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Is Jesus a Nazi Sympathizer?

“Now, just think of this. The blond-haired, blue-eyed white man has taught you and me to worship a white Jesus, and to shout and sing and pray to this God that’s his God, the white man’s God. The white man has taught us to shout and sing and pray until we die, to wait until death, for some dreamy heaven-in-the-hereafter, when we’re dead, while this white man has his milk and honey in the streets paved with golden dollars right here on this earth!”

– Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

sympathizeintransitive verb: to be in keeping, accord, or harmony; to react or respond in sympathy; to share in suffering or grief: commiserate; to be in sympathy intellectually 

Before we talk about what it means to be a Nazi sympathizer, and whether Jesus is one, we need to acknowledge that there are two Jesuses. Actually, there are probably more, but two of them are particularly relevant.

One is Jesus the ad-man, Your Personal Lord and Savior (TM). A smiling shepherd with a sparkling smile, his benediction is on the wealthy, the powerful and the successful. He is the Lord of the beautiful people – except that he doesn’t so much rule them as retroactively bless whatever power plays they happen to be engaged in. He is the mighty king of Crusaders. The reward for following him is a lucrative job, fair skin, brilliant children, thick but manageable hair, good health, an attractive spouse, a heterosexual and cisgender identity, and maybe even a seat on the city council or a winning touchdown.

The other Jesus is the Lamb Who Was Slain. His face is alternately lined with grief and mirth as he raises a glass with prostitutes, criminals and sweaty laborers just in from the fields. This Jesus flips over tables and insults the powerful and indiscriminately lays hands on the oozing sores of lepers.  He isn’t fit for polite company.  He is the Lord of the illiterate, the disabled, the black sheep of the family, the gangster, and the unwed mother, and he leads them into a new and dangerous life. The rewards for following him include holiness, sacrificial love, the power of the Holy Spirit, a new family of faith, and the assurance of salvation, but also poverty, homelessness, domestic strife and persecution.

Paul said it clearly in his letter to the Romans:

And not only [do we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God], but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

– Romans 5:6-10

Paul knew what it was to be a sinner. He was a man of privilege and position, possessing both the rights of a Roman citizen and the birthright of the holy tribe of Aaron. He had authority in his community based on both birth and accomplishment and had turned every ounce of his influence, talent and perseverance to one task: stamping out the renegade sect known as the Way. These heretics proclaimed the fulfillment of the law and had the audacity to claim a personal relationship – even a family relationship! – with God. His life’s orientation changed on the road to Damascus, where, after a visit from the Spirit of the Lord and a change in his name, Paul understood that he had it exactly wrong: the very people he had reviled and persecuted were dearly beloved by God.

Does that sound familiar – someone persecuting and reviling people-groups precious to God? It should; it is what every hate group from the Klan to Westboro Baptist Church has done. We see this phenomenon in action abroad with ISIS and Boko Haram, and we saw it here in the United States in Charlottesville this past summer. Our own homegrown terrorists typically see themselves as being on the side of God and of Jesus when they insult and threaten and demean. But if they are, the Jesus who blesses them is White Jesus, who is a stranger to the Gospel.

So is Jesus a Nazi sympathizer? The Jesus of scripture, whose victory looks not like domination but like death, has no patience for ideologies of racial or national supremacy. The Kingdom of mutual submission and sacrifice that he proclaimed made all the old categories – nation, race, class, sex – obsolete. That said, Jesus had infinite sympathy for those caught in the sin of racial supremacy – so much that he was willing to die for those who breathe hatred and suffer for those who spew lies in order that they could see that real glory isn’t burning a cross but willingly being crucified on one.

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15 Comments

  1. Jim Schultz says

    I think this article is needlessly divisive. I think Paul would say there is neither white or black in Christ. This whole color thing is divisive. Recognizing it as sin and calling for repentance is in order but painting a broad stroke by referring to Jesus as a “white” Jesus is unnecessary. Let’s just call sin, sin. It is not a sin to be white, black or yellow in and of itself. To think otherwise is what racism is all about and we shouldn’t give power to that by insinuating any color is bad or better than another.

