RNS-SPLAINER-LOGObthumb(RNS) A lot of people have their crosses in a twist over “Black Jesus,” the new satire from Aaron McGruder airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim series. Yes, he swears. Yes, he smokes something illegal in 48 states. Yes, he goes on a drug run. But “Black Jesus” is nothing new — Jesus has been black and satirical and shocking before.

Let us ‘Splain . . . .

Gerald "Slink" Johnson plays the role of God's son in Adult Swim's new comedy, "Black Jesus."

Gerald “Slink” Johnson plays the role of God’s son in Adult Swim’s new comedy, “Black Jesus.” Photo courtesy Adult Swim


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1800s

Black Jesus is almost 200 years old. In his 1829 “Ethiopian Manifesto,” preacher Alexander Young depicted a black Jesus come to rescue America’s slaves, and in the 1890s Henry McNeal Turner, an African Methodist Episcopal bishop, declared, “God is a Negro.” But the most enduring version from this time is in 1852′s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. As Richard Wrightman Fox says in “Jesus in America,” Uncle Tom was so saintly, “he was Christ himself reborn as an outcast American.”

1974

Norman Lear got people hot under their clerical collars when his “Good Times,” the African-American-focused sitcom, had son J.J. paint the local wino as a black Jesus. When J.J.’s father hung the painting on the wall, money and “miracles” started to flow. Hailed at the time as both ground-breaking and blasphemous, the episode was actually a sly social commentary on the prosperity gospel — pray for wealth and health and you’ll get them. “Black Jesus” opens with a similar theme, as a homeless man greets Jesus and asks for winning lottery numbers. Jesus doesn’t provide. “Come on man, you can do better than that,” he says.

WATCH GOOD TIMES’ BLACK JESUS EPISODE - Video courtesy of EnochIsrael2 via YouTube

1979

The ‘Splainer’s father will not watch 1979′s “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” – too sacrilegious, he says. It’s about a young Jewish man born on the same day in a stable next to Jesus’ manger — suffice it to say hijinks ensue. Best line, from Brian’s mom: “Now you listen here! He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!” Whole countries banned the film, and Python members had to defend the film on the BBC. Today, it’s a cult classic.

WATCH THE LIFE OF BRIAN – Video courtesy of Monty Python via YouTube

WATCH JOHN CLEESE MICHAEL PALIN DEFEND THE LIFE OF BRIAN – Video courtesy of Antitheist via YouTube

(RNS) Mel Gibson, right, directs Jim Caviezel in his portrayal of Jesus for ``The Passion of the Christ.'' RNS file photo by Philippe Antonello, courtesy Icon Distribution Inc.

(RNS) Mel Gibson, right, directs Jim Caviezel in his portrayal of Jesus for “The Passion of the Christ.” RNS file photo by Philippe Antonello, courtesy Icon Distribution Inc.

2004

You remember Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” the bountifully bloody depiction of Jesus’ last days?  That movie featured a white Jim Caviezel as Jesus, albeit with a fake nose to make him look more, um, Semitic. Betcha don’t remember “The Color of the Cross,” a low-budget 2006 film with Jesus as a black man, played by Jean Claude LaMarre. Gibson’s film earned a bajillion dollars; LaMarre’s, not so much. The New York Times said it “makes a big deal out of the relatively tame suggestion that Jesus was black.” (HT: Urban Faith)

WATCH THE COLOR OF THE CROSS – Video courtesy of Shaqpack609 via YouTube

More recently

Jesus — both black and white versions — has popped up in multiple “Family Guy” episodes, created by atheist Seth MacFarlane. This Jesus has hit on women, burned down bars and made his escape in a Cadillac Escalade. And let us not forget the recurring Jesus of “South Park.” This Jesus tries to rescue Santa Claus — captured by Iraqi insurgents — watches porn with Buddha, and most impressively, keeps the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue from becoming pope. On the more serious side, at the turn of the millennium, National Catholic Reporter held an art contest called Jesus 2000. The winner — a black Jesus who was also a woman. Cue the outrage.

WATCH SOUTHPARK – JESUS AND SUPERFRIENDS (SLIGHTLY NAUGHTY) – Video courtesy of Skyl1n3 via YouTube

2014

McGruder’s “Black Jesus” lives in a broken-down Ford van on the streets of Los Angeles’ traditionally black and notoriously poor Compton. He changes water into cheap cognac, hogs the blunt and passes a 40 (look them up — I had to). He also gets arrested — and abandoned by his crew. Sound familiar? There is a lesson here even theologians appreciate. “You do realize I died for your (major &%#@ deleted) sins,” Black Jesus asks his followers — all just as down-and-out as he is. “Oh, that s**t is getting old,” one replies.

