How about a little controversy today?
Back in 1954, I asked a very disturbing question with my Sunday School teacher, Sister Calhoun at the 7th Street Christ Holy Sanctified Church. I hadn’t been in this church very long, and was somewhat of a newcomer, thus, to ask such a challenging question upset the other students. They did not know that my grandfather was a church planter and fantastic Bible scholar with the Church of the Living God (PG&T). He had come from a Baptist background, having a father as a Baptist preacher from Texas, and had asked many questions which challenged Christians around him. And then, there was my mother, a church musician, who had taken me around various church denominations when they needed her services. She pondered many questions, was an avid reader, and had this close connection with the Creator. They both tolerated my questions as I grew up, sometimes giving me direct answers, or telling me that I would discover the answers in time.
As Sister Calhoun was teaching, I kept looking at the pictures of the biblical characters and was struck with how pink-looking they were. I had discovered earlier in life that when white people spent time in the sun, they often tanned, or turned red. I kept looking at the pink-looking biblical characters and could not understand how they could have spent so much time in the sun, living where there was so much sunshine, and still look pink!
When Sister Calhoun took a breath, I had my hand raised and asked my question. “Why are these people in the bible so white?” Sister Calhoun’s jaw dropped; the students murmured their displeasure—no student was supposed to ASK questions; we were supposed to just listen and be prepared to answer questions during a review by the Sunday School Superintendent, Deacon White, or some other respected adult. How dare I, a church new-comer, stop the flow by asking such a dumb question! Some students mentioned something that’s was just the way it was. Other students voiced why was I so dumb. And, others chatted their displeasure that this new person was stopping the flow of how things progressed.
Sister Calhoun looked at me after she had regained her composure. She said, “Well, we buy our material from a white Christian publishing company, and I guess they just thought that the bible characters were white.” I didn’t like the answer, and asked another question, much to the chagrin of the other students, now busily complaining about this newcomer. “Why don’t we have our own material?” I asked. Sister Calhoun quietly responded with, “Well, it takes a lot of money, and white people have the resources, and we don’t. Now, let’s get back to our lesson so we can do well when the class is reviewed.” “Yeah!” the other well-dressed students shouted, more in anger than in a mere consensus.
I had a lot more questions throughout my Christian journey. Often, my questions were met with jeers and frustration from others who had been trained to not question God, and not to question the way things were. As I grew older, I learned to somewhat fit in with the status quo, but more questions kept popping into my head, and I began more reading, researching, and questioning God. I remembered how I felt as a 12-year-old asking questions. I asked my mom, who gave me good answers, or said she did not know the answer, but that I could ask God. I remembered feeling God asking me if I would be willing to go against almost 2,000 years of accepted Christian history, and go against thousands of years of Jewish and Hebrew and early civilization history. I pondered His question, and said “No!” However, the questions kept popping inside my head, causing me to write the publishing company that produced the Sunday School material I questioned as a 12-year-old.
Jim English from the David C. Cook Publishing Company replied to my inquiry. During our communicating back and forth, he received permission to have me come and bring my research and spend a week with this huge publishing company. I met Joseph Bayly, one of the Vice Presidents, and author of “The Gospel Blimp and Other Modern Parables. Those I met listened to my questions with an open mind. Then, one of the researchers showed me art work the company use to use in the 1880—all of the biblical characters were blonde and blue-eyed. He then compared that to their current art work, mentioning that they had changed hair color, eye color, and skin tones to more closely match the characters.
When I protested that the current artwork was better, but was NOT authentic, giving them some of my research, they agreed. However, they said, “It would not be wise to all of a sudden show Jesus and other bible characters with darker skin and darker hair. Most of our customers are white Christians, and would be shocked at the art, and would stop purchasing items from us, which would not be a wise business decision. However, probably in the next 100 years (this was in the late 1970s), I am sure that publishers, including our company, will show Jesus and all bible characters with more authentic skin tones, etc.” This time, I dropped my jaw! So, this was about business. Then, someone asked me a very challenging question: “If black people had the resources and controlled art and publishing, don’t you think they would create biblical characters in their image?” Reluctantly, I had to agree. Then, I was introduced to the art director—he was an African American!
