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Few Americans went on public record against King when he asserted Jesus had white skin in the 1950s. Today, thousands upon thousands from virtually every race and tribe of Americans have taken Kelly’s words seriously and seriously disdained them.

All the chatter about Jesus being white (or not) shows how much America has changed. There used to be “whites’ only” restaurants and schoolrooms. Now, even Jesus cannot be called white without repercussions.

What the debate hides, however, is what Jesus of the Bible actually did and how he related to people.

The gospels are full of discussions about Jesus and bodies. He healed the blind and those who suffered from disease. He touched and was touched by the sick. His body was pierced by thorns, a spear and nails. And he died.

READ MORE: What all those Jesus jokes tell us

The phenotype of Jesus was never an issue in the Bible. Neither Matthew, nor Mark, nor Luke, nor John mentioned Christ’s skin tone or hair color. None called him white or black or red or brown.

Obsessions about race are obsessions of our age, not the biblical one. When asked what mattered most, Jesus did not say his skin tone or body shape. He instructed his followers to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

Maybe this Christmas season, we can reflect not so much on whether or not Jesus was white and instead consider what it meant for him to be called the “light” of the world.

Edward J. Blum is the co-author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. He can be followed on Twitter @edwardjblum. The views expressed in this column belong to Blum alone.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Art • Belief • Bible • Billy Graham • Black issues • Christianity • Discrimination • Faith • God • Jesus • News media • Opinion • Persecution • Prejudice • Race • United States

soundoff (7,485 Responses)
  1. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKOWERczykU&w=640&h=390]

    December 27, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  2. dreamhunk

    this one about black athena
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL7-Y4_3QMs&w=640&h=390]

    December 27, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  3. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxWL3TnisRg&w=640&h=390]

    December 27, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  4. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyWT_l3dNZ4&w=640&h=390]

    December 27, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  5. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez_eRihgmJ8&w=640&h=390]

    December 27, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  6. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy7oeI4F9gY&w=640&h=390]

    December 27, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Jen

      What can i say to you?All the ancient civilisations were degenerate, i descend from these people, but at the same time, there was a Pharoah, Akhenaton, who was given a vision from God, and the vision of light told him to destroy all pagan temples as there is only ONE God, Akhenaton obeyed, they say he was Moses predecessor, or else Moses himself, he lived a peaceful and good life, loved his wife and children, as are depicted in paintings, and did not wage war on any other nation.

      December 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
      • dreamhunk

        You can not say anything to me, because I know a lot and I know more than the average person. Ever seen the movie limitless well I am a lot like the main character in that movie.

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tvER2SmF9Y&w=640&h=390]

        I don't like to tell people what I think I like to show people what I think hence the many links I post here.

        December 27, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
        • Jen

          So you are the local witchdoctor?

          December 28, 2013 at 12:14 am |
      • dreamhunk

        you did not have a chance with me and minus the pills. I see everything in real life.
        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlQFIfiev9Y&w=640&h=390]
        how ever I am constantly learning becoming more complex. So you teaching me something I doubt it. You lost the fight before you even started.

        December 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
        • Jen

          Let's get one thing straight i am not muslim, who ever converts to Islam denies Jesus, i do not deny Him.

          December 28, 2013 at 12:32 am |
      • dreamhunk

        man you are very slow, I am not just talking to you but Muslim people too hence the Muslim links. the whole world is not center around you. Oh by the way witch doctors don't use science they rely only on myths. Like I said you don't have chance with me kinda like this girl/ The more you speak or write the more I would know all about you. Like already know you have low self asteam kinda this girl here how Ironic .

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP-ZwmCPBAs&w=640&h=390]

        December 28, 2013 at 10:10 am |
        • Jen

          Listen here you silly yank, you people talk about the whites in America picking on you?Why is that? I have white american cousins from the deep south, they do not treat me like rubbish, so why do you people get treated so badly, is it the way you act?You tell lies, you speak to people badly, and a lot of you refuse to work, and there are some very good people amongst you, but the ones that do wrong, make it hard for the good ones, obviously by the way you are talking you are one of the ones that needs an education in people skills as you have none

          December 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
      • dreamhunk

        I don't need to lie I can give proof here is your god chosen people reminds me of Hitler who was Jewish as well now proven by DNA
        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUmgZMYzQBo&w=640&h=390]

        December 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  7. Truth

    Acts 10:34 At this Peter began to speak, and he said: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial,+ 35 but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.+

    The debate about the color of God's son is one that only exist in false Christianity and racist hearts and minds.