As history shows, so will the shock value of “Black Jesus.”

WATCH BLACK JESUS TRAILER – Video courtesy of Adult Swim via YouTube

42 Comments

  1. Yeah baby. Drag that christ through the mud. Make him homosexual, drugged up, carnivore, short bus, oriental, transgender all at once!

    But don’t dare talk bad about the people who actually are these things. We’ve legally protected many and will tag you with the emotionally appealing name of bigot and hater. No you cannot talk candidly about these people who share these traits.

    But we can apply them to your god with no fear. You however, must fear if you cross the line we have drawn for you. Yes its fair, cause we say so. And remember…you are “free”.

  2. Exactly Lles Nats

    The extremist beheading little Christian children in Iraq . is not nearly so offensive
    as what some united states citizens are using their right to free speech and free press to say about Jesus..

  3. This is an interesting history but as I stated before in the previous post…The controversy . Is not so much about Jesus being black rather it’s about Jesus saying the F word…of course the pot doesn’t help either. Nevertheless, for conservative Christians the F-word negates any possible value because for them f word is a huge sin in the mouth of Jesus. They have no concept of cuss words being neutral, relative, cultural symbols. Even as a conservative Christian ( which I am not now).I used to say the only difference in damn and darn is the third letter but nobody got it.

    • what color skin does Jesus have?

      Jesus is what ever color the person trusting in him as there only savior from sin is..

      as Luther’s priest said to Luther you must find your self in the very wounds of Christ crucified for your sins ,, before you have peace with God …

  4. One thing is clear Christ is hated among the nations as Jesus himself stated they would. Wasn’t to long ago that on Curb Your Enthusiasm they urinated on a supposed picture of Christ. How long ago did Sara Silverman have intercourse with GOD. Or her skit where she is visited by Jesus? Started by sodomites in the 90′s, they have the best Hunky Jesus contest at their Folsom events. Why did Tony Palmar call Christians diabolical as per him its a great sin to want to follow the bible and doctrines of Christ.

  5. Well, I think words have meanings. I don’t think words are neutral. If that were so, nothing every written or spoken would matter from the Bible to the Constitution.

  6. I’m still constantly amazed by the all these white folks who, in criticizing a black Jesus, fail to see that they themselves are dancing around a golden idol of white privilege.

    • @Joseph Styles,

      “I’m still constantly amazed by the all these white folks who, in criticizing a black Jesus, fail to see that they themselves are dancing around a golden idol of white privilege.”

      That is certainly one of the many things going on.
      I think this movie looks like great fun – and regarding the F-word, I’m happy to see Jesus can be treated with absolutely no reverence finally!
      Unfortunately, when Hollywood wants to be irreverent, black culture is caricatured to show that irreverence.

      Religion is tribalism by supernatural decree.
      It is divisive nonsense.

      It would be great if this movie ended with that lesson
      and if it told the truth about humanity; we are all one race,
      descended from a small group
      which almost didn’t survive and
      lived on the African plains
      about 200,000 years ago.

      Humans are all the same.
      If only we could imagine that for a change.

    • Then please allow a Black American — myself — to say out loud that the white Christian critics of that stupid “Black Jesus” show are totally RIGHT, and Turner Broadcasting is totally WRONG. Does that help?

        • Sorry Larry, but I’m not going to watch stuff that viciously insults my faith, my race, and my community like that. And I don’t need permission from YOU (of all people) before I comment on any issue.

          YOU are the person who has no inherent right to comment on this issue, if you want to play that game. You’re just a culturally-challenged, religion-impaired white atheist who couldn’t discern black famity, black church, and black community issues if they all rose up and bit you in your….oh shoot better stop there.

          You don’t care about embattled young people and embattled black families. You don’t care about inappropriate media images being sent to black youth by the likes of profit-hungryTurner Broadcasting and Cartoon Network. You don’t care about Turner Broadcasting violating its own promise to show diversity and respect to ALL its viewers (and “all viewers” would include Christian viewers, correcct?)

          You probably think this is all one big kewl joke, just like that bum Aaron McGruder. Tell you what though, if McGruder had disrespected the prophet Mohammad like this, the Black Muslims would be knocking on his stupid door right now, and they wouldn’t leave without some answers. VERY fortunate for McGruder that he picked on Christians instead.

          • How the hell would you know what it insults, viciously or not?

            You haven’t seen it. You have no idea what was on it. You are talking like a hysteric fool. Nothing you say about the show means a [expletive deleted] thing since you don’t have any 1st hand knowledge to speak of.

            There is nothing stupider, inane and so very typically fundamentalist Christian than a protest of something in the media of something you never actually saw.

            I think you are one big joke. Someone who has worked themselves into a froth over nonsense. Protesting something you don’t actually know about. How easily duped are you into these kind of ignorant crusades?

