ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

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ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Big Daddy Weaver » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:52 pm

That's the question that Miguel De La Torre asks and answers in his opinion piece over at Associated Baptist Press. Here's a snippet:

In the fullness of Jesus’ divinity, he had to learn how to be fully human. His family and culture were responsible for teaching him how to walk, how to talk, and how to be potty-trained.

He also learned about the superiority of Judaism and the inferiority of non-Jews, in the very same way that today there are those within the dominant culture who are taught America is No. 1 . . .

Nevertheless, for Christians, the imago Dei finds its fullest expression in the personhood of Jesus as he turned many “rules” upside down. This is a truth that even Jesus, in his full humanity, had to learn.

To deny this woman a healing and call her a dog reveals the racism his culture taught him. But Jesus, unlike so many within the dominant social structure of today, was willing to hear the words of this woman of color, and learn from her.

And thanks to her, Jesus’ ministry was radically changed. The Canaanite woman responded by saying, “For even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.”

Her remark shocked Jesus into realizing that faith was not contingent on a person’s ethnicity. In fact, Jesus had to admit that this was a woman of great faith.

This woman of color had to cross the “border” demarcated by Jesus’ culture. But she crosses this border not to worship her oppressor (Jesus), but to demand an equal place at the table of the Lord. She demands to be treated as an equal.

It matters little if she belongs. It matters less if she has proper documentation. Her daughter was sick and because of her humanity, she was entitled to a healing. She was more than the dog he called her.

Up to this point, the gospel message was exclusively for the Jews. In Matthew 10:5, Jesus sends his 12 disciples on their first missionary venture. He clearly instructs them, “Do not turn your steps into other nations, nor into Samaritan cities, rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Yet five chapters later, Jesus encounters the Canaanite woman who existed on the margins of his society. She challenged Jesus with the good news that healing was not the exclusive property of one ethnic group. Instead, healing should be available to all who come.

Jesus learned something about his mission from this woman of color. How do we know this? By the end of his ministry when he gives the Great Commission, he commands his followers to go out to all nations, not just the people of Israel.

Now, if Jesus is willing to learn something from the margins of society, from those who he was taught were his inferiors, no better than dogs, shouldn’t Euro-Americans who call themselves his disciples today be willing to do likewise?


Many of the articles over at ABP only receive one or two comments, if any. This article has blown up the comment thread. Here are a couple of the comments:

What a poorly presented and hermeneutically myopic piece.

I've defended ABPNews to many friends and colleagues who have belittled it and tried to decry the leadership. This is, however, inexecusable.

Her remark shocked Jesus into realizing that faith was not contingent on a person's ethnicity. In fact, Jesus had to admit that this was a woman of great faith.

This suggestion here is a straight-faced denial of Christ's divinity. It is also awfully close to heterodoxy. Jesus did not need any person to "teach" Him or help "reveal" the things of mankind to Him. Racism is sin. Suggesting Christ had indulged in such a practice is simply poor hermeneutics.

While we all clearly don't share the same liberationist critique that the author holds, I doubt heavily that most liberationists would offer such a twisted view of Christology.

The necessary response here is a retraction and apology from the editors of this site. You have done a disservice to Christianity and the God whom you serve in ministry.

I cannot defend this site again until that happens.

Regretfully,
Robert Angison


AND

Christless
written by Broadman, February 24, 2009
"In this story, I find myself relating more with the Canaanite woman than with Jesus."

I agree. You are apparently a thorough-going pagan who has no relationship with Jesus. Your attempt to be theologically cute is blasphemy. Nor is it clever, as you deconstructionists are constantly aspiring to be (at the expense of the truth). Pitiful reasoning skills. In other words, you are an uninspired hack.

ABP, you bemoan your budget cuts. Here is how to say some money. Fire your editor for allowing such twaddle to ever see the light of day.


Needless to say, I doubt this particular op-ed makes it into any of the state papers.
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I think Jesse Helms was a racist

Postby Stephen Fox » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:03 pm

and he died a Deacon at CBF church in good standing Hayes Barton.

Bdid: You and I and De La Torre have our own sins; they just don't seem to get as much play as the sin of the week, this week compliments of Eric Holder.
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De la Torres' reading seems to follow the text better

Postby Haruo » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:44 pm

I posted this:

De la Torres' reading has a certain eisegetical content, to which some of the prior commenters react vociferously in the negative because it clashes with their own eisegesis. That's how it looks to me anyway. Eisegesis is often the factor that gives scripture its greatest power. The value of, say, "Go Down Moses" and any number of other spirituals of the mid-1800s, lies primarily in the way the Spirit of God spoke to the people who sang them through an eisegetical method. The anecdote about the Canaanite woman whose kid was sick is no worse an analogy to an undocumented (whether criminally or by accident) Latina with a sick kid. I'm not sure I see her demanding equality, but I certainly don't see her as shrinking on theological grounds from talking back to Jesus in order to get her needs met. Personally I'm in favor of laissez faire migration, I'm definitely not a nationalist (I think nationalism and many forms of patriotism are just as sinful, and in the same way really, as racism), but regardless of one's position on immigration law I can't see how you can deny kids health care based on their parents' paperwork status and call yourself a loyal follower of Jesus.

