Amid calls to remove various United States monuments to Confederate fighters, progressive activist Shaun King claimed that portrayals of a white, European Jesus Christ are linked to white supremacy and should also be torn down.
“They are a form of white supremacy,” King tweeted in regards to statues of Jesus. “Always have been. In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went? EGYPT! Not Denmark. Tear them down.”
Not long after, King doubled down on his comments and took aim at other representations of Jesus.
“All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form white supremacy.”
The Real Justice co-founder claimed that such pieces of art were “created as tools of oppression” and likened them to “racist propaganda.”
King’s comments received pushback on social media, even from other progressive political figures. Notably, Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin, highlighted that there are depictions of Buddha that do not portray him as an Indian and asked whether King supported the removal of such images.
“Religious iconography is often thorny, sometimes racist in a malicious way, sometimes it was just taking a universal faith and depicting it in local image.”
Another user noted that depictions of Jesus vary depending on the country in which he is represented.
White evangelicals would abandon Christianity in seconds when they realize Jesus was brown. Whitewashing history to oppress people of color. pic.twitter.com/DFVHalcjLR
— SUCH (@Such) May 14, 2017
Woke White People: Stop overreacting about statues. They won't come for Jesus.
Shaun King: hold my sledgehammer. pic.twitter.com/AIZ2LXOc0p
— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) June 22, 2020
King’s comment comes one day after activist Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, claimed that statues of Jesus would be the next target of protesters who have taken aim at Confederate monuments amid the civil unrest sparked by George Floyd’s death. Schlapp’s Sunday comment sparked the hashtag #StatuesOfJesus, which trended on Twitter on Monday morning. As noted by some social media users, most statues of Jesus are on private property, as opposed to the government-created Confederate statues that are on public property.
Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history at Harvard Law School, did not condone protesters who are tearing down statues that they find offensive. Although Gordon-Reed said she understands the emotion behind the impulse, especially in a situation where the government has ignored community petitions, she ultimately said she could not support the behavior.
Nevertheless, Gordon-Reed pushed back against individuals who argued that removing Confederate statues dishonors the memory of people who died fighting for the Confederacy. She also claimed that the Confederate values are aligned with “unrepentant white supremacy” and a disregard for the lives of African Americans.