Monday, August 20, 2012

What is the Color of Christ?

Ed Blum and Paul Harvey explore this question in their forthcoming book, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (North Carolina, 2012). 

Over the blog of The Historical Society, Hilde Lovdal and Randall Stephens interview Blum and Harvey about their book and the image of Jesus in American life.  Here is a small taste:

Løvdal and Stephens: Several other prominent religious history scholars have worked on Jesus in America. You mention the influence of Prothero.  What about other scholars like Richard Wightman Fox (Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession, HarperCollins, 2004) when you wrote this book?

Harvey and Blum:
Absolutely, although the book that first influenced us was Kelly Brown Douglas’s The Black Christ, which was a short, but wonderful, study of African American perspectives on Jesus from slavery through the works of black liberationist James Cone and womanist Delores Williams. These three books were always in the forefront of our thought. We have used and incorporated material from these authors, and thank them in the acknowledgements.

At the same time, we felt we had a different story to tell. On certain points, especially the impact of power and access to media resources in terms of how Jesus is represented in American history, we challenge some of the arguments that Fox and Prothero make. Both works tend to suggest that Jesus always has been made over in the image of the maker. But in
The Color of Christ, we show that this is not simply the case. Jesus was made both like and unlike communities, and the “I-Thou” distinctions mattered.  Moreover, many people throughout US history have not had the representational power or means to create Jesus in their image and have transformed him in other profound ways.

We think the main difference between our book and those of Prothero and Fox is encapsulated by our different covers. While they present Jesus either as a larger-than-life air balloon or the different icons, we focus squarely on how people - everyone from teenagers in Brooklyn to presidents in the White House - have lived with the material realities of Jesus in their midst.

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