I'm going to have to subscribe to your paper, I guess, to make up for one of these other brethren who are canceling...
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Cathy » Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:39 pm

I too am somewhat taken aback by de la Torre's take on the text. After stating that, I still wonder why some people don't understand the meaning of the word OPINION. I do not close my ears to the opinions of others when they are respectfully presented.

I have certainly been in bible studies when there was a discussion of Christ's development from infant/God to the man/God fully aware of his earthly/heavenly mission. It is an interesting subject to ponder, but I can't imagine that anyone can profess a full understanding of the mystery. The subject is one that makes me wonder as I wander in contemplation. I assume that Christians would fall in a continuum from de la Torre to Cathy to Dr J and all parts in between in their own perspective on the text and most any text up for discussion.

I have thought a few times about posting on the continuous dogging that Gushee puts up with in each of his OPINION pieces in ABP. Some of the commenters, Dr J and others, seem intent on finding fault with Gushee. So the comments on this post of de la Torre's are no surprise.

I disagreed to some extent with Holder's comments last week, but de la Torre has not been a coward in his discussion of racism.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby William Thornton » Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:02 am

The guy is a prolific writer and has seemed to be to be somewhat of a darling to Ethics Daily which has published a number of his pieces. I'm glad to see that even mod/libs who love ABP recognize some theological issues with this.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Ed Pettibone » Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:41 am

Ed: Caution, here, I am thinking out loud. I do not know de la Torre's, don't think I have ever read any thing else by him, but I think some of his critics on this item are missing a few of his major points that have a degree of validity. Yet I am of the opinion that he has reached pretty far in an attempt to raise an issue about the treatment of His people in this country. I think I would like to know more about his theological background. He seems to have a problem dealing with Hebrew idiom.

I think maybe this flack points up a major problem with airing deep academic Theological questions in public forums and in journals designed for consumption by the masses as if the subject deserved only a few pages. Or that such subject can be adequately informed by the marginally informed consumer, in short reply clips.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Jerry_B » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:20 pm

Well that is sure got folks typing away! To me it is a big leap from Jesus learning to be human and Jesus learning he is a racist, a leap I am not willing to make. Not because Jesus wasn't exposed to racism, even his own disciples seemed to struggle with this, but because for Jesus to be a racist is to make a Jesus a sinner. Hebrews 4:15 says this is not the case. I sorta like the tension and struggling with the idea of knowing what Jesus knew when he knew it and the like, but this to me seems to me anyway to go to far.

He might better make the point he is trying to make by looking at the Gospel of Luke and note how Luke goes out of his way to include the excluded and the marginalized, women, Gentiles etc..

There is much that has been swept under the rug concerning racism, especially in the church, that needs to uncovered and thoughtfully discussed, but I don't think this article will help that much needed uncovering process. The little note of "Jesus learning" and "being shocked" will overshadow the larger issue at stake in the article, which sadly is very unfortunate.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:05 pm

Jerry B wrote:for Jesus to be a racist is to make a [?] Jesus a sinner
How is racism per se "a sin"? How is a racist ipso facto "a sinner"? I don't see it. I see a number of places where the scriptures actually command racism of the Israelites.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Jonathan » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:16 pm

Haruo wrote:
Jerry B wrote:for Jesus to be a racist is to make a [?] Jesus a sinner
How is racism per se "a sin"? How is a racist ipso facto "a sinner"? I don't see it. I see a number of places where the scriptures actually command racism of the Israelites.


You kinda answered your own question didn't you?
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Jonathan » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:18 pm

I read the article (noticed the name mostly because of how many times SFox has dropped it over the years) and wasn't terribly surprised. He seems to fit quite well among mod/libs and on ABP.

That there was some controversy in the mod and lib communities was the issue of interest to me.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Big Daddy Weaver » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:25 pm

De La Torre earned his M.Div from Southern Seminary in 1995 and Ph.D. from Temple University in 1999. Here is his CV.

After being reprimanded for an article he wrote a few years back, De La Torre resigned his position at Hope College. I don't remember all of the details but I think this is the news account of his resignation.