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    • I don’t think this article divides so much as it observes. Notice that this article clearly says that ‘white Jesus’ is different from the Jesus described in scripture.

      This article speaks of the sin of creating a false Jesus in order to create and maintain divisions, instead of following the Jesus who tore down those dividing walls.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jim! You know I always value your thoughts. I used the term “White Jesus” in reference to the Malcolm X quote at the beginning of the post. Malcolm X argued, and I agree, that the Gospel message and the Bible as a whole have been perverted by people who would rather make Jesus in their (bigoted) image than be remade in Christ’s perfect image.

      I am noting the way that Jesus’ name has been used to bless White supremacy, not at all as a slur against my White brothers and sisters. God made you and your skin color- it’s perfect the way it is, as is mine, as is everyone’s!

      But turning Jesus from a Middle Eastern Jew into a Northern European to support an ideology of White supremacy reflects a pathology that I will continue to remark on.

      Does that clarify a bit where I’m coming from?

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      • I see your point here Adria, but think that – in the piece – you end up importing the very divisiveness that Malcolm X himself reputiated later in life.

        And, you end up going further than Malcolm X, implicating White Jesus as prosperity gospel (which goes beyond X’s characterization) and feeds a interweaving systems of binary characterizations that will always tend to polarize.

        Moreover, I have trouble with the statement “But turning Jesus from a Middle Eastern Jew into a Northern European to support an ideology of White supremacy reflects a pathology that I will continue to remark on.”

        Please do remark more on the evidentiary basis for the claim that the artistic tradition in the Western Church of depicting Jesus as European was chosen ‘to support an ideology of white supremacy’. This would be tough, I think, since the very concept of whiteness – with our best evidence – didn’t really exist at the time that this tradition emerged.

        If anything it helped form the foundations upon which that ideology was eventually built. Without a doubt it has since contributed to it.. but then again, so did the geographical location of the earliest industrial revolution (serving as proof positive to many Europeans of their clear racial superiority). It seems that most early church branches depict Jesus in a form familiar to the locality in which worship happens.

        Given that it’s hard to argue that Coptic Christ was selected for the purpose of pushing Ethiopian supremacy, nor the central asian iconography of much of Orthodox traditions chosen to further turkic supremacy, I’d argue that if anything, the artistic depiction of the caucasion Jesus simply was an incidental convenient ingredient for building racial-tribal identities later on… If the renaissance and following burst of development had centered in Africa would we be talking about how ‘turning Jesus from a Middle Eastern Jew into a sub-saharan African to support an ideology of Black Supremacy reflects a pathology that one would continue to remark on? If so, and I believe we (in my view, incorrectly) would, it seems clear that this change hand nothing to do with furthering an ideology of Racial Supremacy… but rather was taken as yet one more correlated regional difference (Europeans also found their pattern of agriculture suitable proof of their superiority) which, frankly, humans in all their fallenness are absolutely amazing at (ie: t-shirt and bandana colors, and a few hours in different rooms is enough to elicit tribal feelings of superiority in human groups). IN short, the story shifts from one of white devils constructing a cultural of racial oppression from 400 A.D, to one of fallen humans doing what fallen humans do. I have to imagine Jesus would favor the latter interpretation.

        Jesus was *not* a Middle Eastern Jew. Jesus is the Word and existed from the dawn of time, before there were Middle Easterners or Jews. That he appeared in the flesh as a Middle Eastern Jew is hardly his most important aspect. And, indeed, to unduly focus on it seems to rather contradict his own – by our own argument – belief that those categories were obsolete.

        Yes. Europeans drew on their White Jesus, saw their power and ability to conquest and incorrectly put 2 and 2 together… rinsed… repeated with many other things… and began to evolve an ideology of white supremacy. However, I don’t think this is a sound foundation upon which to build the argument you try to make here for justifying such a stark racialized distinction between the two (four?) Jesuses.

