But is it more than an annoyance to God? As a person of light complexion it was easy for me to relate to these images in my youth. But as I grew up, I came to understand that these images are not simply not accurate, they can be hurtful as well.
I remember I went to this celebration of African American heritage and craft show once, and this man had a stand with a lot of pictures of Jesus looking like these. One in particular he singled out and said that the man in the picture was a pervert and in no way reflected what Christ would really look like. He had Bible verses of Christ’s physical description up and was explaining that Christ looked like a black man with hair the texture of lamb’s wool. When I walked up to his stand he walked away until I left. I had a lot of questions, but I think my whiteness and my young age kept him from wanting to engage in conversation with me. I had never really thought about race before when looking at those images.
Suddenly, I realized that many people must feel left out and offended by the misrepresentation. Like God had to be white. That must have been a barrier for many. In fact, I remember reading Malcolm X a couple years later and thinking that those fictitious images of Christ may have been a big part of the reason that the Islam and it’s branches were so attractive then. Well, that and the fact that Christianity at the time was preaching that African Americans were second class citizens according to the Bible…. that may have contributed.
Anyway, graven can mean strongly fixed. So, maybe we weren’t supposed to make any strongly fixed images or representations of God, just in case they would get in the way of people’s faith. Because I think they have, and I think they continue to, and I think they aren’t harmless.
I was watching part of Jesus Christ Superstar with my husband and when I saw Christ, I said what I always say when I see these pictures. But then my husband who’s not so racially aware said, “Was the black man Judas, yeah, that makes so much sense. Unbelievable!” I thought to myself that I had made a difference there, and perhaps then we could make a difference in our children’s perceptions too one day. I hope that each of these barriers that we have put up between us can come down and that we don’t call it racism or favoritism or any other ism. It’s not about that. It’s about truth and not standing in the way of someone else’s faith.