Should Christians boycott 'Black Jesus,' or try to learn from it?

Compiled by Chandra Johnson, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Thu, Aug. 14, 2014, 5:40 a.m. MDT

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Is "Black Jesus" outrageous or just another angle?

(via Screengrab)

After the collective denunciation among faith groups of Adult Swim's new show "Black Jesus," which spawned a handful of Change.org petitions, some are trying to glean deeper meaning from the show.

The premise for the show, created by Aaron McGruder of Adult Swim's "The Boondocks," is exactly what it sounds like: Jesus is alive and well in Compton. And he's black.

As the show's creators told Vice recently, the show is a loose satire of Jesus' life, and Judea, as they put it, was most definitely "the hood."

"Judea was so much of a hood that Rome sent Pontius Pilate, the biggest thug governor in the empire, to manage it," producer Robert Eric Wise told Vice. "The real biblical and historical Jesus was born and raised in the hood.”

Few in the faith community are accepting the satire explanation Wise offered. Most don't object to the portrayal of Jesus as black, but because the show is disrespectful.

"The show mocks Christianity and Jesus Christ. People's religions should not be blasphemed on television," said James Jones of Woodbridge, Va., who authored one of the petitions to yank the show.

Others pointed out that a show mocking other religious figures would not have been tolerated.

"It was horrible, disgusting and completely offensive. Down to a person, everyone in the youth group was offended. It just shows where we are as a nation. … We have no respect for God," Kerry Burkey, senior pastor at the 300-member Rockledge Church of Christ, told USA Today. "Today, faith is perceived as a myth. There is a lack of respect for the authority of God, although I will tell you that if Hollywood had produced a program called 'Black Muhammad,' or whatever, there would be an outrage."

Media outlets are having a more mixed reaction to the show. Time shrugged the show off with a simple "We have other things to boycott," but where media reaction is concerned, the show is something of a triple threat, provoking reactions over race, faith and class in one fell swoop.

The Daily Beast proferred that the show itself is racist.

"What is most striking about Black Jesus is the casualness with which its primary characters are formed out of race-based stereotypes — among others, there are three angry and needlessly violent black and Latino women, a lazy mama’s boy, an ex-con who can’t help his criminality, and two cruel, daft Mexican gangbangers," Rawiya Kameir wrote. "Is subversion on the horizon? Only God knows."

Or, as the Washington Post suggested, maybe the show isn't about Jesus at all, but is instead about a "crazy, homeless guy" who thinks he's the son of God.

"Which seems about right, considering that we see Black Jesus skipping through Compton cursing, handing out 40 ounces and smoking up everybody’s weed," Soraya Nadia McDonald wrote.

But minister Christopher House took a different tact entirely on The Huffington Post, saying the show was an opportunity for Christian reflection.

"Identification precedes personal, spiritual and social salvation," House wrote. "Rather than simply dismissing the show as being blasphemous, maybe we should continue to watch with an awareness of contemporary issues and a strong sense of irony. To do so would ask us to consider what then does it mean to have a black Jesus living and moving in impoverished black spaces?"

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

1. sunderland56
Moab, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

Doesn't anyone have a sense of humor any more? It's a comedy. It has no deep, hidden meaning; it's just entertainment. The current trend of having more religion in the movies and on television isn't restricted solely to dramas.

2. Michael Hunt
Murray, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

In which country am I living? Why are my fellow citizens condemning blasphemy? Go to Saudi Arabia or Iran. This is Murica - we offend for the sake of itself and the value of teaching our children that we're different from middle ages when witches were stoned and hanged. Sorry folks, the best response is not watching. You may not get an immediate sense of purpose and superiority but that's the cost of living in a pluralistic country.

3. Cleetorn
Fuaamotu, Tonga,
Aug. 14, 2014

Though I have my own ideas, I don't really care if Jesus is portrayed as black, white, brown, yellow, green or purple. What I DO take exception to is typifying him as just another long-haired freak skipping around town "blessing" the masses with free angel dust and marijuana. Likening the most uncommon of men to the most common and base of men and accepting the comparison as "entertainment" not only demonstrates a lack of morals but that we have truly become amoral.

There is no differentiation between right or wrong anymore. If we can conjure it up in our imaginations, it must be just fine. And if anyone objects, we can point our fingers and scream "bigot," "prejudice," "racist" and some skewed perception of "free speech."

The writing is on the wall. We will be our own downfall. Nevertheless, I will be obliged to defend the principles this country was founded on to protect and keep it solvent for as long as possible. Despite all the nay-sayers, that is still the right and moral thing to do.

4. Bob A. Bohey
Marlborough, MA,
Aug. 14, 2014

If Jesus, existed the chance he would've been Caucasian are slim to none.

5. raybies
Layton, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

We live in a strange time where we classify some things as hate speech, and other things as freedom of expression, or just comedy. I suspect that no matter how offensive it may be to some, because it is a religious topic, it's fair game in our society. We don't respect religious sentiment anymore.

It doesn't matter if it legitimately hurts people. Humor trumps faith.