LOS ANGELES, August 8, 2014 – Aaron McGruder, the brain behind the infamous and candid satirical television show “The Boondocks,” is at it again. Upon his exit from the show’s fourth season on the evening cable network Adult Swim, McGruder raised more than a few eyebrows when he announced his latest satirical TV series for that network, provocatively entitled “Black Jesus.”
Just the show’s name alone should allude to McGruder’s keen penchant for troublemaking. Needless to say, after the release of the trailer, which can be seen below, many black Christians are not too happy about it.
To be completely honest, I knew that when this trailer was released, token black church leaders would soon be rubbing their hands like Birdman.
The old soapbox has been dragged out, dusted off, and mounted by the fresh gators of fancy pastors and reverends who’ve been condemning McGruder’s latest act of guerilla humor, in the name of Jesus, as blasphemy.
The New York Daily News reports:
Conservative Christian groups are outraged that Adult Swim is messing with their Messiah by giving him a filthy mouth and dropping him off in Compton, Calif.
… Aaron McGruder’s upcoming comedy TV series ‘Black Jesus’ features an African-American Jesus who tries to spread love and kindness through his neighborhood but ends up getting shot at, carjacked and punched in the face. His followers also accuse him of ‘smoking all the f—–g weed.’
Actor Gerald ‘Slink’ Johnson’s portrayal of the Christian deity doesn’t sit well with One Million Moms, a conservative Christian activist organization. The group has called for a boycott of the show and its advertisers, blasting ‘Black Jesus’ for making a ‘mockery of our Lord.’ They want to make sure the show is never aired.
‘The foul language used in the trailer, including using the Lord’s name in vain, is disgusting,’ the group writes on its website. ‘In addition, there is violence, gunfire and other inappropriate gestures which completely misrepresent Jesus. This is blasphemy!’
A conservative Christian pastor in Illinois followed suit with his own message for Turner Broadcasting, the company behind Adult Swim. ‘We, the Christian Community are vehemently opposed and violently offended at this upcoming program,’ writes Pastor David A. Rodgers of The House of Prayer For All Nations in Chicago. ‘There is no way that this show would be aimed at the Jewish or Muslim community. We are demanding an IMMEDIATE retraction of this show and a PUBLIC APOLOGY to the Christian Community at large.’
Rodgers says he plans to distribute his letter to ‘every church in America.’ The controversy has also inspired Change.org petitions and Facebook community groups.
All this was predictable, and I’m sure McGruder saw it coming a mile away.
You can’t talk about Jesus unless it’s in a love song, or as Christians call it, gospel music. His name is to be exalted and revered. Anything else is blasphemy. I get it.
I spent most of my formative years at West Angeles Christian Academy, lovingly known as WACA. It’s a black, conservative Christian school on Crenshaw Boulevard in LA, where I experienced first hand atrocities that would call into question whether or not the Bible was subject to interpretation.
While my observations regarding WACA are not the point of this article, they have given me important contextual clues as to how I view religion—namely Christianity—and black Christians as well.
For example, I distinctly remember being in class and asking a teacher, “What were we before we were Christians?”
I was promptly put in time-out for being a troublemaker.
I didn’t understand then why that was grounds for punishment. But one thing became crystal clear to me: You can’t talk about Jesus or Christianity like that, at least not in this environment.
You were supposed to read the Bible for guidance, pray for help and understanding, go to church, give an offering, and never ever, ever, ever take the Lord’s name in vain. Never question, never diverge from the Word, because it is the ultimate, the finite, the thing that keeps things in order in this world.
All of this makes it easy to see that, although “Black Jesus” is a satirical television show and not a documentary on the life and works of Jesus Christ, this makes no difference to many conservative black Christians who find even the concept behind it to be fundamentally offensive. The reason is that this implacable point of view is embedded in complex layers upon layers of black history, culture, identity, and spirituality that this article has not even begun to scratch the surface of.
McGruder knows this, and is using every one of these complex layers as material for the show, turning it into both a mirror on the culture and a reflective tool in order for society to see its true self, just like he did with “The Boondocks.” Only this time, it’s black Christians’ turn to see themselves reflected in it.
Then again, it may just be another TV show. Either way, I’ll be tuning in.
NOTE: The upcoming episode of “Black Jesus” airs Thursday, August 7, at 11 p.m. on cable network [adult swim], which takes over the evening shift on what’s otherwise known as the Cartoon Network.