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The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by [Blum, Edward J., Harvey, Paul]
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4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Length: 350 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* How did Jesus come to be portrayed as white? And why is he an inspiration for both white supremacists and slaves? Blum and Harvey trace the tangled history of religion and race in America, revealing how racial politics have affected religious practices and how religion has been used and misused in the practice of racial politics. Despite efforts by Puritans to escape depictions of Christ, Christianity in America evolved to rely on an image glorifying Europeans. Beyond the set image, slaves identified with a fellow sufferer, while masters identified with an image that reinforced notions of white superiority. New printing technology, industrialization, immigration, the rise of imperialism—all aided in the wide distribution of bibles with pictures of a white Jesus, reinforcing the notion of white superiority over darker-skinned people. Blum and Harvey explore how the image of Christ has been constantly remade to suit the social politics of individual nations, mostly blond-haired and blue-eyed but at times and places decidedly Middle Eastern, even Native American, black, and Hispanic, as believers have struggled to depict a savior in line with their deepest yearnings. Photographs and other images of Christ enhance this thoroughly fascinating book. --Vanessa Bush

Review

''Edward Blum and Paul Harvey's masterful book is a breath of fresh air in our toxic religious culture of learned ignorance and unlearned bigotry.'' --Cornel West, New York Times bestselling author

''In this powerful and groundbreaking book, historians Blum and Harvey examine how images of Jesus reflect the intersection of race and religion in America. Blending historical analysis, lucid prose, and captivating primary sources, Blum and Harvey trace the remaking of Jesus from Puritan America to antebellum slave cabins, from Joseph Smith's revelations to Obama s presidency. The authors compellingly argue that Christ's body matters, that it signifies power, reflects national fears and evolving conceptions of whiteness, and perpetuates racial hierarchies by continuously reifying the idea that whiteness is sacred . . . They masterfully probe how a sacred icon can be a tool at once of racial oppression and liberation. A must-read for those interested in American religious history, this book will forever change the way you look at images of Jesus.'' --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

''A sweeping study with a bold argument, clear style, and narrative power. Blum and Harvey explore how white Americans remade Jesus into a white icon, and at the same time, they delve into the contested nature of Jesus, with many groups finding their own meanings in him. This book is one of surprises, covering new ground and inviting readers to keep reading to see what new configurations of Jesus will take place around such major events as wars, economic depressions, social justice movements, and theological movements.'' --Charles Reagan Wilson, Kelly Gene Cook senior chair in history and professor of Southern studies, University of Mississippi

''In starkly poetic prose, this book takes a seemingly simple idea -- examine evolving depictions of Jesus in America -- and delivers punch after punch. Blum and Harvey provide a new, paradigm-changing window into the issues of race, religion, and power. Anyone wanting to grasp the depth of religion and race in the United States needs this book. It will transform what you thought you knew.'' --Michael O. Emerson, Rice University, author of Divided by Faith

''Blum and Harvey are two of the most talented scholars of race and religion in the United States, and this path-breaking book reflects their ability to integrate important historical analysis with beautiful and compelling narrative. The Color of Christ brilliantly draws on original research, the latest scholarship, and popular culture to transform the ways that we see Jesus past and present.'' --Matthew Avery Sutton, author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America

''Edward Blum and Paul Harvey have produced an original, impressive, and eye-opening work -- as compelling in its vivid detail as it is astonishing in its immense historical sweep. The Color of Christ sets a new standard and establishes a new starting point for anyone interested in the intersection of race and religiosity in the United States. An illuminating study, for which we will long be indebted.'' --Matthew Frye Jacobson, author of Whiteness of a Different Color

''In The Color of Christ, two of our finest historians track the changing portrayals of Jesus in American life against the vicissitudes of history, especially the troubled waters of race relations. In so doing, they have produced both a splendid book as well as a unique perspective on American religious history. This is not the first study of the images of Christ in American history, but it is indisputably the best.'' --Randall Balmer, Dartmouth College

''The refreshing and engaging story of how the concept of white Jesus was appropriated and used by Americans of all ethnicities to support their cultural, social, and religious intentions. Blum and Harvey's solid historical writing and deft use of material, culture, and media bring a fresh viewpoint to the subject of race and religion in America.'' --Anthea Butler, author of Women in the Church of God in Christ

