Black Jesus painting to be displayed at St. Albans Cathedral in the UK

The painting "A Last Supper" by Lorna May Wadsworth, which depicts Jesus Christ as a Black man. | Lorna May Wadsworth

A painting depicting the last supper with Jesus Christ shown as a black man will be temporarily installed at a historic cathedral in the U.K.

St. Albans Cathedral will install the painting, titled “A Last Supper” by Lorna May Wadsworth, who used Jamaican-born model Tafari Hinds as her inspiration for how Jesus would look.

Inspired by the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, the Wadsworth piece will be on display at the Cathedral’s Altar of the Persecuted on Saturday through Oct. 31.

In a statement shared with The Christian Post, the cathedral said the purpose of displaying the artwork is to show its support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Very Rev. Jeffrey John, dean of St. Albans, said in the statement that he believed the church was “not in a strong position to preach to others about justice, racial or otherwise.”

“But our faith teaches that we are all made equally in the image of God, and that God is a God of justice,” he added. “Black Lives Matter, so this is why we have turned our Altar of the Persecuted into a space for reflection and prayer with Lorna’s altarpiece at the heart.”

In comments posted to the cathedral's website, Wadsworth said she felt inspired to challenge people over the “Western myth that” Jesus “had fair hair and blue eyes.”

“My portrayal of him is just as ‘accurate’ as the received idea that he looked like a Florentine,” she said. “I also knew that, from a previous portrait of Tafari, there is something in his countenance that people find deeply empathetic and moving, which is the overriding quality I wanted my Christ to embody.”

Debates over the racial depictions of Jesus have been a source of periodic controversy, especially when some have advocated for vehement rejection of western imagery portraying Him as white.

Progressive activist Shaun King garnered immense criticism and said he received death threats after he advocated for destroying statues, stained glass, and tapestries depicting Jesus, Mary, and the apostles with ethnic European features.

“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,” he tweeted on June 22.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz of The Post-Millennial argued that King was “attempting to cancel Jesus” and wanted to “destroy churches and statues.”

“The ‘tear them down’ attitude displayed by King is the same one that has now seen beloved president Theodore Roosevelt be canceled, as New York's Museum of Natural History has now announced that the statue will be torn down,” wrote Wakerell-Cruz.

Michael Brown, host of the Line of Fire radio program, said in an op-ed that an issue many people are overlooking is not whether Jesus is depicted as white or black, but whether He is depicted as a Jew.

"The historic contrast was not between a white Jesus and blacks. It was between a white, Gentile Jesus and Jews," Brown said. 

"So a major reason that white artists depicted Jesus as white was because they forgot about his Jewish (and Middle Eastern) roots. Not only so, but since the Jews were viewed as demonic and evil, Jesus had to be different than them, hence a white, non-Jewish Jesus. (Or, in other cultures, a black, non-Jewish Jesus.)," Brown wrote. 

In a column for The Telegraph on Sunday, Nick Timothy criticized Archbishop Justin Welby's response to King's demands that statues depicting a white Jesus be toppled. 

"When a Black Lives Matter activist called for statues of Jesus to be pulled down because they portrayed Him as a white European, Welby had the chance to draw the line. Jesus is depicted in different ways the world over, the Archbishop explained. He might have gone on to say that the significance of Jesus is spiritual, not political or racial, that Jesus was God made flesh, and that we are all made in God’s own image.

"Instead, he agreed that the depiction of Christ in Western countries should change and criticized the 'sense that God is white.' Jesus was 'Middle Eastern, not white,' he later reiterated, studiously avoiding the more accurate description that Jesus was a Jew. But then Middle Eastern Jews, or Israelis as we also call them, are these days an unfashionable minority to defend."

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