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"I have a question: why do we always worship a white Jesus?" a high school student in the youth group asked this past week. Her question becomes particularly poignant when considering that she attends a predominantly Mexican parish, and even more so when remembering that her house is cluttered with images that portray a Mexican mother of Jesus.
Moreover, her question necessitates an answer that is much too big to explain fully in youth group. The real answer to her question would explain why I spent most of my life worshiping a white Jesus without thinking to question it, and why my Italian-American family doesn't recall that our Sicilian ancestors worshiped black saints.
Sam, the leader of youth group, circumvented the long answer. He explained that religious imagery has often been portrayed according to those who funded it and spread it, and then he allowed her to own Catholicism much more than Mexicans ever have in America's white-Jesus history. "Catholicism is, largely, thriving in Latin America and Africa," he replied. "In 500 years, I suspect we'll all worship a brown Jesus."