On Monday, Black Lives Matter leader and Bernie Sanders surrogate Shaun King called for the toppling of statues and destruction of stained-glass windows showing “European Jesus,” which he condemned as “white supremacy.” Jenna Ellis, senior legal advisor to the Trump campaign, responded with a full-throated defense of Christianity. King condemned her response as yet another manifestation of “whiteness.”
“Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. 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,” King tweeted.
“Yes. 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. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down,” the leftist added.
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.
Created as tools of oppression.
They should all come down.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) June 22, 2020
King’s attack on Christian symbols is historically ignorant. While the art depicting Jesus may indeed be whiter than Jesus’s true skin color, that has nothing to do with “white supremacy” — pseudoscientific racism undergirding oppression that did not emerge until the early 1500s at the earliest — and everything to do with early Byzantine iconography dating back to the 500s or 600s. This argument seems little more than an excuse to attack Christianity, and Ellis responded accordingly.
“I’m going on record now: If they try to cancel Christianity, if they try to force me to apologize or recant my Faith, I will not bend, I will not waver, I will not break. On Christ the solid Rock I stand. And I’m proud to be an American,” Ellis tweeted.
I’m going on record now:
If they try to cancel Christianity, if they try to force me to apologize or recant my Faith, I will not bend, I will not waver, I will not break.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand.
And I’m proud to be an American.
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) June 22, 2020
This tweet went viral, receiving more than 28,000 “retweets” and 84,000 “likes.” Ellis told PJ Media the tweet received more than 1.5 million impressions.
King, undeterred, fired back. “Again, what she is actually defending here is her whiteness,” the BLM leader tweeted. “Christian whiteness needs white Jesus. It’s not about generosity or kindness. It’s not about protecting the vulnerable. It’s about whiteness itself. Attack white Jesus to her, and you attack her faith.”
Again, what she is actually defending here is her whiteness.
Christian whiteness needs white Jesus.
It's not about generosity or kindness.
It's not about protecting the vulnerable.
It's about whiteness itself.
Attack white Jesus to her, and you attack her faith. https://t.co/FrsH9ZIfl5
— Shaun King (@shaunking) June 23, 2020
Imagine if someone leveled this kind of racist accusation against black Christianity. If Barack Obama were to insist on black statues of Jesus — many of which exist — and a white person said his religion wasn’t Christianity but “blackness,” that person would rightly be condemned as racist.
Yet Jenna Ellis was not even insisting on a “white Jesus.” She merely took the opportunity to stand for her faith. She did not once mention race in the tweet, but defended Christianity, which arguably forms the bedrock for the unprecedented freedom and prosperity enjoyed by Americans and others across the globe. Christianity inspired the creation of the first hospitals, the first orphanages, and the first modern universities.
Some of the first settlers in what became the United States fled religious persecution in order to practice their faith in the New World. The struggle for religious freedom is central to America’s history and identity, and the Constitution enshrines this liberty in the First Amendment.
Yet The New York Times‘s “1619 Project” aims to redefine America, brushing aside religious freedom, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence in order to focus on the importation of slaves in 1619 as the true founding of America. This ideology supports a radical upheaval of American society in the name of racial justice, and it has arguably inspired the looting, vandalism, and arson across America that destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments.
This attack on Christianity as “whiteness” also erases many black champions of the Gospel, from Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King Jr., from former slave-turned Methodist preacher Richard Allen to early civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune. In recent years, the Rev. Anthony B. Thompson, pastor of the Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church of Charleston, S.C., stood out when he echoed Jesus Christ by forgiving the white supremacist who murdered his wife. Is their Christianity another form of “whiteness” to Shaun King?
This redefinition of biblical Christianity as somehow “white” or “white supremacy” fits into the larger “1619 Project” narrative and justifies targeting churches for violence and destruction. Like the other excesses of the 1619 riots, it won’t just target the hated white people and their legacies but will spill over to harm the very black people it is supposedly intended to help.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.