  7. One of the asides in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was the use of the image of Jesus to hawk antacids on television. Bradbury’s insight and prescience derived from inchoate fragments of degraded culture detectable in 1948 are what make that volume a great book.

  8. I take it from much of the negative comments is that they haven’t actually watched the show or know what it is about. My take is if you didn’t watch the show, your input on it is worthless.

    I saw it. The worst criticism I can level at it was that it just wasn’t all that funny. Maybe it might improve in later episodes. I blame the ads. They were promoting it as a lot more “belly laugh” than what it was.

    3 good gags (A bum asking Jesus for lotto numbers, turning bottled water into cheap wine at a barbecue, and one instance where Jesus was not as sharing as one would expect him to be)

  9. @ – AM. “supernatural decree” wow! Finally; a slip of the keystroke; revealing something, well, Freud would know. You are only a few degrees from understanding truth. Remember even the vilest among us can be forgiven!

  10. A fiction about a fiction. What with all those miracles he performed, not a single contemporary writer of Christ mentions either him or his feats. The Roman writers like Seutonius who mentioned him were all born 50 years or more after the “death” of Jesus, and recorded the legend not the history. FACT is Jesus simply did not exist as man or god; he did exist as a literary and cultural icon, invented by frauds and con men and the gents who penned the gospels and then put apostles names on them, out of 27 of which the church chose four to include in the New Testament. God and Jesus, invented because we fear death.

    • Jack- Jesus is real! Read Psalm 22 and other Bible prophecy that came
      true with 100% accuracy proving He is the Messiah! The Case for Christ
      by Lee Strobel is a good book to read as well. For you to say that the
      world formed out of nothing it takes more faith to believe in that than to
      believe in God. If God didn’t create the world how did we get here and
      where did the material come from that started it all? Evolution is not true
      because it is impossible/can’t be true and it really makes no sense at all.
      Most people that still don’t believe in Jesus don’t want to believe because
      they don’t want to be told how to live their life. Read Romans 1:18-25.

      • @Karla,

        “Evolution is not true
        because it is impossible”

        STOP THIS!

        AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!
        But a rib makes sense?

        Of course evolution is True!
        NOT ONLY BECAUSE THERE IS ALL THE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT.
        BUT BECAUSE IT IS THE EVIDENCE ITSELF !

        Religion is a DISASTER to our country. Not only does it destroy critical thinking – it advocates against it!

        • And speaking of evolution, I dare that stupid primordial ape-man missing-link that calls itself “Aaron McGruder” to show up in THIS discussion forum. He’ll wish he was back in Darwin’s “Warm Little Pond” by the time I get done criticizing HIS mess!!!

          • Why would he bother talking to a crazy person who probably didn’t even watch his show?

            Although you are a live action version of his character from “The Boondocks” Uncle Ruckus. So he might find it either amusing or disturbing.

  11. So… what’s the problem with this? It can’t possibly be rank prejudice. After all, one has to figure that the next step will be to offer a parody of Mohammed. That would be logical. After all, it is not hard to think of the many ribald jokes that could be made about him. Of course the only rub with that is that the folks who follow him don’t do very well with the parody bit when it comes to Mohammed. They start putting on those really cool vests and pulling out knives, etc. Nope. They are not to cool with the parody stuff. Guess the little people in Hollywood and elsewhere will just bit their tongues and look the other way. There are less volatile and much more convenient targets at which to aim bits of wit. After all, Christians are not known for jihad now, are they? And, they don’t go around blowing people up, do they?

    • That’s precisely why the stupid brainless show is called “Black Jesus” instead of “Black Mohammad.” The bonehead Aaron McGruder would be buying a one-way ticket to the Arctic Circle by now if he had disrespected the Muslim prophet Mohammed in a similar manner.

      But, Aaron wisely picks on the Christians, knowing that even the black Christian community (of which I am a part) is so divided and weak these days that we are unable to verballly fight back anymore.

      There was a day in which brainless black traitors like Aaron would NEVER have attempted this level of insult against the black community, the black family, and the black churches. That day is long past.

      • So what you are saying is that you are not happy that Christians are not as anti-social and prone to organized bouts of violence like Fundamentalist Muslims.

        Jihad envy. How pathetic

        • Good. Despite your ignorance, you are at least aware that Christians are NOT jihadists, unlike Islamic terrorists.

          We don’t do fatwas, we don’t do car bombs, and also (for any atheist and gay-marriage terrorists out there!) we don’t seek out activist libbie judges to suppress and deny the constitutional religious freedoms of others.

          Christians are not terrorists.

          • Well most of you aren’t. But that is because you are usually de-fanged by good-hearted secularists.