''Both finely wrought interpretation and sweeping synthesis, The Color of Christ lays bare the racial transformations, political challenges, and deep ironies embodied in the image of Jesus. Edward Blum and Paul Harvey offer a compelling new view of race, religion, iconography . . . and America itself.'' --Philip J. Deloria, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg collegiate professor of history and American studies, University of Michigan

Product Details

  • File Size: 2719 KB
  • Print Length: 350 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (September 21, 2012)
  • Publication Date: September 21, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009DH7YR8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,696 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants a scholarly but accessible treatment of the complicated relationship of religion and race in the United States. The book is so full of surprises and insights that I couldn't put it down. I was especially taken with the notion that a white Christ could be -- and has been -- used as a symbol to fight white supremacy, not just as a tool of white supremacy. This book draws on such a vast range of sources -- the arts, of course, but also social and political history -- and figures from many traditions, races, regions, and background, from across many centuries, yet manages to remain clear, concise, and on-point. Recommend!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Christianity in the United States and its relationship to race, racism, and white supremacy. The imaging of Jesus plays an important role in the formation of U.S. Christianity, and "The Color of Christ" does a wonderful job of explaining why.
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Format: Hardcover
What color/race was Jesus? Looking to find a clue in Jesus' origins, I discovered some sources that said he was originally Osiris, the mythologized cultural hero of ancient Egypt. Other sources said that Jesus was a spiritual teacher who originated in another part of the middle east. Either way, the consensus seems to be that Christ came from the "zone of confluence", the area of the world where, according to Cheikh Anta Diop, white people from the north mated with black people from the south. THE COLOR OF CHRIST : The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America does not delve into those claims. Instead, this work shows how Americans' depictions of Christ were malleable, psychological barometers in the nation's turbulent race relations.
Authors Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey begin with the little known fact that the Puritans did not believe in religious imagery. In fact, they destroyed images of Christ, envisioning him as light. But, as whites grew in numbers and power, their Jesus became white to sanctify and justify Indian and black oppression. To Native Americans, this emerging white Christ "became a foil, a means to denounce white hypocrisy, a religious symbol to inspire resistance". Blacks in America fashioned white Jesus into a suffering white man who undermined white authority. With the end of slavery and mass migration to America of darker people from Europe and Asia, there was the rise of the Klan and the eugenics movement. White Jesus became a whiter, Nordic-looking figure. Black liberation theology took root in the 1920's and 1930's Harlem Renaissance as artists and writers rendered Jesus a lynched black southerner.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For those interested in United States cultural history, this history of race in America, American religious history, the history of religious art; I recommend this book. Highly. I hated to put it down.
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Format: Hardcover
The Color of Christ is a great book on the production, dissemination and use of images of Jesus Christ throughout American history. Written by Edward J. Blum, professor at San Diego State University, according to his Amazon.com profile, and Paul Harvey, professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, this investigation extends from the earliest days of European colonization in North America through to the present day. Through their investigation professors Blum and Harvey explore "the ways Americans gave physical forms to Jesus," found mainly in images at first (B&H, 7). They explore where Americans placed these representations of Jesus and how the representations of Jesus were remade so as to reflect the various religious, political and social aims of those desiring these representations. Framing their argument is the use of these representations with respect to power, especially with regards to the manner in which white people used the Son of God to support their claim of racial superiority.

In addition to the way in which white people in the United States used images of Jesus to support their claims to racial superiority, Blum and Harvey also chart "the places where Christ's whiteness was secretively transformed to undermine white power or to create experiences that mediated and challenged racial discrimination" (B&H, 8). One example is found in the way in which slaves in early America saw Jesus as a trickster of white people. As slaves were the downtrodden, the poor and weak, they viewed the teachings of Jesus as supporting them in their struggle for freedom and equality. From this view point, slaves were the last that would someday be first, while their white masters would someday be last.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recently attended a graduate course on "The Contested Colors of Christ" taught by Dr. Blum.. The Color of Christ was the centerpiece text in the course. This book provides an essential balance of theology, history, and Christian ethics for readers and learners. As a preacher of the Gospel, The Color of Christ provides historical perpectives of the Church and those who minister through the church from the Pre-Colonial period in America through the postmodern period to date.

The Color of Christ is also an essential resource for the Pastor's professional library because it provides a rainbow of different perspectives of Christ that congregations and parishes need to grow spiritually and ethically in an accurate historical setting. As a Christian educator, The Color of Christ can be used as an excellent resource for a group study in a church setting for congregations that want to grow historically,spiritually and ethically with the wealth of information found in this book.The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America
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