Shaun King says he's received death threats after calling 'white Jesus' 'tool of oppression'

Toby Hudson
Toby Hudson

Controversial activist Shaun King on Tuesday said that he’s received death threats after calling for churches to remove all depictions of Jesus, the Holy Family and the apostles as “white European” because he sees such depictions as a form of “white supremacy.”

On Monday, King, a political activist who introduced Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the democratic socialist’s presidential campaign kickoff rally in Brooklyn last year, tweeted about the toppling of statues across the United States before he demanded that churches follow suit by removing all images of Jesus that depict Him as white.

By Tuesday morning, King said he’d received “about 20 death threats in the past 12 hours since I said that statues of white European Jesus are a tool of oppression for white supremacy and should be taken down.” 

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In a series of Twitter posts through Monday evening, he wrote:

“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. In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went? EGYPT! Not Denmark. Tear them down.

“Yes. All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.

“Experts have long since said this is likely the most accurate depiction of Jesus. White Americans who bought, sold, traded, raped, and worked Africans to death, for hundreds of years in this country, simply could not have THIS man at the center of their faith.”

King, who has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, responded to the alleged death threats and reiterated his argument against “Christian whiteness." The Christian Post reached out to King to request to view the threats and will include those details when a response is received. 

“I am a practicing Christian. I am an ordained minister and was a Senior Pastor for many years,” he tweeted. “If my critiques of the white supremacy within the Christian world bother you to the point of wanting to kill me, you are the problem. Christian whiteness has ALWAYS been dangerous.”

Some of King’s Twitter followers agreed with his push for churches to remove all stained glass windows and other images depicting Jesus with fair skin. Others, however, posited whether he’d fully thought through his argument since Jesus, Mary and other biblical figures have been depicted with different skin tones, styles of clothing as well as non-European characteristics in countries throughout the world.

Fox News noted Monday that Ethiopian churches have long depicted Jesus as black. Throughout Asia, artwork has depicted Him and the Holy Family as Asian.

In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, who created the "Jesus the Homeless" statue and presented his sculpture “A Quiet Moment” to the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2004, said artists are frequently commissioned to create works that depict Jesus and biblical figures to look like a particular ethnicity and community.

Joan Taylor, a professor of Christian origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College in London, noted in a 2015 article titled “What did Jesus really look like?” that some of the familiar depictions of Jesus “actually comes from the Byzantine era, from the 4th Century onwards.”

“In 2001 forensic anthropologist Richard Neave created a model of a Galilean man for a BBC documentary, ‘Son of God,’ working on the basis of an actual skull found in the region. He did not claim it was Jesus's face. It was simply meant to prompt people to consider Jesus as being a man of his time and place, since we are never told he looked distinctive,” she added.

Neave, a retired medical artist from the Unit of Art in Medicine at the University of Manchester, used a first century skull from a department of forensic science in Israel to reconstruct what Jesus might have looked like. These features included a large face, broad nose. Mark Goodacre, a professor of New Testament at Duke University, used third-century images from a synagogue to determine that Jesus’ skin color would have been an olive tone, not black or white.

“For all that may be done with modelling on ancient bones, I think the closest correspondence to what Jesus really looked like is found in the depiction of Moses on the walls of the third century synagogue of Dura-Europos, since it shows how a Jewish sage was imagined in the Graeco-Roman world,” Taylor added.

King, who has co-founded two political action committees, Real Justice PAC and The Action PAC, previously worked as a pastor at Total Grace Christian Center in DeKalb County, Georgia. He founded Courageous Church in 2008 but later resigned in 2012.

He received an Oprah Winfrey Scholarship and graduated from Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta. 

In 2015, King was accused of falsely portraying himself as black after media reports indicated that his birth certificate showed that both of his parents are white. A family member also told media outlets that he was lying about his race.

This led CNN opinion host Don Lemon to ask a panel whether King is “Rachel Dolezal 2.0” after he refused to answer the cable network’s questions about his personal history and the race listed on his birth certificate. While King refused to answer questions about his birth certificate, Lemon said King did say that he is biracial.

In response to media inquires about whether he was passing himself off as a black man, King wrote a piece for the Daily Kos in 2015, saying: “I have been told for most of my life that the white man on my birth certificate is not my biological father and that my actual biological father is a light-skinned black man. My mother and I have discussed her affair. She was a young woman in a bad relationship and I have no judgment.” 

King has also been mired in several controversies surrounding the accounting of money he managed for social justice causes and his relaunch of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist newspaper, The North Star. While The Daily Beast noted he’s never faced criminal or civil charges related to the accusations of wrongdoing, professor and author Keisha N. Blain said in a post on Twitter that she was “warned” about King. Blain claimed that she learned through personal experience that he is a “liar and a fraud.”

Additionally, King has been accused many times of trying to spark racial unrest. Last year, he falsely identified a white man in the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was killed by two black men in a drive-by shooting in Houston, Texas.

Following the police-involved death of George Floyd on May 25, King shared a video clip on his Instagram account showing Minneapolis police officers attempting to get a handcuffed Floyd into a squad car. King claimed the officers were beating the s*** out of Floyd. An extended video shows Floyd struggling to stand up outside the vehicle before he entered and then exited the opposite side and fell to the ground where two officers restrained his legs and back, and Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes before he died. Chauvin is now facing second-degree murder charges for his actions. 

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