Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Marred by Hate Crime in Flossmoor

A neighbor discovered this note on the front door here in Flossmoor:

Jesus wasn't a nigger
The homeowner was, of course, horrified. This hate crime was reported to the Flossmoor Police, and presumably to the Cook County Commission on Human Rights and the FBI (and other federal agencies).

But while I am interested in the criminal issue here, I am more outraged from the flawed moral and biblical assumptions behind it. Because the note was wrong. The perpetrator of this crime would undoubtedly have considered Jesus a nigger, if he knew the real (historical) Jesus. There's no question about it.

I assume that our perp relies on modern western art or his own racial prejudice for his depiction of Jesus' appearance. But there is ample evidence to refute our innate desire to picture Jesus in our own likeness. In fact, "the earliest depictions of Jews, which date from the 3rd Century, are - as far as can be determined - dark-skinned." Much like the depiction published by Popular Mechanics in a Christmas past.

As New Testament scholar Dr. Mark Goodacre put it:

There is absolutely no evidence as to what Jesus looked like. The artistic depictions down the ages have total and complete variation, which indicates that nobody did a portrait of Jesus or wrote down a description, it's all been forgotten....

In contemporary parlance I think the safest thing is to talk about Jesus as "a man of colour."
"And Jesus probably did have some African links. The Gospel of Matthew describes the family's flight to Egypt [Matt 2:13-15], "where, presumably, his appearance did not make him stand out." But "it is important to realize that in Old Testament times Egyptians were black, not Arab. Arabs first conquered Egypt when Moslems invaded Egypt shortly after the death of Mohammed," in 639 or 640 AD.

Jacob, son of Isaac, led his family into Egypt to be with his son Joseph, who had risen to prominence in Pharaoh's court. [Gen 46] Eventually, the

Israelites went into captivity in Egypt and during the 400 years the Israelites were in captivity in Egypt they and their descendants intermarried with non-Israelites. (The Israelites were in Egypt 430 years, 400 in captivity.) The group of over 600,000 men plus women and children that left Egypt under Moses was a "mixed multitude". Ethnically, their ancestors were a combination of Hamitic Egyptians and Semitic Israelites. Although the Bible lays out Jesus' ancestors through Shem, it does not mention that His ancestors would have had Hamitic blood from this intermixing, e.g. on their mothers' sides.
That Joseph and Mary could hide their young child from a powerful King actively looking for them testifies to their ability to blend in. But only Herod felt threatened by the newborn Christ child. Outside of the moment of his birth, the rest of the world seemed not to have noticed him. In fact, his humble beginnings -- even his flight from the land of his birth -- speak to a niggardly existence.

Jesus lived in poverty, even when the family moved to Nazareth in "Galil hagoim—Galilee of the strangers." He had neither wealth nor influence, and he was far from the center of both in his land. He was born in another person's stable (which, according to numerous scholars and commentators, could have been a cave in one of Bethlehem's hillsides.); he rode another man's donkey on his final journey and he was buried in another man's grave as a final resting place.

Our perp in here in Flossmoor wouldn't recognize the King of kings had he met him:

His hair and beard would have been black, curly and bushy – untrimmed in obedience to the command in the Law. [Leviticus 19:27] The Bible says He was not physically attractive. [Isaiah 53:2] Beauty, in God’s eyes, comes from within. [1 Peter 3:3-4]

But, God’s thoughts are the opposite of man’s thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8-9]
A nigger, if you will.

But the fact that one could historically and theologically describe Jesus Christ in such a way does not excuse the thoughtless and racist act of someone right here in Flossmoor. In fact, we should all be horrified by this note left on one of our neighbor's door. Not only is this not in the Spirit of Christmas, no matter how you define it, it is also not in the spirit of the community that we've built here in Flossmoor. Racial intolerance (as well as theological ignorance) is not welcome here. The fact that Flossmoor will be a part of the FBI's statistics on hate crimes for 2009 is a mark against us all, a black eye for our community, a despicable act that shames us all.

We are fortunate to live here. 2009 has been a great year for our little village. I'm saddened to hear that it may end on this sour note...

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