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Christian Magazine Criticized for Claiming Jesus Was Asian

A recent article published by the Christian magazine Christianity Today has sparked controversy and backlash on social media. Titled “How Asian Artists Picture Jesus’ Birth From 1240 to Today,” the article, written by Victoria Emily Jones, argues that Jesus was Asian and was born in Asia.

The photo essay featured nine pieces of artwork from various Asian cultures depicting the Nativity. Jones claims that by portraying Jesus as Asian, Christian artists can convey a deeper theological meaning of the universality of Christ’s birth.

While the article was published on December 18, it gained widespread attention on Christmas Eve after the magazine shared it on social media platform X. The post stated, “Jesus was born in Asia. He was Asian. The artists in this photo essay bring him back to Asia—but not to ancient Israel. These nine artworks ‘proclaim the expansiveness of Christ’s kingdom.'”

However, the premise of the article was met with criticism and mockery by commentators on X. Notably, the managing editor for Christian satire news site The Babylon Bee, Joel Berry, jokingly suggested doing an article with AI images of Jesus as Rosa Parks.

Others, like RedState columnist and author Buzz Patterson, simply questioned the outlet’s biblical knowledge while Christian blogger Samuel Sey called the article blasphemous. The senior pastor of Western Ave Baptist Church Ekkie Tepsupornchai also responded, stating that while he is Asian, “Jesus was not.”

The article’s premise also drew criticism from those outside the Christian community, with many pointing out the historical inaccuracy of portraying Jesus as Asian. Father Edward Beck, a CNN guest, also drew outrage on Christmas morning for calling Jesus “A Palestinian Jew born into a time when his country was occupied.”

Critics have argued that portraying Jesus as anything other than a Jewish man born into a specific time and place undermines his historicity. They also argue that Jesus’ identity as a Jew from Bethlehem is a crucial aspect of his story and should not be dismissed.

Some have also expressed concern that portraying Jesus as Asian could be seen as cultural appropriation or even a form of white-washing, as many of the featured artworks were created by white artists. Others have pointed out that Jesus’ ethnicity is not as important as his message and the salvation he offers to all people regardless of race or ethnicity.

In response to the backlash, Christianity Today defended the article, stating that the purpose was to explore the theological meanings behind representing Jesus as different ethnicities. They also clarified that they believe Jesus was a Jewish man born in Bethlehem but that his relevance and message transcend all cultures and borders.

Ultimately, the debate over Jesus’ ethnicity and depiction in artwork is ongoing and highly sensitive. While Christianity Today’s article aimed to promote inclusivity and universality, it has stirred up a heated discussion on social media about the historical accuracy and significance of Jesus’ ethnicity.

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