Jesus wasn't white. We know this. I regularly visit a vast diversity of churches, and I always pay attention how Jesus is portrayed. It matters.
The predominant images of white Jesus aren't just factually wrong - they are theologically dangerous and inherently violent.
One need to look no further than Dylann Roof, who walked into a South Carolina church filled with God-breathed black people, spent an hour in Bible study, and then reloaded five times - all in the name of white supremacy. He was unapologetic and unrepentant, and he remains so to this day.
And he was confirmed as a Lutheran in an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) community.
This fact has been the source of much hand-wringing and general "Yes, but" comments - something that rubs me in a particularly wrong way, since these are my people. (I've been ordained in the ELCA since 2010.)
Roof is back in the news, not just because of the trial, but also because some more of his demonic writings while in prison have come to light. In particular, he calls Christianity a religion full of "white warriors," and sees Jesus as a holy leader in the movement for white supremacy.
Since Roof's actions are a special brand of horrific, we often get away with dismissing his disgusting views as a one-off. "That's not us," we say.
But as much as we may want to, we cannot divorce ourselves from Dylann Roof. He is ours; and we are his. It's what evangelical leader Jim Wallis calls the "original sin" of these United States. And this sin infects all of us - including, in a very specific way, white people like me. Like Roof.
In some ways, the very soul of white Christianity is on trial in our country today - and for too long, our defense has been some variation of "well, not all of us are..." This line of thinking simply does not hold water.
We are called to resist and call things what they are, not look the other way and theologically shrug our shoulders. Our Church has created the atmosphere for hatred to brew.
This is because when Dylann Roof looked up at white Jesus, he saw one of his own - a Savior for white people; a Messiah for whiteness; a teacher of white supremacy. Roof probably rarely - if ever - saw images of a Jesus who wasn't white. White Jesus is the norm. It's why when any of us, no matter what race, see a Jesus of color - a more accurate Jesus - it often elicits a reaction. We've been lulled into accepting an insidious lie.
And what a whopper it is. Turning Jesus of Nazareth from a brown, Palestinian Jew who was murdered by the Powers That Be into a white European bent on ushering in the opposite of the kingdom of God - nothing less than Roof's white supremacist "utopia" - is as big as lies can get.
This is the lie that feeds the unique breed of white American Christian terrorists. It's not enough to look the other way. We who are white and Christian must own it, claim it, and dismantle it. It's not easy work, but it's damn sure necessary work.
One could even say it's holy work.