            You don’t do fatwas but you really really want to. Especially against Mr. MacGruder.

            Christians do car bombs all the time. Northern Ireland was nothing but Christian on Christian bombings, shootings and religious exhortations to kill the other sect. They got better after 35 years. :)

            Christians do terror all the time. Usually under the guise of being religious minded racists. The KKK is anything if not a group of like minded Protestants who engage in acts of terror. Neo-Nazis are the same thing only they are more inclusive of Catholics.

            You Christian fundamentalists have to go outside the country to get away with what they really want to do. Like in Africa and Russia. And actually you guys do seek activist judges all the time. The conservative wing of SCOTUS is nothing if not activist.

          • “Christians are not terrorists”

            Yes they are.

            Rwanda Genocide. 800,000 killed
            by Christian Terror.

            Father Anatole Seromba – one Christian personally killed
            2000 people because he believed they were
            ‘of the devil’.

        • Oh quite the contrary! Unhappy at Christians not being anti-social and prone to violence? Perish the thought! You are entirely and completely mistaken.

          The comedians referenced in the article routinely opine that they are simply comedians engaged in entertainment not social or political commentary. They bristle at the idea of anyone restraining their free expression.

          They act in rank prejudice. This is demonstrated in their practice as they routinely target Christians and the Christian faith as the focus for their comedy. Oddly they do not target various minority groups such as African-Americans, immigrants or those who seek to advance a gender/sexual practice issue.

          They target no one who they fear will respond to them. For the most part, Christians are a forgiving people. It is rare that this principle of forgiveness is ever not followed, very much the exception to the rule. These self-styled comedians very carefully avoid raising the ire of Islamic terrorists by targeting the Islamic faith and Mohammed for any of their humorous attention either on stage or in print. They do so for a very good reason. Islamic terrorists and indeed many Muslims in general have a well deserved reputation for responding violently to anyone who expresses ridicule, etc. for Islam or Mohammed, etc. Sometimes the reaction is only acid in the face. Other times it ends in stoning. Rushdie and others like him well know just how extreme can be the response when one dares to direct unwanted attention to Islam or Mohammed.

          • How tough Christians must feel to attack comedians! You poor babies.

            Comedy frequently goes after targets which take themselves with utmost seriousness, have the reigns of power and act in ways which invite ridicule.

            Targeting self-important Christians and their assumptions is welcomed satire. Attacking minorities and smaller faiths appears mean-spirited and nasty. Nobody like to sympathize with a bully. But an underdog is always welcomed. Charlie Chaplin making fun of Hitler is an all time comedy classic. Nazis making fun of Jews in Der ewige Jude is disturbing.

            “For the most part, Christians are a forgiving people. ”

            Now that is comedy!

            Christians are remarkably forgiving of their own but usually rather nasty and malicious to those outside of their group. If given real political power like Islamicists, I have no doubt they would be equally as repressive. In the past when such situations existed, they acted no better. If not for secular democracy reigning Christians in, there would be little difference in actions.

  12. Tough? No. Just simply making the observation that comedians routinely target Christians… and just as routinely treat with kid gloves Islam and Mohammed. That inconvenient truth is the glaring reality that cannot be avoided. Of course there is a simple way to prove this wrong. Simply cite the many instances in which comedians have focused their humor on Islam and Mohammed and the Isalmic terrorists who so very much appreciate such humor. Please provide links, etc. so that everyone can enjoy the fun!

    As to those who are overly impressed with themselves, of course they are typically the focus of jokes, etc. But, why should the self-important be a protected class when they are a minority? Hum? After all, if it is humorous and appropriate to ridicule one group or class, it is equally humorous and appropriate to ridicule some other group or class… even if means someone’s preferred politically correct group is targeted.

    You need to get out more. A closeted existence restricts your awareness of reality. If you got out more, if you had any interaction with Christians, you would not make such stereotypical assumptions. For Christians that is reality. Consider… when a murderer killed Amish children, the response of the community was… forgiveness. This is entirely in keeping with the teaching of Christ. When bricks and such stuff have been thrown through our windows during evening worship services, we have not responded by demanding the police catch the criminals involved. We clean up the glass and install shatter proof glass in the frames. Our children decorate the new glass with colorful scenes from the Gospels. If this is aggressive and harsh… we plead guilty. Consider… there are many missions providing medical care, food, education, agricultural assistance, digging wells, establishing and running orphanages, etc. That are funded by and provided by Christians. And, many of these missions are conducted among people who have over the years been exceedingly hostile to Christians. The civil rights taken for granted by so many secularist of today are the result of the broad support of Christian social consciousness that supported and was directly responsible for the many advances in civil rights that are now normative in the United States. There is much more that could be said, but you get the idea.

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