Monday, December 5, 2016

Both St. Nicholas and Jesus Would Likely Have Been Stopped For Walking While Black In Trump's America

That On Being interview with Fr. James Martin I linked to late last night had a passage in which Martin talked about how grim and grouchy so much of Christian iconography is.  That's something I complained about here a few years ago as I was looking for an old icon of St. Nicholas and all of them looked like they had a toothache or a bad back or were just seriously grouchy.   It's not very good advertising for the Gospel which is, literally, good news.   None of the saintly people I've known have every been so grumpy, like me.

But, reading at NTodd's, a post touching on the annual racist fight claiming that Santa Claus is white, I decided to go in a different direction, to see how North European Aryan, how much like Ann Coulter, the early Icons of St. Nicholas of Myra and can say that the oldest images of him and those closest to where he lived usually show someone who, in the United States, would be considered black or, certainly, not white.  Not by FOX - Coulter standards of racism.

Image result for st. nicholas oldest icon

Which, of course, made me curious about the oldest images of Jesus, especially those made close to where he lived, in time and place, to see how people imagined him.

Image result for st callisto catacomb icon jesus

This image from the St. Callisto catacomb is one of the oldest which clearly indicates how the artist imagined Jesus.

Image result for oldest christian icons turkey

This is the Christ Pantokrator  icon from the Monestary of St. Catherine in Sinai, considered the oldest such icon known.   He'd definitely get screened or stopped if not shot for walking while black.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

This one is from a 4th century villa belonging to Constantine.

This detail from 4th century Syria, shows a darker Jesus between lighter but the still far from lily white Peter and Paul

Image result for Christ Between Peter and Paul, 4th century

It's interesting to look at the pictures that show how the earliest Christians thought of Jesus, of the saints, of the figures from the Bible and early church history and, generally, the older and the closer in geography to the actual locations of the events, the less likely those figures are to be depicted as white.  Certainly not white by contemporary American definitions of that.  Certainly not as white as the slave-holder favoring Clement Clark Moore*  thought of the bastardized, corruption of a great saint from present day Turkey.  Certainly not the peroxide-Aryan - racist cabloid version of them.   Here's a more modern image that is closer to those earliest ones.

Image result for jesus icon 21st century woman

And another that I really like, Janet Mackenzie's controversial Jesus of the People.

 Image result for Jesus depicted as a black woman for a new millennium

* That filthy rich-socially elite, pre-Ivy Leaguer jerk both held slaves and opposed the abolition of slavery in New York but it didn't keep him from being a complete hypocrite on the issue when it could be used politically.   There's no way he'd have gotten St. Nicholas right.  


  1. Back when people knew who I was talking about, I used to tell them Jesus probably looked like Yassir Arafat.

    Well, it was a lot closer than the white, blue-eyed Jesus pictures I grew up with.

    1. I was going to say something about Arafat's keffiyeh probably not being Jesus's color, but, then I remember it had a fishnet pattern on it so, maybe.

      Even those white, blue-eyed Jesus pictures wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so sappy. Some of them were on the same level as unicorn kitsch. You can say what you will for that really gruesome Spanish style iconography but at least it's not sappy.

      I'm ready to have a war on Santa Claus. I'd love to wipe that stuff out.