Friday, September 30, 2005

What Color is Jesus--A case study in jazz theology (part 1)

I feel like doing a little jazz theology. Here's the question: What color is Jesus? How would you go about answering that question? Do you even like the question? Is there anything to be gained by knowing the answer? This is jazz...everybody has a role, so don't be shy post and comment.


Anonymous lightskinned negro said...

My Cool Daddy,

I fear that you have strayed from jazz theology into ART theology. So here's an art idea:
first choose the color of his robe (assuming he wore a robe) for the day, and then choose a complementary color on the color wheel. (You can even use a Pantone guide.) That's his color.

Of course, this doesn't answer the question of how many different robes he wore. But you are guaranteed every time to end up with at least a pleasingly color-balanced image, if not quite a flatted fifth.

I'm no artist, but personally, I think I'd be more concerned about the other elements of composition before I'd worry about coloring him in.


ps - Scripture tells us of the color of at least one garment he wore. What color was he then?

1:06 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Oh dodge all the questions. Join the groove my friend.


12:54 PM  
Blogger gbe said...


Mymyth explained - I studied Pan-Africanism last semester, and one of core definitions was myth. Our professor defined it as that which we choose to believe. So mymyth (as it says on the header) is what I choose to believe.

That's pretty much the depth of my study on myths. It was from a cultural standpoint as opposed to perhaps Greek mythology.


1:54 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

I've been staying away from this discussion for the past week or so because I've had a hard time hearing an invitation to bring who I am - jazz - rather than attempting to move into a different form of classical music.

It's an issue of my hearing, not necessarily of the discussion here.

What's made it additionally confusing has been the use of terms like "white" - especially since white means conformist, which means tyrannical, which means the cause and perpetuator of pain and injustice.

What color was Jesus? The immediate parallel is to the music. Was Jesus Jazz or was He classical? Did He perform to a script, or did He improvise?

Did He identify with pain, or did He come with authority to achieve a desired outcome, with a different set of accountabilities based in His identity of power?

I haven't spent my life learning the conformity of African-American culture, and in this discussion I'm not only at a disadvantage because we're using metaphors that feel outside of my realm, I feel as though my experiences bear a far different value because I don't enter a situation with the same sort of sympatico JazzTheo and Rod Garver share.

The weight of my own experience - with all of its pressure to conform or not conform, with all of its pressure to succeed, to grow a value worthy of the blessings into which I was born, with its assumptions about wielding power for good - or else indolently denying and in fact abdicating those positions of power - all of this is very definitely a sort of suffering, of pain, of soul.

Jazz feels like what happens when you let that pain jettison you from the tribe (or when the tribe excludes you for some other reason). I don't know that the best option is to emerge - to leave the tribe - in order to converge.

What color was Jesus? Was He Jazz or Classical? I think He IS music, the same way He is logos - Word, order, life from chaos.

I'm frustrated by the emergent church. My perception is that to date it has managed to carve a psuedo identity by speaking what it is not, but that it has failed to articulate an identity built around what it is...and where it has tried, I fail to see how it is any different from the orthodoxy it thought it was rejecting. So far all I've seen is a segmentation where no segmentation needed to exist (though there is a place in the world for prodigal journeys, which is what I'd call the emergent church).

Does the non-emergent church worry about the emergent church, or does it wait like the prodigal's father for the son's return, not quite sure (but understanding the feeling) why the son had to venture away from home? The prodigal father was certainly willing to embrace his son in the end - so was there something the son didn't understand, or was there something the father hadn't learned to communicate? One of these options seems to have to have been at play.

Has the emergent church given up on the "white" (to use the parlance of this blog) church too soon, and for unclear reasons? Is there something the youthful nature of the emergent church is missing? Is there some point of understanding or felt need the "white" church has not been able to understand from the emergent church?