    True Christianity understands that Jesus message was of great importance to all mankind and that the color of his skin is a non issue. The one true religion earth wide accepts people of all walks of life on the basis of righteousness not race just as God and his son have set the standard.

    Find the one true religion and "stop touching the unclean thing (false Christianity)" Revelations 18:4,5

    December 27, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Bob

      The significant "truth" about your foul Christian religion is that it especially demands violence and evil from its followers. See here for some fine quotes from your book of nasty AKA the bible, from BOTH evil testaments:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      1 Timothy 2:11
      "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."

      Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      December 27, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Jen

      So why are the sub sahara africans spreading lies about Jesus and Saint Nicholas for?That is racist if i ever saw one!

      December 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  8. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.blessed are they that have it.

    December 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Jen

      yes, and that consists of not telling lies

      December 26, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
      • Beth

        Jen, that's stupid. Christianity requires you to lie, even to yourself. And you are a disgusting racist piglet who needs to lose a lot of weight.

        December 26, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
      • Bard

        Whatever thigh gap Jen ever had is now hidden by her rolls of now rancid, smelly fat.

        December 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
        • Jen

          Speak for yourselves as far as being fat and as far as being pigs, you should primitives climb back up the tree you both climbed back down from

          December 27, 2013 at 2:21 am |
        • Shell

          No, Jen, really, you need to lose a lot of weight. Seriously, old girl, you are grossly FAT. And racist too. You really are quite the loser.

          December 27, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • doobzz

      The fear of wisdom is the beginning of religion.

      December 26, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  9. The One

    There is no such thing as race. Do white cats or dogs discriminate? We are all one species and thus are all related to one another. Jesus said we are all brothers. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Race only matters to the haters in this world. The Power Elite made it up long ago to divide us so we could be controlled more easily. DON'T BE SUCH TOTAL SHEEP!

    December 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jen

      Yes there is such a thing as race, if not there wouldn't be different races, and there are, and the blacks are the worst racist on this planet

      December 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
      • igaftr

        Jen you ignorant bigot.

        ALL humans are descendant of the HUMAN RACE that started in africa.
        In actuality, the closer to africa you get, the more pure human you get, and the ONLY people that are PURE dna human are in africa...all the other humans have 2-4% neandethal DNA.

        You are a bigot...one of the lowest forms of humans in existance.

        December 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
        • Jen

          I am not a bigot i am truthful, i do not tell lies to make people happy, you obviously do, and call people names when they do not agree with you, son of HAM!

          December 26, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
        • Kisha

          I always wondered if white people are so superior then why do you see a majority of people with down syndrome, ALS, Lou Gehrig, Addison disease, and other new disease affecting white people. Also, how can any black people are the most racist people on earth unless you are complete stupid and illiterate who has NEVER read a history book before. Whenever you go to another continent that is not yours and invade it, take it over and integrate your people in the country all the while killing and abusing the indigenous people who owns the land then I think that group of people (white people) own the world's racist forever award and by the way I am talking about South Africa. Black people are not racist there's a difference between hating someone because their skin is different and black people who are fed up with white people's evil ways especially in this country for over 300yrs. We don't like you people because after all these years white people are still evil and will always be evil just look at their skin.

          December 26, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • Jen

          Kisha i am not entiirely white you fool, i am half egyptian, which makes me caucasian yes, but my father descended from the pharoahs people, but the sub sahara do hate everyone , your people are not from the continent of Africa half of mine are, so don't speak about something you know nothing about

          December 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • Jen

          kisha you indians are also caucasians did you know that?

          December 26, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • igaftr

          You are not truthful.... if it is truth, then you must be able to prove it...by all means..show your evidence...and it will be checked for accuracy.
          Also, I am not from Hamm, since that story is rifdiculous...god did not paint them for being the descendants of a murderer...ridiculous. They have dark skin in relation to the amount and strength of the sun...an eveolutionary change.

          I am most recently a descendant of northern europeans, so I have very light skin....since you have born false witness on me, you have violated one of your gods silly rules, and you will be punished for it.

