Ed Blum on Race and Humor

Randall Stephens

In several weeks Ed Blum will be coming out east to give a talk at Eastern Nazarene College on "What Humor Tells Us about Race and Jesus in America," Wed, Sept 28, 6pm, Shrader Lecture Hall. (See the poster I made for it here.)

We're looking forward to hosting Ed and having some time for students and our guest speaker to interact. (Maybe Ed will say a little about his experiences with his new blog on teaching, which is a great read!)

Here's the summary of the lecture:

Beginning as a trickle in the 1970s and then becoming a flood in the early twenty-first century, jokes about Jesus and his body have become another way Americans have tried to handle their past and present. Unable to resolve the racial tensions from hundreds of years of discrimination, from civil rights victories half-won and half-avoided, and from dynamic changes in the demography of the nation, Americans turned to religious concepts for comedic material. Laughing with and at Jesus, and especially assumptions about his body, became a means for Americans to articulate their visions for society and their failings.

A little more on Blum:

Edward J. Blum is a historian of race and religion in the United States. He is the author of Reforging the White Republic (2005), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and co-editor of Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005) and The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009). For these works, Blum was awarded the Peter Seaborg Award in Civil War Studies and the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize. Blum has been recognized twice by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and in 2007 was named by the History News Network a “top young historian.” He has been a fellow with the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and with the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the classroom, Blum is interested in helping students engage the past in a variety of ways, whether through music and images or role-playing and historical simulations. His courses include Jacksonian America, the Civil War and Reconstruction, religion in the United States, and history through biography. Currently, Blum co-edited (with Paul Harvey) the Columbia Guide to American Religious History and with Harvey has written a book on race and depictions of Jesus Christ in American culture, society, and politics, titled Jesus Christ in Red, White, and Black.

I hope that some RiAH regulars might make it to the event.


BStrausheim said…
I am currently a student in two of Ed Blum’s wonderful classes. In one of his classes, I always look forward to his videos, songs, or pictures at the beginning that exemplify the excerpt stated in your blog post. This section brings up a prominent memory of various instances in which Blum displayed the comical devices and uses in which Jesus is brought up in a joke or instance which reflects our current culture, and their mishaps. One example would be a video Blum showed us the other day on a movie I have yet to fully see called Hamlet 2. This video was of a section of a play in which they sang a song called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”. This example exemplifies this excerpt to convey how our culture finds no shame in using Jesus in this aspect and almost find it as a joke to how we perceive Jesus and treat his reverence. Jesus, in this clip, was dressed in a tank top and jeans and was found extremely attractive, by both females and males. While still making a comment to refute smoking, saying not to do it (at least not to do it as much) it still make a joke out of the current perceptions of Jesus. Blum displayed how this displays the culture of America now and how we use Jesus in popular culture to witness where we have gone wrong. Although there were other great examples, like those from South Park and the like, this one proved to be most interesting (and somewhat entertaining). I know this lecture has come and gone, but I sure hope you have found Ed’s words as informative, and as entertaining, as I have.

Popular Posts