Was this the issue with Luther and Erasmus too? Where both lost something for relenting in their insistence that the "right relationship" both sides sought could not be cut into "right" and "relationship" halves - and then be expected to live - any more than Solomon's contested baby?

Classic/harmonic music changes over time...even adopting jazz influences. Is it possible that what's really at issue here are the coping techniques employed against the significant (and despair-inducing) pain of "relationship" gone blind to what's not "right" about it?

Is that the curse of hyphens?

My gut. Don't know if this will be any more accessible to you than some of the material here has been to me. But I'm interested in continuing to blow and listen until we figure out how to play together...we already know an awful lot about the music laid before us.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Andre Daley said...

great stuff. I've been exploring some similar themes on my blog.

Your posts are really helping me to flesh out my thoughts on this.

3:39 PM  
Blogger voixdange said...

Okay, so I will post a comment. I actually posted this very question on my blog in August with three pics of Jesus, one White, one Black, and one Korean. I did it out of curiosity just to see what kind of response I would get. I got some very good comments, but no one really insisted that Jesus was one color or the other. To my mind whatever you believe about the color of Christ skin is irrelevant unless it REALLY matters to you. To my mind, that would be a problem...if you couldn't love a Jesus of another race, or submit to a Black Jesus, or embrace a White Jesus. In the end, Jesus held His treasure in an earthen vessel, just like the rest of us... I did have one person insist that it should and must matter. I disagree, obviously.
I remember years ago reading what was supposedly a description of Jesus written by an artist who had actually seen him. It said he was pretty average....medium brown everything except His eyes which were hazel. That's cool with me as mine are too. Ha ha.

5:19 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Welcome back to the conversation Pete! Precisely, it is the curse of the hypen. When one finds themself in that place of no real home. You are not classical, the was European not American. Yet jazz, even though it is an American original, still leaves you wanting.

This blog is limited in it's depth right now because it is barely a month old. It's a bit simplistic to think of classical as bad and jazz as good. Each is full of strenghts and weaknesses. When it comes to theology, classical has dominated and is need of a balance.

7:32 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...


Thanks for dropping in.

For all of those who read this, it will be worth your while to drop by Andre's webpage...he's doing some good thinking.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous lightskinned negro said...

My Cool Daddy,

Good one. I just realized you asked a trick question! I would like to change my answer.

It's clear that the color of Jesus is kind of blue.

How's that go with your groove?


11:11 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

Have you read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man?
What did you think of it?

6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I ask this because you sound like someone who would go so far as to recommend it.

In fact, your tone is more that of a numb German-Australian who can no longer feel because of what he's seen. Maybe someone whose strength comes because he chooses not to feel. Maybe a Hoosier who learned UofI couldn't teach you as much as was to be learned in the Rocky Mountains, displayed north of the Big Apple, and chased west to the Golden shore, with its Golden showers?

I've noticed that some people interacting here are looking to learn and to process something of value to them.

Remember third grade, when those girls beat you up? Please son, play nice.


** This post has been approved by the staff at the Jack Teagarden School for Remedial Finger Painting and Common Courtesy **

4:12 PM  
Anonymous lightskinned negro said...


Who is "Pete Gall"?


She was bigger than me.


6:10 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

it was the first post above that finally gave you away...but I'd wondered.

6:27 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...


No disrespect but I don't embrace the white Jesus of imperialist Western Culutre. He has the blood of many on his hands. I say take him off the cross so he can finally shed his own blood a little then we might be able to put him back on the cross.

For me it is not simply the issue that Jesus is portrayed as white but what white Jesus has been an embodiedment of in American history, for the most part. It is more than just mere pigmentation. It is a matter of history...and it is the present as well.

It is about the social-political-spiritual embodiedments that have been an extension of white Jesus for the past 500 years that matters. And has mattered. I think it unfair to say that it matters to those who are bothered by it. So much evil has been done in the name of white Jesus that it mattered long before we all came on the scene.

3:06 PM  

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