When I questioned the art director, he explained that he gets the assignments, oversees the work, but since all of the artists and photographers were white, his hands were tied, and he was not about to jeopardize his future quibbling over more color for the biblical characters. Then I asked those over him why they didn’t hire more African American researchers, artists, etc., they explained that they had tried, but the Elgin, Illinois area was not conducive (at that time) for Black people to feel comfortable living in the area. Plus, they could not match the salary that African American artists were offered by Ebony and other African American publications. Now that several African American publications had become more successful, those publications were able to compete very well with Anglo American publications for artistic talent.
Before I left this publishing company, they showed me plans to help African American churches have their “own” material. The company would wrap the front and back covers, with the suggested African American pictures, around Sunday School material from Cook. In fact, I was told, they were going to hire more African Americans to become consultants, and asked if I would be interested. Although the money wasn’t that great, I served for a short time as a consultant, meeting up with African American Christian conventions, showing displays of publications, including those that were more oriented to African American churches.
I continued my quest of asking questions and observing other Christian groups, both black and white. I spent a little time working with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and noticed that they had their own publishing company, but didn’t use a lot of art. I spent time working with the Assemblies of God church, and asked questions about their history, and their lack of African American leadership in their upper ranks. I asked questions and visited with Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Catholic, Church of God in Christ, and may other Christian, as well as non-Christian religious groups. When I worked with the African American Baptists, I noticed that they had their own publishing houses and used more pictures and art depicting people of color. Some African American publishers even created an African American Bible, but I knew that all of the characters in the Bible were NOT Black, or African. Then I made a trip to Rome where I visited the Vatican.
At the Vatican, it was a very interesting experience as I began to see where racism against Black people came from. As a tour guide was showing a group all of the art and statutes, I could not help but stop him and ask, “Did the artists and sculptures used authentic Jewish people as models?” The guide gave me a very dirty look, and the other tourists acted like my 12-year-old Sunday School class. When the guide said, “No,” I had another question. “So who were the models for all of these paintings and statutes, and when were they made?”
By now, the murmurings of the other tourists grew louder, and the guide was very angry, but tried to give an answer. He said, “We used Roman citizens, but they artists worked hard to make the art and sculptures as accurately as possible. Now, moving on, let me show everyone…” As he moved on, much to the delight of the crowd, I continued to look at the artistic lies that had been sold around the world. Later, I would discover that such artistic lies were picked up by the Lutherans, the English, other European Christians, and finally made its way into the churches in America. Now, I was somewhat more eager to stand against the artistic lies of the Christian churches, but still had that feeling that I really didn’t want to continue the assignment of discovering where so much racism against Black People came from—the Catholic Church, and most all other Christian churches, bible schools, and seminaries.
I began to examine the “Christian” and “Bible” movies from Hollywood, looking at the script writers, producers, and directors. Many of them appeared to be backslidden Jews and Christians, or those who did not have a connection to the Creator. They have continued to make “Christian” and “authentic” Bible-type movies. Only a few in the last few years began to use authentic Black people in roles other than as slaves and servants. One movie even showed Samson as a Black man. This did not go unnoticed by Black people around the world. Then two Christian brothers made a recent movie, “War Room,” where most of the main characters were African American, including the daughter of Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Fellowship, one of the greatest Bible teaching churches in America.
Dr. Evans is also one of the foremost African American Christian publishers in the world through the Urban Alternative. He didn’t just ask questions, and find answers—he began publishing his findings for over 30 years. He was also the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Not only did he ask questions as he grew, but he went out and studied the material used by some of the top Christian pastors and Christian leaders. This has allowed him to have a voice of reason on radio, television, and within the sports industry as chaplain for the NFL‘s Dallas Cowboys and is currently the longest serving NBA chaplain which he has done by serving the Dallas Mavericks for over 30 years.
Since I began asking questions about the racism falsely portrayed in The Holy Bible as taught by early Catholics and other Christians, I have discovered others beyond Dr. Evans also asked, answered, and published their findings. This includes Dr. Fred Price, Dr. I.V. Hilliard, and many from Anglo American Christians like Dr. Joel Freeman, and Jim Wallis. And, then there are those who don’t portend or pretend to be Christians who have compiled “non-Christian” research. At the top may be a somewhat unknown organization doing a lot of research that is very disturbing to most people of the Anglo persuasion, as seen by this website: http://www.realhistoryww.com/, and there are more similar websites and youtube videos uncovering history that was NOT taught in school, college, university, church, or seminary. Stay tuned!