Megyn Kelly said some pretty dumb stuff on Fox News about Jesus (dumb by Megyn Kelly’s low standard, not by Fox News’s geologic standards) yesterday. She claimed that he was “white” and that “just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.” Which is ironic, because that sounds a lot like how Richard Cohen defended Clarence Thomas from sexual harassment accusations. But the factual inaccuracy of the comments (and the fact that Jesus’s skin color is now considered news) isn’t the problem. The problem is that this marks the latest iteration of a concerted campaign to turn the closest thing Roman-occupied Palestine had to Che Guevara into a banal, white, suburbanite.
This campaign was exposed earlier this year when Christians were astounded to find out that the Catholic Church is concerned about poverty. But anyone vaguely familiar with religion built around the man who said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 19:24) should be aware that Catholic teaching has always been skeptical of concentrated wealth and greed. In Rerum Novarm, Pope Leo XIII writes,
Justice, therefore, demands that the interests of the working classes should be carefully watched over by the administration, so that they who contribute so largely to the advantage of the community may themselves share in the benefits which they create-that being housed, clothed, and bodily fit, they may find their life less hard and more endurable.
G.K. Chesterton said, You will hear everlastingly, in all discussion about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is rich.”
And what of the story of Lazarus? Lazarus is a beggar who waits outside of a rich man’s house and begs for scraps. When both Lazarus and the rich man die, Lazarus ends up in heaven, while the rich man ends up in hell. When the rich man begs for water, Abraham says, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Luke 19:25) Yet when Republicans read the Bible (theology escapes them), they find only, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thes. 3:10b) (I need not delve into a discussion of Pauline theology, but I would like to note that Lenin believed this verse to be the basis of a Communist society).
Christ was not particularly fond of the family, he kicked it with prostitutes and other unsavory cats, and was crucified as a revolutionary for undermining the priestly nobility. He said nothing about contraception, evolution, gay rights, climate change or nuclear weapons. Yet his followers have fought, in his name, against all of these things. Jesus, said “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35 – 36) Now he is the reason Focus on the Family thinks you should make sure your daughters don’t have any sexytime before marriage.
It’s not just poverty. Christian thought on war, the environment, women and immigration have all been shaped by the conservative political agenda. As Cornel West said, “Christian fundamentalists want to get fundamental about everything but, ‘Love Thy Neighbor.’” Jesus fits very well the words of Eugene Debs, “I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Today, we find him discussed by the very ruling class he denounced around lamb suppers once a year. Whitewashing Jesus is the least of Fox News’s problems. Give me white Jesus over boring Jesus any day.