        But, most importantly, I do fear it needlessly distracts, and I think that Jesus might agree (again, given your argument about Jesus’s views on these matters).

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      • Welcome, sir! Always happy to have a new voice in the conversation, especially yours!

        Sorry if this was unclear, but White Jesus isn’t a Jesus who happens to be depicted with fair skin. He’s a construct meant to serve a racialized ideology in which “White is right” and everything else isn’t. One stark example of White Jesus in history is how the Third Reich distanced Jesus from his Judaism and made him a symbolic rebuke against the Jews.

        And…on Jesus’ identity as a Middle Eastern Jew…please don’t try to make it contingent. It isn’t. It may not be his most important trait but it’s not his least either. Christian history would be completely different if the son of God were a Roman senator or a Rockefeller. God didn’t “accidentally” send him as a son of David born to humble circumstances. Jesus is meant to challenge our notions of power and prestige. Please don’t try to take the away.

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      • Jesus also illustrates the continuity of God’s covenant with Israel. This is hardly contingent to his identity as the Word, and if I didn’t know you personally I would think you were being disingenuous in suggesting it might be. Since I do know you, I invite you to elaborate on your thinking.

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  2. I am only taking away that his racial characteristics were in any way part of the reason he sent the son he did. This seems to have been the implicit view of most early Christians who took to depicting him with local racial characteristics without note. The rest gets to stay 🙂 I hope I didn’t suggest otherwise. If so, it was unintentional. So, I promise I am not trying to take that away.

    There are countless examples of caucasion jesus being used to divide. There are also countless examples of factories, orchestral symphonies, or other cultural correlates being used to divide. That’s my only point. Jesus wasn’t depicted as white rather than middle eastern to forward White Supremacy. The tradition evolved prior. It was an incidental correlate that was convenient for power to latch on to. It was not ‘the driver’ nor was it developed with any intent to do or communicate any racial superiority. There is not inherent stain on ‘white Jesus’, so much as ‘White Jesus’ but then you conflate the two when you make the comment I quoted, don’t you?

    But I agree that we are confusing Jesuses here, but I think the discussion (and your post) unintentionally drive that. This was why I said two(four?) Jesuses. It isn’t clear if you are rendering parallels or different Jesuses.. and with the comment that I quoted I think the waters get murkier still….

    … which to me all points to an issue getting between you and making your point clear, and possibly inserting racial analysis as you suggest Jesus looked not at all sympathetically on racial analysis (whiplash!)

    (I generally find the quoted comment muddling and forwarding an approach to historical analysis that I find worrying… but that is a major major tangent. Basically, I think the correct phrasing would be: “But turning Jesus from a Middle Eastern Jew into a Northern European *has historically been used to* support an ideology of White supremacy; a pathology that I will continue to remark on.” I think this is obviously worthy of remarking upon and attention. I also think its a very different thing to be aware of how a symbol has been misused versus how a symbol is from its genesis corrupt…unless of course we are just going to go in for all craven images being a corruption… which, hey… we can do. 🙂 )

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    • With all the talk of the New Israel and the New Covenant we see among early Christians and early Friends, I think Jesus’ Jewishness is highly relevant. His skin color, though, I’d agree is not.

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    • So sometimes a thing happens where someone reads what I write, is reminded of something else they have read before and they respond to *that other thing* rather than to what I wrote. I think that’s happening here, so I’d like to point out where I think our wires go t crossed.

      I said, “But turning Jesus from a Middle Eastern Jew into a Northern European to support an ideology of White supremacy reflects a pathology that I will continue to remark on.”

      I object to depicting Jesus as White to support an ideology of White supremacy. I never said, nor do I believe I implied, that I object to depicting Jesus as White *in general*. And yet that seems to be what is being inferred, for reasons I don’t really understand. I’m not sure how what I said is “muddling” – it seems like the reading is more muddled than what I wrote, which was exactly what I meant to say.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Was that rude? I certainly don’t intend to be. But I do get a bit frustrated when folks read their bogeymen into my words then offer alternatives. I’m not 100% sure that’s what happening here, but it sure feels like it.

