This post is particularly intended for my fellow humans who claim Christ, and more particularly a subset of these fellows who are white and think representation is a newfangled idea born of newfangledism.
Jesus’ story is a story of representation. Pretty much exactly as we mean the term today. The story of Jesus says representation matters. And it says it over and over again.
The story begins in the womb of an unwed mother. Jesus is born on the way to a religious pilgrimage. As a baby, Jesus, along with his mother and stepfather, become political refugees seeking asylum from certain harm.
Representation matters. Jesus was a Nazarene. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you, but to the people of the day Nazarene whispered words like thug and animal.
Jesus was the son of a carpenter. He was homeless as an adult. His friends were a rough sort—tax collector and fishermen and the like. He ate with prostitutes. He was unbothered coming near to children and lepers and bleeding women and Samaritans and a freshly caught adulteress.
Representation matters. Jesus broke the rules of his society. He angrily purged the temple for its failure in purpose. He fed people who were hungry and healed those deemed worthless and unclean by society.
His first recorded miracle was extraordinary in its simplicity and lack of religiosity: he turned water to wine for wedding guests because his mother asked him to.
Representation matters. Jesus avoided those in power who sought to trap him, to kill him. He made the powerful small whenever they interacted.
Representation matters. And Jesus died as a political captive. For no crime but angering those with power. On baseless accusations of nonexistent threats to overthrow Caesar. So hated that the mob chose to free a known murderer just to kill Christ.
Representation matters. From the one who bore his cross to the one who bought his tomb, from the sinner on his left to the sinner on his right, from his best friend to his grieving mother, the lowly are the ones highlighted.
Representation matters. Women found the empty tomb. If you wanted to build a false religion around a tomb not really emptied, it wouldn’t begin with women. With unbelievable, unbelieved people without class or station. But this is the story of Jesus and representation matters more than society’s systematic oppression.
Jesus challenged institutional racism (see the Samaritans), systemic oppression of the poor and those without a class, the lofty proclaiming their own loft, the way things have always been done. Jesus practiced socialized medicine and fed people in a socialized manner in that he fed whoever hungered.
Jesus even counseled that the first will become last and the last will become first.
Representation matters. It matters to Jesus enough to fill his story with people who had little representation. It still matters today.
Note that Jesus, obviously, was Jewish by birth, born in Bethlehem (Palestine). You can know if you view Jesus as default white simply by this litmus test: when you picture the Jesus you let into your heart, is he in any way a brown man of a dispossessed race?
Consider that Jesus was born as he was, where he was, and when he was on purpose. The savior we both claim walked this earth—and was always meant to—as a brown man of the Middle East, a member of an oppressed race.
I am represented in Jesus’ story as a woman, as a sinner, as a believer, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, as a person who bleeds, as a person in need, as a member of a different race. I have found my representation in the story and it matters to me. And his ability to lift up the representation of so many, that matters to me too.
I owe no less in my story than to reveal a broad representation of people. Both in my real story and my fictional stories. There are many still waiting to see themselves in the story of America, the stories on our shelves and televisions, and the stories of American infrastructure. As Christians, we have a well-made blueprint of inclusion and representation. If only we’ll use it.