          Your bigotry should get you some more, but apparently your god doesn't think that is bad...silly silly god you have there.

          December 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
        • Kisha

          @Jen first of all Native Americans are not white as a matter of fact they hate white people to their very soul. When I was young it wasn't black people telling me how evil white people are, it was my half native American half black grandfather. He taught me at a very young age to distrust white people and taught me in great detail as I grew older about the POS President Andrew Jackson who completely destroyed our tribe The Creeks. So what are you saying everything my grandfather told me was a lie??

          December 26, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
      • Badump Bump

        Jen is one of those racist bigots who is so stupid she wonders what the "W" stands for every time she eats M&M's...

        What should you do if Jen throws a hand grenade at you?

        Pull the pin and throw it back...

        Jen is so stupid she thinks because she has Gypsy blood in her veins she must be related to the Pharaohs.

        December 26, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
        • Jen

          I do not have gypsy blood i have North African blood and i have never been to America in my life, and the american indians are asians, you sub sahara people are the primitives of this planet do you know that?You are the most primitive race on this planet, have never built a thing, and the rest of mankind should of left you to your primitive devices in the sub sahara, and not try to civilise any of you, and btw you are not liked from Ethiopia upwards because you are lazy people, you want the truth you know have it

          December 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
        • Jen

          Tell me one thing do you remember the genocide that happened in Rwanda?And also why do the muslim extremist target the sub sahara africans to do their dirty work for them?Because they pick the weak of mind, did you know that?

          December 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
        • Bard

          So they should have picked you, Jen. You are very weak of mind. And very FAT too.

          December 26, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
        • Jen

          You have no idea what i look like so don't assume computer arm chair warrior

          December 27, 2013 at 2:27 am |
        • Shell

          He's not making any assumptions there at all, Jen. Your rolls of fat are spilling out even those supersize superstretch pants.

          December 27, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • dreamhunk

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgqIZmu8eGA&w=640&h=390]

        December 27, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • dreamhunk

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAEAabG_9Zg&w=640&h=390]

        December 27, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  10. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3IzMvBeOLk&w=640&h=390]

    December 26, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  11. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDXBv_k6gNY&w=640&h=390]

    December 26, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  12. dreamhunk

    Millions of Europeans are the descendants of North-East and Saharan Africans (E1b1b people) who migrated into Europe and settled there long before the migration of Whites into Europe. They were bred out through racial mixing.

    E1b1b hg is the third haplogroup in Europe with a record high 47% in Southern Greece.

    It is one of the countless of taboos of European history.

    Strangely enough, Europeans have kept those Africans as symbols in their coats of arms or coins (Delphian coins) and through many other cultural or religious traditions.

    What is the real meaning of crowned African men and women on blasons dating back to medieval Europe?

    Prowess in the Crusades? I very much doubt it. Arabs and Turks are not regarded as black people.

    What is the meaning of crowned African women on blazons then?

    There were two kinds of black skinned people in America before 1492

    -Ancient African migrants who preceded Columbus in America (the Jamassi of Florida or the Mandinka Indians of Panama)

    Jamasi is a coastal city in Ghana. No coincidence here.

    Mandinka is one of the largest ethnic group in West Africa. One of Emperor of Mali is known as the richest man in the 14C. He sailed to the America before Columbus

    December 26, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Science Works

      Another fact from the complete genome.

      Origin of Life News

      Sunlight Adaptation Region of Neanderthal Genome Found in Up to 65 Percent of Modern East Asian Population

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/fossils_ruins/origin_of_life/

      December 26, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  13. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2NCMs0vYNw&w=640&h=390]

    December 26, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • igaftr

      You'd think an airhead like her would be concerned about those sharp objects around her head. She could pop so easily.

      December 26, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  14. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYXE3tnXVKo&w=640&h=390]

    December 26, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  15. dreamhunk

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0xOWebVYvw&w=640&h=390]

    December 26, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Jen

      Jesus and Santa Claus were caucasian people from, the Meditteranean, thats correct, they certainly were not from the Sub Sahara Africa

      December 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  16. me

    Don't get deceived. The ONLY true photograph of Jesus Christ is on the Shroud of Turin.

    December 26, 2013 at 4:00 am |
    • dreamhunk

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHcKzzgYnMs&w=640&h=390]

      December 26, 2013 at 8:19 am |
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About this blog

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.