De La Torre has been a regular at EthicsDaily for a number of years. I guess when Bob Allen left ED.com for ABP, he brought De La Torre with him so to speak. I'm not sure if De La Torre has written anything recent for ED.com.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:50 pm

His forthcoming book "Out of the shadows into the light: Stuggling with the sin of heterosexuality" should be a good read. Any word who's publishing it?
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Big Daddy Weaver » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:22 pm

Chalice Press is the publisher. I believe Chalice Press has a close relationship with Disciples of Christ.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Jim » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:22 pm

A reading of the whole article reveals that it actually begins as a tirade regarding illegal immigrants and the alleged mistreatment of them by Americans who seek to refuse them medical treatment, etc. De la Torre is Cuban, has lived in this country for years and now lives in the Southwest, where there’s a serious problem with illegals.

He doesn’t mention that as early as John 3:16, Jesus made it clear that the gospel was for everyone, so he needs to examine his interpretive abilities regarding the passage in question. Indeed, as early as John 1, the privilege of being brothers with Christ is given to everyone, not just those noted as the “lost sheep of Israel.” De la Torre obviously has an axe to grind but needs to make it sharper by using the truth. Jesus had a reason for the words of Matthew 15, and it should be noted that he did not send the woman away at the urging of his disciples but dialogued with her. The bread, children, and crumbs may have entirely different meanings than the ones used by De la Torre. Also, his reference to the woman as a “person of color” would seem erroneous, but it suited his purpose.

The article was social, not theological, but it was interesting. While De la Torre obviously considers “Euro-Americans” as racist, he probably considers himself to be non-racist, thus in position to lecture us all.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:29 pm

And just how early is John 3:16, Jim?
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Ed Pettibone » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:01 pm

Haruo wrote:And just how early is John 3:16, Jim?


ED: Haruo would you settle for some where between 40 and 100 A.D. ? Depending largely on who actually penned it. Some question whether it ws the Apostle himself or a follower. Still seems to support Jim's point.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Jim » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:20 pm

Galilee, where Jesus lived and started his ministry was described this way on a PBS Frontline program: “From very early times... there were always a mixture of peoples in the northern region of Palestine, especially when one moves to the coast.” Jesus began his ministry among both Jews and Gentiles, and the terminology used for those who followed him was “crowds,” not members of the “lost tribes of Israel.” De la Torre’s subterfuge is enhanced when one notices the events in the chapters of Matthew leading up to the 15th. In the beatitudes of Chapter 5, those mentioned were just noted as the meek, poor in spirit, etc., receiving blessedness, without mention of nationality or belief.

In chapter 6, Jesus mentioned giving to the needy, not just the Jewish needy. In chapter 7, those who do the will of the Father gain heaven, not just the Jews who do God’s will. In chapter 8, Jesus healed the servant of a centurion, certainly not a member of the lost tribe but probably a hated Roman. In chapter 9, Jesus raised from the dead a daughter of a ruler, certainly not a Jew, and healed the woman who touched his garment, who may or may not have been a Jewess. In chapter 10, Jesus sent out the disciples to specifically witness to members of the “lost sheep of Israel,” noteworthy since he had already been witnessing to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. So...if Jesus learned about racism in chapter 15, he must have wondered what he had been up to in his earlier ministry.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:36 pm

While I would certainly agree, Ed (and Jim), that De la Torre's reading of the Matthew text is not the be-all and end-all of its interpretation and application, I think it's a legitimate reading, not just eisegesis, and I think it points to a legitimate question about Christians and medical care for undocumented children.

I am inclined to think that John postdates Matthew, though perhaps not by many years, and I'm pretty sure all the Gospels are post-70, so when we're talking (as De la Torre is) about the acculturation, education, social development, whatever you want to call it of the historical Jesus, which may be reflected in this pericope, I see red flags all over the place when I read "Jesus said X as early as John 3:16" let alone "John 1". I am quite sure that is Christian reflection, not Jesus' words in the flesh. Jim may disagree, as may you, and neither of us was there in the flesh to hear (even if we knew Aramaic and the HS didn't provide simultaneous translation).

Jim, I think you are (not necessarily, indeed probably not, intentionally) misconstruing the word "racist" as De la Torre uses it. (Ditto re his "of color".) Your Matthew points seem more pertinent to me than anything out of John could be, but still don't convince me. I think Jesus was probably much more seriously affected, for the good, by his experience growing up as a bastard (albeit one who knew he had a father in heaven) than by his early exposure to systemic racism. And where do you get the notion that the "ruler" whose daughter Jesus raised in ch. 9 was certainly not Jewish? In Luke 8 the same term is used of one who is explicitly a synagogue official.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Hal Eaton » Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:28 pm

So De La Torre offered an opinion concerning what appears to be an exposition of inerrant scripture.

And we are immediately deluged by posts which offer others' opinions based, not on the exposition of inerrant scripture, but on theological unknowns regarding when/where/how Jesus acquired knowledge of his own stature, with accompanying opinions (derogatory) regarding the character, background, ethnicity, and trustworthiness of the the first poor fellow who offered an opinion . . .

