The iconoclasts of 2020 are wasting their time toppling Thomas Jefferson and defacing George Washington when they could be shattering the stained glass windows of churches and disfiguring sculptures of Jesus Christ — the true root of America’s rot, according to Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King.
“Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been,” King said Monday. “Tear them down.”
King will have a hard time dealing with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Sure he could take issue with Mary, queen of Ireland. Not only did Jesus not come from Ireland — a European country! — but the statue has a narrower nose than one would expect from a first-century Nazarene woman, and the Waterford crystal chandelier that hangs above it is ripe for smashing.
He and his mob could then stomp down the hall to destroy the next symbol of white supremacy: Our Lady of China. She appeared to the people of Donglu as the Chinese army and local militias bore down on the village during the Boxer Rebellion. The apparition did not approach these Christians bearing the likeness of the European missionaries who taught them about Jesus. Nor did she look anything like the doe-eyed Jewish woman who gave birth to Christ. She looked, well, Chinese.
King thinks destroying images of Jesus will redeem the world so long as Christ’s skin color is depicted accurately. He stopped short of endorsing the theft of a North Carolina tabernacle, but one could just as easily imagine him saying that the khaki wafer that transubstantiates into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our savior is too pale. Jesus, forgiving as he is, might be fine with that, but bringing his mother into it may cross the line.
“All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down,” King said. “They are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.”
The only white stained glass at my basilica is of doves, but no matter. We return to it because it offers lessons about a universal church. If King were to enter, and I hope he does, he would encounter the Blessed Virgin Mary as she has appeared to people throughout the ages, to believers and pagans alike.
Christ and his mother are depicted in sculptures, paintings, and mosaics. He would see shrines to Our Lady of Brezje, Our Lady of La Vang, Our Lady of Vailankanni, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, among others. The images from Slovenia, Vietnam, India, and Mexico share two things in common: they show the mother of Jesus Christ; and the mother of Jesus Christ looks like the people to whom the apparition was revealed.
From Kibeho, Rwanda to Fatima, Portugal to Champion, Wisconsin, the mother of God arrives looking like the natives. Mother Mary, clad in blue, presents herself to peasants while wearing veils, crowns, and rice hats of the region. She may have just been a poor Jewish woman on earth, but the queen of heaven has never shied away from adopting the ethnicity of any beleaguered soul. The lesson is clear: God’s saving grace is available to us all, but will be made manifest in the particular.
God in his wisdom knew that fallen man trusts those who look like him. How could he not, after having cast down the Tower of Babel and dividing up the tribes of Israel?
Even King acknowledges this: “In the Bible when the family of Jesus wanted to hide and blend in, guess where they went? EGYPT! Not Denmark,” he said. Denmark may have turned its back on Jesus, but Jesus did not turn his back on Denmark.
Egypt is another matter. The Holy Family did flee into a land where it could easily “blend in” after Her0d ordered the Slaughter of Innocents. But King’s rhetoric implies that Jesus came to save only those who look like him.
This is where King and his antagonists meet. They think the Son of Man who suffered and died for the sins of all mankind is somehow constrained by our petty differences; that those differences were not themselves authored by the same loving God who can count every hair on all of the 7 billion humans on the planet.
Those images at the basilica used to give me pause. We are all made in the image of God, after all, so why would Mary look different to different peoples? Because Jesus Christ came to save people who think like Shaun King.