by Matt Sutton
Publisher's Weekly just ran the first review of Ed Blum and Paul Harvey’s Color of Christ. It reads,
this powerful and groundbreaking book, historians Blum (Reforging the
White Republic) and Harvey (Freedom’s Coming) examine how images of
Jesus reflect the intersection of race and religion in America. Blending
historical analysis, lucid prose, and captivating primary sources, Blum
and Harvey trace the remaking of Jesus from Puritan America to
antebellum slave cabins, from Joseph Smith’s revelations to Obama’s
presidency. The authors compellingly argue that Christ’s body matters,
that it signifies power, reflects national fears and evolving
conceptions of whiteness, and perpetuates racial hierarchies by
continuously reifying the idea that whiteness is sacred. Blum and Harvey
deconstruct the axioms that racial groups simply depict God in their
own image, that the white Jesus of America is a mere replication of
European art, and that Jesus has been depicted as white since America’s
colonization. The authors devote significant time to exploring how
marginalized groups, especially African-Americans and Native Americans,
have reacted to and reimagined representations of Jesus. They
masterfully probe how a sacred icon can be a tool at once of racial
oppression and liberation. A must-read for those interested in American
religious history, this book will forever change the way you look at
images of Jesus. (Sept. 21)"
If I had not read the book I would assume that the review was written by one of the authors’ mothers. But I have read it—UNC, despite its reputation for scholarly excellence, asked me to serve as a peer-reviewer. And indeed, the book is as good as PW claims.
Second, I just finished Andrew Preston’s Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith. This book is incredibly good. It represents 600+ pages of smart analysis, incredible research, and engaging prose. It was so good that despite its weight, I dragged it down to the beach where it was drenched in kids’ 50-SPF sunscreen, sand from exploding castles, and splashes of salt water. But it was also read and enjoyed. I do have one concern though. Preston will almost certainly snag some OAH/AHA awards for this book in 2013, following in Dochuk’s 2012 footsteps. What is the significance of two Canadians cleaning up the US history awards? The next thing we know Steve Nash is going to be playing basketball for the Lakers. Crap. When will the Canadian invasion end?
Finally, our humble blog administrator, excellent teacher, lousy basketball player, and fantasy football basket case has managed to get an article to the top of the RD hit list without using the words “Romney” or “Reconstruction.” He published a great article available here on the relationship between conservative politics and Colorado wildfires in his backyard. Check it out.