Yohanna 14:2 “A chikin gidan ubana akwai wurin zama dayawa; da ba haka ba, da na fada muku; gama zan tafi garin in shirya maku wuri.” ( Da ka Litafi Mai-Tsarki , Hausa)
or In English,
John 14:2 “in my father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? ” ( New Revised Standard Version)
Growing up in Middle-belt, Nigeria my parents encouraged my siblings and I to attend Sunday School, there we learned stories from the Bible and also our teachers emphasized memorizing important scriptures. The passage I quoted is amongst the Bible verses that played a role in how I interpreted scripture as a young girl. After memorizing John 14:2 in Hausa, I was convinced that Jesus was a member of my family, the imagery that the passage created in my head gave me the comfort that I was in fact a child of God.
However, As I grow older, I noticed that the father of the many mansion which the scripture talked about was a long haired, pale skin, blue eyed man, he looked nothing like my family members. In fact not even close to my relatives that lived in the city who bleached their skin and wore fake blonde wigs.I recall asking my siblings while we were watching the popular “Jesus of Nazareth’ a film that narrated the primary gospels in Jesus’ Ministry: His Birth, death and Resurrection, I asked why is it that Jesus is White and satan a black snake? My siblings told me that, the Jesus in the film was simply a character but then I asked why is it then that He must be “bature” in Hause (white ), the answer to that question was interrupted with a call from mother to help her lift a bag of rice.
The quest to find out reasons as per why Jesus the father in the mansion with many rooms was white contributed to my decision to study Christian theology and Religion in general. As a young girl, I asked tough questions about Christology, desiring to know who Jesus was, why His ministry was important and what that meant for me, a bili (black girl in my language Yotti).
As I search for Jesus through my study and discourse with others, I discovered that there is in fact a Jesus who looked like me. This Jesus is portrait with dark complexion, long dread-locks and a body built like a football (soccer) player; however, this Jesus is found amongst the marginalized in our global family, those who believe in the up lift of black global family and the unity of mankind. The black Jesus has a presence amongst Afro-centric / African Independent Churches/ black Christians on the continent of Africa and in the diaspora. I read a number of articles and books regarding blacks interpretation of John 12:2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions …” B.G.M. Sundkler, argues in his 1961, “Bantu Prophets in South Africa” that the reason why blacks seem to be attracted to “Christ in their own image’, is due to the fact that they desired legitimacy or guarantee for the fate of their race (p.276). One could interpret Sundkler’s argument that Black Christians seem to want to take ownership of the Bible. To go further with the critique against depicting Christ as a black man, Pieter Oosthuuizen labels this tradition as “Post-Christian” which means it is neither Christian nor traditional. He believes the embracement of Christ as a Black man, their “ethnocentric features make them forfeit any claim to be the Church of Christ” ( See “ Black Messianism: Corruption or Contextualization?” In All things hold Together: Holistic Theologies of the African Grassroots” p.132).
To complement Oosthuuizen’s statement, Martin suggests that these sort of ideologies amongst black liberation theologians is rampant amongst South Africans and that they are faulty eschatology as well as false Christology, Pneumatology and ecclesiology” ( “ Black Messianism: Corruption or Contextualization?” In All things hold Together: Holistic Theologies of the African Grassroots”,p.133). In order words, if Christ is embodied by Africans then their claim to that narrative is un-Christian. M.L. Daneel , in response to the criticism against the Black Christ, calls for a deeper reflection by the theologians critics, expressing that Christ is not being replaced by Black Christians but rather a mirror through which they ( Black Christians) would want to be reflected (see “ Black Messianism: Corruption or Contextualization?” In All things hold Together: Holistic Theologies of the African Grassroots”p. 132) . As far as Daneel is concern the Christian calling is to desire for Christ to take over and to be reflected in the life of a believer .
I would say, the black Christ is an attempt from African Christians to make Christ relevant; they wished to experience Christ in their own language and in the image in which God created them, along side acknowledging Christ’s presence amongst those who don’t look like them. One must understand that, this Jesus of Nazareth that the gospel talks about is no “white man” , the reason why the white, pale Jesus is pervasive is due to the fact that, as a friend nicely expressed, ” those in power define who your God is and what that god must look like”, through the work of colonization/ globalization and world mission, Western Christians enforced Christ as a “white man”, that legacy still have a presence amongst Africans.
Those who dispute against portraying Jesus as a black man must not be aware of the history of Christianity on the continent of Africa. In order for Jesus Christ to be presence amongst all people, He should not be a distance white man who seem very disconnected with the reality of the African world.I would encourage parents to expose their children to a contexualized interpretation of scripture ( the Bible) because it would opportune them in seeing themselves as worthy human beings who were molded by the very hands of the God who they are growing to love, just as their white or brown counterparts. I would contend that this is the only way forward in continuation to build up black consciousness and the determination to look within for the empowerment of the community.
©Copyright, Yoknyam Dabale