Conservative Radio Host Says Jesus Was White, “Did He Have White Privilege?”
The United Methodist Church is planning a series of videos on deconstructing white privilege, and one conservative radio host has a problem with it. Lashing out on Twitter this week, Eric Metaxas says that Jesus was white, and demands to know if He had white privilege — then, when he was informed that Jesus wasn’t white, he bizarrely doubled down, suggesting that being “white” doesn’t have anything to do with skin color.
Eric Metaxas quoted a tweet about the Methodist Church and their intent to do a video series called Deconstructing White Privilege. He suggested that the Methodist Church could cover whether Jesus had white privilege despite being entirely without sin, though the concept of white privilege is not in any way linked to, or built on, the concept of sin.
Jesus was white. Did he have "white privilege" even though he was entirely without sin? Is the United Methodist Church covering that? I think it could be important. https://t.co/lNv67Z7g5l
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) July 27, 2020
Metaxas was immediately deluged with people explaining to him that Jesus would not, historically, have been white. Some also hit him with Bible lessons.
Jesus was white? Seriously? There were no white people where Jesus lived. Just because Roman painters depicted him that way centuries later doesn't change the fact that Jesus was from the Middle East and mostly black.
This is silly. Do you think being white makes him more holy?
— Khashoggi’s Ghost (@UROCKlive1) July 28, 2020
Explain to me how Jesus of Nazareth… a city in Israel (the Middle East) would have been white… I’ll wait. pic.twitter.com/Qm3iNkOyOM
— the truth will set us free (@sanctifyintruth) July 27, 2020
As has been amply covered, Jesus wasn’t exactly white, nor was that really an identity at the time. He did, however, have divine privilege, which is a *bit* higher than white privilege, but he willingly laid it down (Phil. 2). Now that is something to contemplate.
— Susan Griffith (@SusanBGriffith) July 27, 2020
how does a 1st century Palestinian Jewish man living under the oppression of harsh Roman dictatorship have any possible relation to a 21st century American western white man?
— Paolo (@pdelsignore) July 27, 2020
Ok, entirely aside from the geographical and ethnic confusion you are displaying:
Kinda the most important thing ever about Jesus is that he gave up his power for the sake of others.
Following him is about doing the same.
— Lura Groen (@lura_groen) July 27, 2020
He wasn’t white.
He wasn’t American.
He didn’t speak English.
He wasn’t rich
He relied on the kindness of strangers to feed him and his followers.
He lived in Africa as a kid.
— Runnergal4life 😷🌊 #BLM (@BlueWave215) July 27, 2020
One response to Metaxas came from Rich Stearns, former president of the Christian relief charity, World Vision, and author and speaker on the duty of Christians to do God’s work in uplifting the poor and disadvantaged. Addressing only the statement on Jesus’ alleged whiteness, Stearns said, “Jesus likely looked like modern-day Palestinians-not Scandinavian.”
To this, Metaxas responded.
So it's about how you look? About the actual color of your skin? So most Jews today are "white" & have "white privilege" but some don't? Who decides? Are Stephen Spielberg & Woody Allen not white? My point is that these identities only seem to apply when woke people say they do. https://t.co/ignphUf33O
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) July 28, 2020
Teaching Tolerance has a long-form essay here on exactly what white privilege is, the history of it, and what one does with it (don’t take it personally, learn when to use your privilege to amplify others, be willing to risk those unearned benefits for the equality of others). This explainer makes it clear that privilege is about being a member of, or perceived as a member of, a dominant group.
Thus, in a culture where white, European-descended people were not the dominant ruling power, white privilege wouldn’t exist. In a culture where white privilege does exist, anyone who is perceived as white might benefit from it at times — which means physical appearance would be a significant part of the equation, yes. Finally, the piece makes it clear that ‘privilege’ is an unearned advantage, not based on anything the individual has done right or wrong — so being without sin would not be a factor.
I was really trying to ask the larger question about "white privilege" & assumed that many could & would consider Jesus "guilty" of whiteness by dint of being Jewish. I think racial categories can be confusing & unhelfpul. But obviously my question wasn't taken as intended.
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) July 29, 2020
Don't worry, Brian. I don't REALLY think of him as white, but I enjoy helping people think about how THEY think of him, and of other Jewish people, whom they believe have "white privilege."
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) July 28, 2020
After many more Twitter users responded to try to explain these concepts of privilege and the historical background, and why it wouldn’t apply to Jesus, Metaxas declared that his question had been completely misunderstood, asserting that he never really meant to say Jesus was white, only to make people think about Jesus’ whiteness or lack thereof.