How is it that in America the image of Jesus Christ has been used both to justify the atrocities of white supremacy and to inspire the righteousness of civil rights crusades? In The Color of Christ, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey weave a tapestry of American dreams and visions--from witch hunts to web pages, Harlem to Hollywood, slave cabins to South Park, Mormon revelations to Indian reservations--to show how Americans remade the Son of God visually time and again into a sacred symbol of their greatest aspirations, deepest terrors, and mightiest strivings for racial power and justice. The Color of Christ uncovers how, in a country founded by Puritans who destroyed depictions of Jesus, Americans came to believe in the whiteness of Christ. Some envisioned a white Christ who would sanctify the exploitation of Native Americans and African Americans and bless imperial expansion. Many others gazed at a messiah, not necessarily white, who was willing and able to confront white supremacy. The color of Christ still symbolizes America's most combustible divisions, revealing the power and malleability of race and religion from colonial times to the presidency of Barack Obama.
Consider the visage of Jesus Christ. No simple task, as Blum (history, San Diego State Univ.; Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism) and Harvey (history, Univ. of Colorado; Freedom's Coming: Religious Cultures and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era) demonstrate in their compelling study of the image of Jesus through American history, from the evangelism of early European colonists to the Obama presidency. The authors begin and end with one moment: the 1963 Birmingham Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, in which four girls were killed and the (white) face of Jesus was blown out of a stained glass window (later replaced by an image of a black Jesus). The Bible provides no physical description of Jesus, leaving believers and opinion makers to visualize him as they will. And they will, generally, visualize him as a tall, handsome, long-haired, bearded white man. This book explores the sociopolitical reasons for this, through many intriguing voices taken from scores of primary and secondary sources. VERDICT Dense, scholarly, and evenhanded, well paired with Stephen Prothero's American Jesus (which it references), this work will captivate readers of American religious and racial history.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus
From the Publisher
"The authors' breadth of research is impressive, and their incorporation of material culture is a model for future scholarship."--Journal of American History
"[A] compelling study. . . . This work will captivate readers of American religious and racial history."--Library Journal
"Thoroughly fascinating."--Booklist Starred Review and 2013 Top 10 Black History Nonfiction
"A powerful and groundbreaking book. . . . [Blum and Harvey] masterfully probe how a sacred icon can be a tool at once of racial oppression and liberation. A must-read for those interested in American religious history, this book will forever change the w
"A fascinating story that we cannot afford to ignore."--Books & Culture
"This is a key work for students of American Christianity, but also a worthwhile read for undergraduates and general readers interested in the intersection of race, Christianity, and religion. It is an important acquisition for religion collections of all
"This model of academic inquiry and analysis is clearly written, deeply researched, socially engaged, ambitious in the intellectual scope of its questions about race and religion, and methodical in its answers."--A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 20
"Blum and Harvey have produced a rich and readable narrative that begins with the Puritans and concludes with Jesus in the age of Obama"--Christian Century
"Readers will definitely benefit from engaging the authors' discoveries and analyses for themselves."--Interpretation
"An easy read."--Nova Religio
"The writing itself is deft. . . . Without actually taking a clear political stance themselves, Blum and Harvey nonetheless map the habits of white racist sacralities in the face of a Jesus rendered increasingly rainbow. This is a thought-provoking book."
"With considerable skill, Edward Blum and Paul Harvey have closed a gap in the scholarship of race and American religion by crafting a sweeping narrative chronicling the ways that the physical image of Jesus has encoded various iterations of American raci
"An engaging and sympathetic piece of scholarship that will appeal to a wide audience. It will be a significant contribution to many literatures, including those that consider European and American Christianity, constructions of race, and race relations."