On a recent trip to Berkeley I encountered this remarkable crew of young street preachers:

One held up a large sign that said (referring to a drawing of a “white” Jesus),

“This is the Devil.
This Image is not Biblical
Jesus is a negro
Not a whiteman

Jesus es negro
No blanco

El Diablo”

Though the message is a little confusing, I took it to mean: “The ‘white’ Jesus is the Devil. The Victorian-era drawings of Jesus as a blue-eyed European are not biblically accurate. The real Jesus was black, not white.”

While the street preachers did have a point about Jesus being overly Europeanized in art during the 19th and early 20th centuries, perhaps they took their point a little too far the other way? Contemporary scholars almost universally agree that the historical Jesus was a Middle-Eastern Jew, and likely had brown hair and brown eyes, along with what is is called an “olive-complexioned” Middle Eastern skin tone.

What I found most intriguing is that while the preachers seemed to be Christian (with one of them reading aloud from the Bible), they still were OK with calling Jesus “the Devil.”

Meanwhile, their next sign listed the 12 tribes of Israel as being various New World nations and ethnic groups — most of which didn’t even exist in pre-Columbian times. (That is to say, the modern nations listed, such as Uruguay and Haiti, didn’t develop until thousands of years after the tribes of Israel were first listed in the Bible; and ethnicities such as “Mexican” or “Dominican” only arose after the European arrival in the New World.)

And the final sign said “America’s destruction is at hand!” along with a picture of a Soviet-era nuclear-tipped ICBM hurtling across the sky.

So: What are we to make of all this?

Combined, the messages say:

– Jesus (or at least “white Jesus”) is the Devil.
– Jesus was actually black.
– The 12 tribes of Israel were actually from the Caribbean, South and Central America.
– The USSR will destroy the United States with nuclear missiles.

I’m trying to piece this all together into a cohesive worldview, and not succeeding. Any suggestions?

(The photo below came out a little better than the top photo, but I missed part of the sign. Sigh.)

What’s it all mean?