Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Lloyd deliberately misses the point. The title character in Black Jesus is not advocating for the legalization of marijuana because he believes the costs of enforcement outweigh the benefits to society. He is an unemployed loser who takes more than his fair share of hits off the communal blunt. To suggest that anyone who doesn’t embrace this portrayal of Jesus sees Christ as “a figure of inflexible rectitude” is a false dichotomy to say the least.

Favorable reviews dismiss these antics as harmless stoner humor, akin to the “Harold and Kumar” movies, which trace the adventures of potheads in search of junk food. Yet no one interpreted Harold and Kumar as representative of the Indian and Korean communities, whereas by its very title, Black Jesus goes out of its way to insult both blacks and Christians.

Public opinion polls have consistently demonstrated that African Americans have, on average, a much greater reverence for Jesus, the Bible and the basic tenents of the Christian faith than the American population as a whole. George Barna’s research has demonstrated repeatedly, blacks are much more likely than other ethnic groups to attend church services, participate in small groups and Sunday school classes, pray, and read the Bible. (Ironically, the Washington Post praised Black Jesus for giving “visibility to a group rarely in the spotlight: minority skeptics.”)

There was a time when the entertainment industry appeared to respect the central role of Christianity in the black community. Its all too obvious we live in a different day. By sloppily separating Jesus’s love from His holiness, Black Jesus would have us believe that God’s love is no different from the warm, fuzzy feeling found at the bottom of a forty or the end of a blunt.

It is too early to make a judgment about the size or demographics of the Black Jesus’s audience, but I will be very surprised if many blacks tune in. Although the show has excellent comedic writing and some stand out black actors, it fails to be entertaining to those of us who grew up in real ghettos. Folks who find Black Jesus harmless fun cannot think much of Jesus, which is hardly surprising. But neither can they think much of black people.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.