JESUS' ETHNIC IDENTITY
Did Jesus embrace a particular ethnic identity? Was Jesus an ethnocentrist? Did he believe that his first obligation was to his own ethnic group? Did he exhibit bias towards those who were racially similar to him? A careful reading of the gospels will reveal that the answers to all these questions is "yes."
Much like the "racist" Victorian imperialists of the eighteenth century, Jesus believed the core of the Israelite worldview should be exported to every nation on earth. The Hebrew’s monotheistic religion would necessarily have to subvert and destroy the false religions embraced by other nations. The Hebrew origin stories and concept of meaning would have to replace those created by all other ethnic groups. In other words, the world would have to accept a Hebrew-centric worldview in order to be pleasing to the one true God.
In the 'Gospel of John,' a women asked Jesus whether the Samaritans are right to worship God on a mountain or the Jews are right to worship God in the temple. Jesus flatly told the women his own people were right and the Samaritans were wrong: "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews." (John 4:22)
Was Jesus’ attitude ethnocentric? Absolutely. Is this a good thing? Absolutely. The truth is always preferable to falsehood. God is always preferable to mere superstition. Christ expected all the nations of the earth to accept that God had chosen Jesus’ ethnic group to deliver salvation to the planet. What idea could possibly be more ethnocentric than that?
Did Jesus believe his first priority was to his own ethnic group? He certainly did. In his three year ministry on earth Jesus never once left Palestine (his ethnic homeland). Besides the Jews, the only other ethnic group Christ preached to were the Samaritans; who were genetically half Jewish and also worshiped Yahweh.
If Jesus was the savior of all mankind why did he not know it was "racist" for him to spend all his time preaching to his own ethnic group? Why did he not know he had to embrace diversity for his message to be legitimate?
In a blunt statement meant to test the faith of a gentile women who asked him for help, the Savior dismisses her by stating he came to minister only to ethnic Israelites. He then compared other ethnic groups to dogs. He plainly stated his personal ministry was to his own ethnic group:
"But [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table." (Matthew 15)When sending out his apostles to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus instructed them to preach only in Jewish cities:
"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: '‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’'" (Matthew 10:5-7)Jesus explicitly told his disciples to racially discriminate when preaching. Clearly, Jesus believed his first priority was to his own ethnic group.
Could the messiah have been born into any other race than the Hebrews? No. The Bible clearly states that salvation would come through the Jews (John 7:42). The entire history of man’s redemption is centered on the Israelites and their patriarchs. If it's "racist" to favor one racial group over another than God is a "racist," and the history of mankind is an exclusionary "racist" narrative.
The text hung above Christ's head during the crucifixion read "King of the Jews." When the wise men arrived in Palestine searching for Jesus they asked: "Where is the King of the Jews, we have seen his star?" Luckily for Gentiles (i.e. this author), it happens that the King of the Jews is also the king of every other nation on earth, but Jesus was first the messiah of the Hebrew people through whom all other nations have been blessed.
If Jesus was ethnocentric why should modern white Christians avoid being ethnocentric? If Jesus believed he had a unique mission to benefit his own ethnic group, why do modern white Christians believe it’s a sin to put one’s own race before others? If Jesus commanded racial discrimination to his disciples why do modern Christians cower from it? Are they ashamed of their Lord's actions?
If Jesus were alive today there would be howls of "racism" directed towards him for choosing only fellow Jews to be his apostles, for saying ethnocentric things about only being sent to the House of Israel, and for believing that his own ethnic group was God’s chosen people. Thankfully, the Savior wasn’t condemned to the dustbin of history by ancient social justice warriors intent on enforcing equality and diversity.
Christians must strive to imitate Jesus. Charity starts at home.