Black Jesus, Religion, and Modernity

The Muslim world needs Jesus. Black Jesus that is.

So the show is stirring up controversy among American Christians, but then Mohamed cartoons stirred controversy among Muslims, and while American Christians in the minority might picket Aaron McGruder’s home, it’s nice to see people in mutual offense and yet mutual incomprehension.

But at least America has Black Jesus, and Pops (God in Black Jesus speak) bless it for it. Heaven knows the Muslim world could use a German Mohamed, or an Italian Ali.

Instead some of the Muslim world has anti-Semitic anti-ISIS videos, and anti-Semitic TV shows. Someone really needs to throw some baggy jeans, kicks and a plaid shirt on Mohamed and confront him with the here and now. Anti-Semitic TV shows are probably very funny if you’re an anti-Semite, but Jews aren’t really Islam’s biggest problem are they?

Because besides being hilarious, Black Jesus asks all the right questions.

What kind of man was Christ?

Jesus was described as having friends among the lowliest, (the last shall be first remember), Jesus had his disciples, who were not sons of god, but he was friend to the whores and beggars and sinners alike, as were actually, some of his disciples.

While Jesus didn’t yell “piiiiimp” at his friends (to be confirmed) he surely had Aramaic nicknames or slang he used when with his acolytes.

In this sense Black Jesus gives us Jesus, and the inherent contradiction with a man of the people claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus was a rabble-rouser who beat up the corrupt street vendors of the Temple, who drank wine by turning water into it, and whom nobody believed in with his message of peace, love and abnegation, at a time of colonization, and rampant political and theological corruption.

That Black Jesus drinks Cognac (“fine grapes” as he puts it, Cognac is a grape based liquor just like wine) is completely beside the point.

In other words Black Jesus is Jesus plus the weed, and I can bet that someone has evidence that Jesus was a pothead.

And yet, his human flaws never get in the way of his message of universal love and understanding.

Black Jesus helps those who deny him, forgives the most undeserving and tries, with all the antagonism that Jesus dealt with in his day, to keep his community on the straight and narrow. And in Compton, L.A of all places? That’s a heavenly mission if I’ve ever seen one.

The point here is context, and the 1990s pop music sensational question of: what if God was one of us?

If asked the question would Jesus (Christ) stand a fighting chance in the world today, most people would answer: No.

Truth is, he didn’t stand a fighting chance two thousand years ago either. He was crucified, for Christ’s sake.

Jesus’ message is to find God, forgiveness and peace in spite of your human flaws and to remain strong when your faith is tested.

Back Jesus has the exact same message, but it is hard for modern day Christians to conceive of their Lord and Savior as anything but their Lord and Savior, resurrected and crucified, forgetting all the while that Jesus had a life, friends who weren’t all perfect, even a potential girlfriend in Marie Magdalene, but the show doesn’t touch on that controversy, rather it tests your belief and your faith by asking:

What is more important to you, the message or the man?

We’ve all seen the postcards with quotes about Jesus walking by you when things are good, but carrying you when things are bad, as demonstrated by a single track of footprints in the sand.

What if that was true, but Jesus was carrying your drunken ass home? Literally carrying you home drunk from the bar, because he won’t let you drive home drunk. That’s the kind of guy Jesus was, that’s the kind of guy Black Jesus is.

Anyway, the Muslim world could use some Black Jesus.

What if a show portrayed the struggles of a modern day Mohamed in a Turkish community in Berlin, and confronted antiquated ideas and cultural precepts with the modern day realities of secularism, women’s rights, all you can eat pork buffets, and the cherry on top: the existence of a Jewish state.

What would Mohamed say? What Hadiths would he write? Have you ever considered how Mohamed would react to Oktoberfest?

The Little Mosque on the Prairie attempted to answer those questions from the perspective of modern day Muslims in Canada. Why not ask the question in a humorous but respectful (within reason) way of the man whom Muslims worship on an almost equal level to God?

I’m sure the Christian community would be glad to see that. I’m sure the Muslim « world » would riot in outrage, but not all of it, and I would love to see young Muslim directors take on the responsibility of dragging Islam, kicking, screaming and blowing itself up, into the 21st century.

The Muslim faith cruelly needs reform, but before it can reform, it needs to break its taboos, and go through a cultural revolution first. Maybe Jewish Mohamed would be pushing a bit…actually, come to think about it… 😉

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.