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On Megyn Kelly and making Jesus who we want Him to be
Really, I am at something of a loss. Facebook might inform my worldview too much—or at least what I write about—but up until last week I didn’t even know who Megyn Kelly was. Long ago have the days passed where I lived with my father who would watch Fox News as his nightly discipline. I used to know the things that Bill O’Reilly said, and now I’m happy to never hear about him.
But I’m at a loss at what Megyn Kelly said on TV last week. Here’s a reminder if you missed it.
I like Jon Stewart’s reaction to it. Why Stewart mainly focused on Santa and how he would have historically looked, I don’t know. But I appreciate his deconstruction and it’s always funny. I also appreciate him asking the question about who exactly Megyn is talking to when she declares that Santa is white and Jesus is white, too.
Who wants to know that? What’s the point of even saying it?
Why criticize Aisha Harris for suggesting that Santa should be a penguin? Kelly knows what Harris is talking about, she articulates it well: Harris, whose black, was hurt as a child by a white portrayal of the fictional character. I totally relate to that, too. Kelly understands it; she's just being mean (or "funny" as she put it later).
Santa is portrayed as a white man because white people are the dominant race in the U.S. and Santa is a positive character. It’s not really about historical accuracy, right?
But it probably would be better if Santa was a penguin. I like that racial neutrality. I prefer reading books to my daughter don’t feature people, but rather animals. (Although we do love Ezra Jack Keats at the Rashid household.) Diversity is important in fiction. But my daughter is half Egyptian, a quarter Indian, an eighth Lithuanian, and an eigth Arminian. We probably won’t find a book with characters that look just like her. Animals might be best (although I love Dora too).
Kelly got herself in trouble when she said Santa was white. And the complication she got into was when she started referring to Santa as a historical figure. She later did some damage control, saying she and her powerful network were victims of "race baiting".
It would be better if Megyn just apologized. But to me, debating Santa’s race is useless mainly because Santa isn’t real. Sure there was a real St. Nicholas who was Byzantine (thanks Chris!), but that’s not what we’re talking about. The thing that irks me the most is that she said Jesus was white. I know everyone thinks Jesus looked like them, but most historians think he actually looked like me (Egyptian representing)! But you know what? His “race” doesn’t really matter.
What matters more to me is Kelly (and Fox News in general) saying whatever they want about Jesus and then getting away with it. People have been doing this for ages--justifying chauvinism, racism, slavery; but also using Jesus to justify conflict avoidance, a fear of evangelism, or complete tolerance (or indifference).
I kind of wish Christians just went crazy over the fact that she said Jesus was white! The lack of outrage (although there is plenty in some quadrants) around fitting Jesus into whatever philosophical mold that is political convenient flabbergasts me!
Meanwhile when the Pope says that unfettered capitalism is evil, Rush Limbaugh (another name I wish I would never utter again) labels him as Marxist (of course, the Pope turns the other cheek). The Pope’s not a Marxist, Jesus simply cares about the poor! Even Noam Chomsky can read the Bible and see that it’s plain as day.
We can’t fit Jesus into our worldviews, we need to let Jesus inform our worldviews. That's what I want to talk about.
Most sociologists think that race is a social construct anyway that wasn’t invented until the middle of the last millennium. So the proposition that Jesus is white is at the very least anachronistic. For most of human history, we didn’t categorize people by their skin color (or by any modern identity construct either), so “white” wasn’t really an idea when Jesus was around anyway.
But when we consider the historical Jesus, we are lambasted with evidence that he was simply Middle Eastern and oppressed. I loved Shalom House’s post on the subject.
Of course, Jesus declares that he is not of this world anyway, so he doesn’t fit into any sort of worldly constructions even if we try to shoehorn him into one. Jesus subverts our social order. Just transforms us and then dwells in us (that is the whole Advent point!). We can’t make him a Republican or a Democrat, a capitalist or a Marxist. We can’t make Jesus who we want him to be. But I’m not sure we should endlessly debate about that either, I think it works best to mutually discern who is he, and live it in an agreed upon way. It’s OK to let our leaders lead us.
He is who is he is. Sometimes that will put me a “progressive” camp, and other times it might seem like I’m on the opposite side of history. But though I won’t endlessly debate it, I want to be endlessly loving.
I love Paul saying that Christians needs to be all things to all people. I’m convinced I need to help people who are diverse as the Kingdom of God find hope in Jesus. I want to flexible with how I present it, but I can’t be flexible with the Gospel, or with Jesus himself! I can't keep you save from Jesus.
The work I want to do is bring the Kingdom of God here and now. The way that I choose to express that is based on years of dicsernment and a community that I love and one with which I have made a covenant.
I’m doing my part in fulfilling the Great Commission—the main job of the church. I want you to do it with me, and I want to create a welcoming and inclusive environment in order to do it. The whole operation ends up being dialogical in its nature. I personally deal with more than merely “verifiable facts” (which seem to be changing all of the time); I’m trying to relate to Jesus in a real way, and I’m trying to allow the Spirit to lead me into what’s next. I don't want to be tossed to and fro. I want to be grounded in Jesus and I want Jesus to change me and change the world throguh me. I want to do it with people that I have agreed to love Him and love me, too. Who knows? It might look different than it does now but I want to be motivated by something more than my own preferences.