Be not afraid
So yesterday this happened:
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
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…
….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:
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,