I welcomed De La Torre's proposal; it offers considerable food for thought. Dancing around his conclusions requires more Arthur Murray instruction than I need (or want) (or am able) to acquire.

Among my own opinions: Perhaps the recording of the conversation was mis-handled, and Jesus was mis-quoted. OK?
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Leland and Haruo?

Postby Stephen Fox » Wed Feb 25, 2009 6:06 pm

You are one and the same person, right?
Whoever Leland is at ABP is doing a fine job.
At the same time, these kind of discussions don't help the coffers of the CBF and that is a dilemma.
What do you do about the good souls who don't seem to carry enough water to get, understand these type of discussions.
In the community searching for truth, there seem to be a lot of casualties.

Bob Terry of the Alabama Baptist doesn't seem to help much, going out of his way, to define CBF in regard Killinger last year, and now with his current Oped in Bama Baptist.
I'll let Mark take up the Alabama Angle from there.

Haruo said Jesus was a bastard. Will Campbell said We are all Bastards. I guess that leaves open the next topic to see just who among us is the biggest one here at bl.com?? :lol:
I guess in that leaves us in this topic to say, If Jesus was a racist Bastard, he had to be about the best one Miguel De La Torre and most of us ever encountered.
I'll sure take him over WA Criswell in that category.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:00 pm

Amen, Fox.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Thu Feb 26, 2009 4:25 am

Well, I don't think it's likely that color was the criterion then that it in America of late. Don't know of any reason to think Canaanites were appreciably different in skin tone from Jews or Galileans. That definition of racism is anachronistic. But that Jesus may have harbored unexamined prejudices absorbed as a natural part of growing up in that time and place and ethnicity and religion, I can easily hypothesize. And so long as such prejudices remain unexamined and merely latent, I'm not sure if they're sinful (since it would require a miracle not to have them). They may be, but I'm not sure. There's certainly mystery in how Jesus could be both fully human and fully divine. It seems to me that most of De la Torre's detractors may be allowing their adoring awe at the latter to obscure perhaps equally awesome aspects of the former.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:45 pm

But is the sin nature sinful in itself, or is sin only in yielding to it? And is it sinful to discriminate based on ancestry (which is actually the feature involved in racism, not color) if Moses said the Lord said to? That Jesus saw and acted on the parallel between racism, sexism, and his own experience as a son of an unwed mother ("Is this not the son of Mary?"—implicit in Mark 6:3 is "Is this not the one specially sinful in his very conception?"—which our theology has stood on its head) does not mean he cannot have started out with those other isms as deeply ingrained as any of his childhood buddies.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Ed Pettibone » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:20 pm

Haruo wrote:But is the sin nature sinful in itself, or is sin only in yielding to it? And is it sinful to discriminate based on ancestry (which is actually the feature involved in racism, not color) if Moses said the Lord said to? That Jesus saw and acted on the parallel between racism, sexism, and his own experience as a son of an unwed mother ("Is this not the son of Mary?"—implicit in Mark 6:3 is "Is this not the one specially sinful in his very conception?"—which our theology has stood on its head) does not mean he cannot have started out with those other isms as deeply ingrained as any of his childhood buddies.


Ed: perhaps it has something to do with how we understand "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself[/b], taking the form of a servant, having been born in the likeness of men. in the context of Philippians; 2: 1-11.
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Re: ABP Op-Ed: Was Jesus A Racist?

Postby Haruo » Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:21 am

I know of no reason to assume that Mary (and Joseph, if he was still around) raised Jesus to understand the wrongness of discriminating against Canaanites or Syro-Phoenicians or Samaritans. Such discrimination was not just common at the time, for Israelites it was virtuous. Because it was apparently generally known that Jesus was not Joseph's son, and therefore presumably a product of sexual sin, I have no doubt that Jesus was well aware of the injustice of discrimination against the illegitimate. How and when he would have connected the dots seems to me an open question, as is the question of how and when he became conscious of his status as Son of God and God himself. It is not clear to me that any of the canonical gospels implies that the latter occurred any earlier than his baptism. But it seems to me likely that it was Mary (and perhaps Joseph) who early on taught him that he was specially conceived by the holy Spirit (רוח הקודש — a term which is not, in Judaism, a Person of the Godhead). This would not necessarily mean that they told him he was divine.

I'm not sure what you mean, Timothy, by "ingrained prejudice leads to the idea that Jesus wasn't the Christ but, became the Christ." And "the Christ" would not necessarily have meant "the Son of God" or "God". "The Christ" could very well have meant something more like what the Muslim "Mahdi" or "Twelfth Imam" is in Shi'a Islam. I'm not talking about what "the Christ" means in Christian theology, or even in the gospel texts, but what the term might have meant to people in the milieu in which Jesus grew to adulthood.
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