"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?"Well, that's silly, perhaps, but she's got a guest on the show who needs to be prodded with questions. And the assertion that Santa is a historical figure is jocose for adults, a sop for the kids. The question is simply the usual conservative appeal to tradition: Why change anything? There's a reference to the reason for the change: It makes some people "uncomfortable." Is that a good enough reason for changing something we've done for a long time? This is the same way you could bandy about the question whether the Washington Redskins ought to change their name. It's standard fare for the Fox News crowd.
So here comes Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic, turning that nugget o' Fox into something that Atlantic readers might find tasty. Hey, everybody, some idiot on Fox News said something stupid.
Setting aside the ridiculousness of creating rigidly racial depictions of a fictitious character that does not actually exist—sorry, kids—like Santa, Kelly has made a more serious error about Jesus. The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.Kelly didn't demand "rigidly racial depictions." She was challenging her guest's attempt to turn the usual image of Santa into a racial problem. It's the guest who's yearning to impose the racial template. What's the "serious error" about Santa that Kelly is supposed to have made? None! But she made a "more serious error about Jesus," and I guess any error is a more serious error than no error.
What's the error? Merritt informs us that Jesus, being a first-century Jew, probably had dark skin. Jews are not white? One ceases to be white if one's skin is sufficiently dark? It may be silly to use the term "white" to label people by race, but white is a big category, and it includes a pretty broad spectrum of skin colors, such as, for example, the "white Hispanic" George Zimmerman. Maybe we should call Jesus a "white Semitic" to heighten the awareness of the subcategories of whiteness. Is that what Jonathan Merritt requires to avoid falling into "serious error"? Megyn Kelly was arguing for less racialism, and Merritt is arguing for more.
Merritt also casually implies that the TSA engages in racial profiling of those who look Semitic. It's a scurrilous charge, but, hey, it's a joke.
The myth of a white Jesus is one with deep roots throughout Christian history. As early as the Middle Ages and particularly during the Renaissance, popular Western artists depicted Jesus as a white man, often with blue eyes and blondish hair.Yeah, but Megyn Kelly didn't say Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes. Merritt's line is more erroneous, wafting the notion that white people must have light coloring. I'd say there are a lot more white people with dark eyes and dark hair than with blue eyes and blond (or "blondish") hair. So this is a completely screwy attack on Megyn Kelly, and it's actually pretty offensive to go out of your way to say that persons of Semitic ancestry are not white. Why go where Nazis have gone? What's the attraction? Because it's just so important to portray Fox News folk as idiots?
Perhaps fueled by some Biblical verses correlating lightness with purity and righteousness and darkness with sin and evil, these images sought to craft a sterile Son of God....Now, you are way outside of anything having to do with Megyn Kelly. This sounds like some lesson from a fourth-rate racial studies course. And by the way, Merritt, that writing is terrible. The subject of your sentence is "images," and images don't seek to do anything. Images are inanimate objects. And how do you "craft" Jesus? Human beings do the seeking and crafting. And the images are crafted. The images are of Jesus. A person might craft a sterile image of Jesus. But an image can't craft — or even seek to craft — a sterile Jesus.
And we're subjected to the usual tripe about light and darkness — which correspond so strongly to the deeply emotional experience of day and night — being about skin color. Ever consider that Jesus looks the way he does in old paintings because the painter used models in his home town? That would mean the painter wasn't focused on race at all. But why not go with the idea that all those old painters were racists who lightened Jesus up to make him look like a better class of person? What's the point? And what the hell does it have to do with Megyn Kelly?
Merritt goes on to say:
In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Advice for Living” column for Ebony in 1957, the civil-rights leader was asked, “Why did God make Jesus white, when the majority of peoples in the world are non-white?” King replied, “The color of Jesus’ skin is of little or no consequence” because what made Jesus exceptional “His willingness to surrender His will to God’s will.” His point, as historian Edward Blum has noted, is that Jesus transcends race.Yes, Martin Luther King said some great things about getting past race. So could we? Here's what Merritt says next:
Those warnings hold just as true for believers today.What warnings? How is Jesus transcends race a warning? One could construct a warning: We'd better transcend race or terrible things will happen. But Merritt won't transcend race:
Within the church, eschewing a Jesus who looks more like a Scandinavian supermodel than the sinless Son of God in the scriptures is critical to maintaining a faith in which all can give praise to one who became like them in an effort to save them from sins like racism and prejudice.Only Merritt brought up the Scandinavian supermodel version of Jesus, but, yeah, it's critical to eschew making Jesus look like this. But who does that? If it's really so important to have the right colors to encourage everyone to identify, then a dark-haired, dark-eyed Caucasian is one of the best choices. But Martin Luther King said race is of little or no consequence, and Merritt said we were supposed to heed his warnings.
It's important for Christians who want to expand the church, too, in allowing the creation of communities that are able to worship a Jesus who builds bridges rather than barriers. And it is essential to enabling those who bear the name of Christ to look forward to that day when, according to the book of Revelation, those “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” can worship God together.He just cannot let it go. Megyn Kelly must be stupid. Fox News must suck. Jesus can wait and Martin Luther King's dream will need to be deferred for however long it takes to kick that right-wing news blonde around one more time over less than nothing.
Until that day arrives, though, can someone please tell Megyn Kelly that Jesus is not white?