By Rick Pearcey
Barack Obama says he is "proud of my Christianity," and that he appreciates his spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. For one thing, says Obama, the reverend introduced him to Jesus Christ.
One does not doubt the sincerity of Obama's feelings. But which Jesus is he talking about?
Rev. Wright preaches that Jesus was a "poor black" man. And yet if we go by the data of the Biblical record, the historical Christ is nothing of the sort.
Poor? As the Son of the Living God, Jesus of Nazareth had and has untold wealth at his fingertips. That he chose not to avail himself of these vast riches says more about his sacrificial mission than about the political implications of his earthly bank account.
In fact, Jesus of Nazareth was and is rich beyond measure. And yet this same Jesus was no sellout to economic greed. Nor to economic guilt. He was not captured by class warfare or by any impulse that smacks of Karl Marx.
But what about a "Black" Jesus? Well, being Jewish, it seems a little more likely that his skin color was olive. Genetics and all that.
But maybe Jesus was "black" culturally, standing in for the weak, the pure and poverty-stricken, the oppressed, the "scum of the earth" who in fact are the apple of God's eye.
I'm not so sure. His message is that moral failure is an equal opportunity society. Or, as Paul put it in an "obscure" verse in the book of Romans, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
Demagogues and race hustlers black or white may be offended by what follows, but this "all" includes rich man, poor man, oppressor and oppressed, Jew, Greek, Gentile, American, and African. Just look in the mirror.
The historical Jesus transcends religion, elections, and personal theologies. He stands as an objective phenomenon before all humanity and all subjective "faiths," unshackled by the dictates of group identity, race politics, liberation theologies, church cultures, and class warfare.
It is true: Power elites will "employ malleable symbols of religion and politics to manipulate money and masses towards results that overturn the original content of words and action rooted in history" (more).
But we don't have to play along. We can resist the myth. We can shock the world and say out loud: Jesus of Nazareth is the biological son of Mary, the adopted son of Joseph, the begotten Son of God, born of a virgin, verified in history, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.
This Jesus is no victim, he needs no liberation, and it is the height of idolatry to try to reduce him and those who trust him to pigmentation, class, race, or any other kind of category that excuses the worship of the creature instead of the Creator.
I wouldn't blame Mr. Obama if he wanted a reintroduction.
Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report (articles).