Be not afraid

So yesterday this happened:

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Shaun King @shaunking Yes. All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.'

I disagree. In their own time and place, Euro-Jesus statues were typically forms of inculturation, not racist propaganda. It’s a practice as old as the Church

No photo description available.
The Good Shepherd looks to 2nd century Roman Christians like a Roman
Black Jesus image from Ethiopia, from the 17th or 18th C.
Ethiopian Jesus looks Ethiopian
Christ Pantocrator - Wikipedia
Greek Jesus looks Greek
Our Lady of Guadalupe - Wikipedia
Aztec Mary looks Aztec
No photo description available.
Thai Mary and Jesus look Thai

Same with Euro-Jesus. Images of Jesus came here with European settlers, and like the rest, tended to look like the people who brought them. In particular, statuary came here with Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Poland, Italy, Hungary and other Catholic lands. Unsurprisingly, Jesus looked like them. The overwhelming bulk of such art, especially in Catholic parishes was not there to communicate a racist message to people of color for the very good reason that, in the 19th century, some Czech settler in Nebraska seldom saw and never thought about a black person. In many urban areas, the people who built their parishes never learned English and seldom stepped outside their ethnic neighborhoods. There was sometimes more ethnic tension between Catholic parishes of different Euro ethnicities than there was between blacks and whites.

That is not to deny that white Jesus was sometimes deliberately targeted at POC as a weaponized form of oppression. But the indiscriminate condemnation of any and all religious imagery as simply and solely intended to oppress is just not reflecting reality. Michaelangelo did not carve this

to oppress anybody. It would be a crime against the world to destroy it.

What you do is not destroy Rembrandt and Michaelangelo and the Greek, Russian, Italian, German, Polish, and Hungarian parish art which are the legacy of immigrants who themselves suffered oppression both in their homelands and when they came to Know Nothing America, but add to them with other holy images reflecting other cultures. Iconoclasm has always been a bad idea.

Meanwhile, far more dangerous and deadly in the present hour than the hotheadedness of a Shaun King or a few other people rightly outraged by four centuries of oppression is the imminent danger that butthurt white conservative American Catholics, already hyper-inclined to believe themselves the biggest victims on earth, will allow the actions of a few hotheads to blind them with hysteria and see in tweets like this or attacks on a couple of St. Junipero Serra statues the Coming of the Great Persecution.

So let me say: “We’ll be fine.” Stop panicking. Be not afraid. When real wrongs are done us…

Overturned urns and a shattered statue of Jesus were among the damages done by vandals May 28-29, 2019, at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Lewiston. (Contributed photo)
Our Lady statue got vandalized a few years back in Buffalo

….then here is what to do: Clean up the mess. Give thanks to God for being counted worthy to suffer for the Name. Pray for the vandals. Invite them to a conversation at the Church and get to know them. See if they need anything if they respond to the invitation.

What not to do: Shriek “The Great Tribulation is Upon Us!” Panic. Make your fears the center. Fill yourself with self-pity. Lock and load.

If the gospel is true, then it can overcome some kids with spray paint.


Finally, when you have calmed down, gather your wits and ask why your reflexive fear is, “If they start tearing down racist statues, they’ll starting tearing down crosses next!” Because that question says a lot about what you think is identified with your Christianity, none of it good.

Jesus Christ has absolutely nothing to fear from the charge of racism, for the very good reason that he is not a racist. If you, as a Catholic like this guy, thinks he does, you might want to both interrogate why you would instantly make the assumption that your Catholic faith would attract such an accusation, as well as listen carefully to the countless critics of your racism who do not, in fact, have any quarrel with Jesus–only with your embarrassing witness to him:

Image may contain: 3 people, text

I virtually never run into Lefties demanding I renounce my faith in Jesus. By and large, they like him and respect him as far as their understanding of him goes. Many are, in fact, fellow believers. What I run into constantly are Lefties (including atheists) who beg people like Matt Schlapp to obey Jesus, to live what they say they believe–and who are constantly disappointed by defiant refusals to do so. Matt is too busy promoting 5G conspiracies theories and sucking at the teat of Trump to do anything like listen to Jesus.

To Catholics filled with fear about a couple of statues and tweet, remember the words of Jesus and stop worrying about your own skins:

So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mt 10:26–28).

Those words were spoken to a Church that was actually facing real persecution. We aren’t. Indeed, white conservatives are, in this country, the persecutors–of brown Christians. That’s why people like Shaun King are angry. They know the same thing Matt Schlapp knows: that Christians have far too often acted as court prophets for evil, just as the MAGA cult is doing right now.

So instead of fretting about statues, trust God enough to face the real thing–that ugly legacy–and renounce the sin that can destroy both body and soul in hell. For, of course, it’s not God who does that. It’s us. We are punished by, not for, our sins. God’s will, always, is healing, peace, and reconciliation. And nearly all the people we have wronged by denying those evil just want justice, not vengeance,


27 Responses

  1. Statue toppling has become merely iconoclastic, and thus robbed of meaning. Cathartic perhaps, but done without the discernment needed to be effective. Yes some statues must come down, but without conversation about the historical reasons, it is simply a destruction of art work, a lazy protest. Destruction is easy. Instead, do the work real and effective culture change requires.

