I have to confess a personal and deep-seated desire to get rid of the ‘Purple Jesus’ print that hangs on my living room wall. I acquired it accidentally when we rebuilt a portion of our church and I became the caretaker for some of the more obscure art we found stashed in various corners of the condemned building. This particular print was wisely squirreled away in a cupboard under the various trophies, awards and pictures that were occupying a wall near the library. Somehow, when the building was completed and the art returned, they didn’t want the Purple Jesus back and it’s been on my wall ever since.
It’s not that it is ugly; actually, the purple matches almost exactly the pattern in my wallpaper, and it’s not that it is damaged. Years in the cupboard kept the colors bright and true. The problem for me is that he is Caucasian, with soft almost blond hair and pale Northern European skin. Not much chance that Jesus really liked like that, is there? I have talked about it with the kids during devotions. Discussing what people who are of Jewish descent look like and how funny it is that this Jesus is so pale. We have talked about the reality that making him look African American wouldn’t work either. As nothing in the Bible says he had African ancestors or that he looked darker than the general population around him.
I have told the kids that the Purple Jesus is leaving my house several times, but the cry has gone up and it has been spared. They know it isn’t a good representation of Christ in the same way that they are aware Mary didn’t have a glowing halo around her head. But I forget that my children are able to see flaws and weaknesses in things and love them anyway. In this picture they love the way Christ is portrayed as praying so desperately, the bright colors in his cloak, and the way the light falls on his face from above. To them there is no reason to throw out the Purple Jesus just because his skin is white. Good food for this adoptive mommy’s mind as I pray and ponder the place of race in our lives.
Great quote Josh! I hope I can get into Touchstone and read the rest.
S. M. Hutchens in the Dec. ’07 issue of Touchstone wrote: “Every nation sees Jesus with its own face–and in a sense quite rightly, for he, being the New Adam, belongs to every race.” If you have access to Touchstone, you can read the rest of Hutchens’s comments on p. 5. Unfortunately, they aren’t on the website.