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  3. Hmm… I didn’t see the second comment. I am not sure I follow it :-/ I don’t think I am being disingenuous (that would require intent, right?)

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  4. Jim Schultz says

    I think there’s a lot to think about in the article but it’s sidetracked by the intro. I think there’s a need for a discussion of what it means to say that God is Love and Jesus is God and how people distort this for their own purposes of manipulation. Even if the cause is considered by many to be good, using manipulation of who Jesus is is wrong as one distortion leads to another and another and finally “anything goes” until brother fights brother because God is on each of their sides.

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  5. I came across this blog by accident. The Blogger Adria is co-facilitating a workshop at Friends General Conference Gathering this summer. What I have learned from attending Friends General Conference Gathering workshops in the past is to do my homework on the workshop leaders first. Reading this blog post I just want to say to Adria your workshop ”Revolutionary Roots of Quakerism” with Peter Blood-Patterson will be my first choice tomorrow when I register for the Gathering.

    In regards to this thread of conversation.I personally find this blog post enlightening, challenging and yet empowering experience. For me, white supremacy + white Jesus= Christian hegemony and privilege.

    I’ve been slowly over years reclaiming my christian heritage.For me there is something precious about the name of Jesus, something that cuts to the core of who I am.I have been shaped by his Spirit in profound ways. Christianity is part of my religious heritage and I am not willing to relinquish it to those who would use it as a bludgeon.

    That being said, christian hegemony and privilege( incarnated in the face of a white Jesus) are sins Christians have come to terms with. With its history of colluding with the enslavement of people of African Descent.( last summer I visited with other Quakers of African Descent https://www.friendsjournal.org/breath-of-the-ancestors/ Elmina castle a castle dedicated to slave trade in Ghana was also the site of the country’s first Christian chapel), oppression and genocide of First Nation people,subjugation of Women and Queer folks for centuries. How today Christian hegemony has permeates our culture in the destruction of the environment.(subdue the earth) We also know Christian hegemony and privilege has gone beyond the walls of the church to the ballot box. Look at exit polling what religion voted in large numbers for the current political regime in Washington? You would think someone who used vulgar and obscene terms about women lose favor with the Christians, think again.

    As a person who was raised and soaked up the benefits of Christian hegemony and privilege. And who today still draws upon the Christian tradition as a Quaker. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up and walk away. But as I get older I don’t think it’s that easy. Isn’t that ultimate use of power and privilege. You can walk way anytime and still benefit from the privilege you supposedly walking away from? The process of becoming comfortable and open to acknowledging, critiquing, and accepting my own Christian privilege hasn’t been easy. It didn’t happen all at once. I have had many “aha” movements that have helped me to understand my own Christian privilege in relation to my non Christian sisters and brothers. Thinking about privilege and challenging it is an ongoing exercise. It’s something that has become part of my daily consciousness. Good news we don’t do this work alone. We have the gift of the holy spirit. The resurrected Jesus “enfleshed” in our hearts. Gently nudging us toward restoration and healing, towards experiential knowledge of himself.

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  6. Few more thoughts on this topic. As I shared in my previous post I definitely believe God’s word spoke in the life of Jesus. I can’t imagine,to what degree.That’s my experience. I would also added I find God’s word and presence speaking to us in a multitude of places. Not in one particular race,religion or gender. God, not white hegemony,christian hegemony, heteronormative hegemony, male hegemony, is sovereign! We are a people of faith when we live and love in the power of that sovereignty. Any of other sovereignty-hegemony that draws our attention is false and a sin. Sin literally means “missing the mark.” what our true relationship with God and each other is all about. The good news, God is working in us in ways that we do not yet understand. As us continue to listen, worship, pray, love and serve, it will gradually become clearer to us the reign of God is near.

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