Manifest Destiny Jesus

Dedicated to the future memory of white supremacy
by
Year Released
2021
Film Length(s)
41 mins
Remote video URL

Introduction

Until we de-couple whiteness from America’s dominant religion, we won’t achieve true equality. Manifest Destiny Jesus examines how portraying Jesus as white has reinforced cultural divides from the colonial era up through our modern period of rampant gentrification, segregated churches, and police violence.

Directed by Josh Aaseng, Daemond Arrindell, & T. Geronimo Johnson

*For public screenings please email newcolumbiaproductions@gmail.com or visit manifestdestinyjesus.com for info on how to host a screening & panel discussion with the filmmakers.*

Featured review

Manifest Destiny Jesus is a documentary with a twist. What seems at first to be a story of gentrification in late capitalist and self-consciously liberal Seattle is in fact a sharp, at times scathing, and deeply humanistic exploration of the clear ties between narratives of American discovery and conquest, white supremacy, structural racism, modern inequality, and yes, Jesus Christ.
Michelle L. Berenfeld
John A. McCarthy Associate Professor of Classics Pitzer College

Synopsis

Manifest Destiny Jesus documents how portraying Jesus as white reinforces police violence, bigotry, and institutional racism. The film uses history, interviews, and commentary to demonstrate the variety of ways racism manifests in our minds and around us.

Against the background of a gentrifying neighborhood, the film weaves two main threads. After adopting two black boys, a white mother’s views on race and representation are turned inside out. After a sermon from a black female theologian, an interracial congregation reignites a plan to transform their stained glass image of Christ.

Together with historical interviews, these community voices reveal a pattern of conquest and disenfranchisement that began in the colonial era and continues up through our modern period of rampant gentrification.

This powerful, award winning documentary encourages discussions about the intersection of US housing policy, the wealth gap, social justice, media representation and how Christianity plays a role in it all. Viewers will find themselves interrogating assumptions and evaluating the cumulative effects of religious and secular forces previously assumed to be unrelated.

***

This is an essential viewing experience for educators, students, community organizers, religious organizations, activists and anyone who cares about the future of America. It encourages discussion and reflection on the following topics:

CRT

Media Representation

Gentrification/Housing security/Affordable Housing

Poverty

Urban studies

African-American studies

Religious studies

Black Liberation Theology

Redlining/Racist housing problems

Segregation

Wealth gap

Poverty

The future of cities

Casual racism

Capital flight and corporate disinvestment

Reviews

...provides an essential capsule history of structural racism and how a European-looking Jesus contributes to anti-Black violence to the present day.
Nicole von Germeten
Director of the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, Interim Associate Dean College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University
...shows us that there is no remediation without recognition, and there is no redemption without remediation. Our continuation as a people and a country depends upon a new narrative; one rooted in honesty and a collective desire for a better future.
Michael Paul Nelson
Professor of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, Oregon State University
This documentary opens an intimate window into a diverse community’s genuine and generous reckoning with race and belonging in twenty-first century United States. The result is striking, honest, and very much an antidote to cynicism.
Cécile Fromont
Professor in the History of Art, Yale University
Filmmakers crack the alabaster Jesus facade...explores how the widespread portrayal of Jesus as white influences everything from gentrification to police brutality. And how one small church in a gentrifying South Seattle found the courage to ask, What does it mean to worship a white Jesus?
Beverly Aarons
South Seattle Emerald
a great documentary…it really is talking about the notion in our society that Jesus is white and examining that and the relationship between that and upholding systems of oppression.
Vivian Hua
Executive Director Northwest Film Forum
...reckoning with America's manifest destiny colonialist underpinnings…most of what the film seems concerned with is Christianity's awkward intersection with white supremacy—often being used as a tool to spread and enforce cultural hegemony—while religion also personally informs and enriches the spiritual lives of many of those interviewed.
Jenn Misko
The Sunbreak

Awards and Screenings

Winner Audience Choice Award - DC Black Film Festival, 2021
Closing Night Feature, Northwest Film Forum Local Sightings Film Festival, 2021
International Black and Diversity Film Festival, 2021
Better Cities Film Festival, 2021
Detroit Black Film Festival, 2021

Director Commentary

America is, once again, trying to address the racial inequity plaguing our society. Anti-racism, white privilege, and gentrification are hot topics, but not many people are comfortable talking about the cornerstone of our country’s foundation: “white Jesus.”

Christianity has been both justification for chattel slavery and the source of Black Liberation Theology. We resolve this schism through the nominal distinctions: Christianity vs White Christianity.

White Christianity blankets resentments and grievances which have festered as does any untreated wound, and that suppurating ulceration contributes to the septicity of our current political climate.

As Christian-raised artists, we felt a deep need to confront the deleterious effects of a racialized deity–on believers and non-believers alike. Until we de-couple whiteness from America’s dominant religion, we won’t achieve true equality.

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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