    1. There’s another aspect to it: no matter how evil the original intent of the statue is, it IS destruction of another’s property. And that demands at least a certain modicum of civil process to take the statue down.

  2. A very long time ago I visited a friend in the Peace Corps when she was in Honduras. I visited churches in the region and was struck by the crucifixes there. Jesus’ whole body was scraped and bleeding: knees, legs, arms, chest. Gaping wounds, lots of blood of a man badly beaten and bruised. Compare that to our basic corpus: clean, minimal blood, no dirt, no open wounds except that on his chest. Cultural differences can speak volumes.

  3. Shaun King is an idiot and a philistine and should be roundly ignored. Yeah, join the Taliban and the Jacobins in your blind destructiveness, Shaun. That’ll show ’em.

      1. Well. Thank you for the link. I had heard about these accusations but never read about them in any depth. Not surprised King’s described as an incompetent egomaniac. I used to follow him on twitter but eventually unfollowed because he was such an ideologue.

        This tear-down-white-Jesus-and-Mary bs is unbelievable. Aside from its wrongness on so many levels, it’s incredibly destructive. Black Lives Matter really gained traction this year–a surprising and hopeful development. Plus we liberals are trying to save the US from re-electing Trump and succumbing to neo-fascism. So what does King do? Unload a senseless fusillade that undermines both causes. Right-wing media is gleeful: We told you so! The radical leftists hate Jesus and are coming for you, Christians! Icing on the case: King says he’s a practicing Christian and ordained minister.


  4. I sure do wish I could post my 3-D wiggle pictures of Jesus. I Purchased these in Mexico 40 years ago. My favorite is the one with the clairol blonde hair with more curls than Shirley Temple being cute On the good ship lollipop.

    More on mark’s column later.

    1. Nods to white supremacy in brown countries shocked me when I first encountered it. Everybody and their Mom will assure you that *their* grandma had blonde hair and blue eyes. It was like a race to free themselves from a stain. I hope things are changing there. The Mexicans of humble heritage that I have known are some of the best, most authentic human beings I have ever encountered.

      You may not believe in a final “sifting” of the human race, and I certainly don’t know what that “sifting” will look like, but I have a good hunch that the humble, hard-working hispanics are going to blow our white as*es right out of the water. –Then *we* will be humbled by how twisted our North American, white superiority complex was. It will without a doubt, horrify us.

  5. How many times does Jesus say in the Bible, “fear not!“ I think there is even a place where he tells people to fear not for 365 times.

    jabba the Trump, however, constantly tells people to fear. They’re coming to close your church down. They’re coming for your guns. They’re going to make you sell cakes to the wrong kind of people. The media is your enemy. Liberals are your enemy. The Supreme Court is your enemy.They’re taking away your freedoms. It’s a democratic hoax. It’s a Chinese hoax. Fear! Fear! Fear!

    You’ll never guess which one conservative Christians are listening to.

  6. Mark said, “I virtually never run into Lefties demanding I renounce my faith in Jesus.”

    I do.

    It’s never outright. Matter of fact, it’s quite subtle. It usually starts with something tripe like, “Many paths up the same mountain, dude….” Almost always ends with, “You don’t really need Jesus, now, do you?”

    To which I respond…..yes. you do. We all need Jesus.

    1. Wow. None suffer as you suffer. Who could have imagined that an unbeliever would ring some tepid variation on. “I don’t see the point of Jesus” and you, a living martyr, might have to explain it to him? Yes. That is clearly persecuting fury and you are the Real Victim here.

      1. How exactly did you infer “persecuting fury” and “Real Victim” from what I wrote?

      2. I had a testy word exchange with my 16 y.o. today. He honestly , truly believes that “they” are coming to take his freedom away because they are in league with something sinister. He’s a good kid.

        I said, “do you HONESTLY believe that Nancy Pelosi is in league with a group that is acting in the place of the devil?” He answered
        I asked him which websites he frequents. He shrugged. It must be a bunch of them. He said it wasn’t reddit. I agreed that Nancy Pelosi isn’t an icon of virtue, but told him that his “they” doesn’t exist.

        When we were driving five hours a week and a half ago, I read him this blog on the tearing down of statues. He hung on every word. He said: “I agree with this 100%.”

        So guys (gals), I invited him over here to ask his questions. I think he might do it. He respected what he heard.
        Please be kind to him. He’s a good kid and he’s only 16. Be on the lookout for a smart kid that speaks Libertarian talking points (he’s never had a job, and doesn’t understand fear or insecurity) He has zero real world experience.

        Mothers can only do so much before they need to shut up. If you see me commenting as “mother who makes tacos” or something like that, it’s so he won’t know that his dumb MOM isn’t commenting.

    2. Mate! Because the statement of Mark you responded to spoke of Lefties demanding that [you] renounce [your] faith in Jesus. – and you responded I do – and then spoke, not of anyone demanding anything – only of people suggesting that your faith was ill-founded. Somehow, that doesn’t sound like anyone demanding anything of you.

      Mark, no doubt, should have wrapped his reply in … for those suffering from literal-mindedness.

      1. I think you are reading too much into my post. I simply wanted to communicate that my experiences contrast Mark’s. Nothing more, nothing less.

      2. So….how exactly did you infer “persecuting fury” and “Real Victim” from what I wrote?

      3. If you won’t answer the question, then I am forced to conclude that you made it up.

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