Jesus All American Boy

religion new testament SWScan04826 - Copy

If Christ lived in the age of Mad Men- Vintage illustration from an ad for The New Testament in Modern English Published in 1958 by The Macmillan Co An English translation of the New Testament of the Bible translated by Anglican clergyman JB Phillips.

One Nation Under God

Few issues ignite more controversy than America’s Christian roots.

Who could forget Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s insistent claim that not only had God created this nation, He wrote the Constitution too, thus sealing the deal that we are a Christian Nation, making separation of church and state a moot point.

And Conservative Christian Ben Carson who is being widely considered as a 2016 presidential candidate, asserted a while back that “there are many well documented stories about God’s intervention on behalf of our country during the War of Independence.”

The religious right love to rewrite history.

A Leap of Faith

It follows then that they continue to reshape Jesus in their image, transforming the peace-loving compassionate Jew into a war-loving, wealthy Republican preaching selfishness and right-wing capitalism.

In keeping with the right-wing Christian’s attempt to recreate a world that never existed, lets take a leap of faith.

If God created this nation doesn’t it makes sense that his only son be born here?

What if Jesus was really an all American boy?

The Boyhood Of Jesus

Religion vintage art painting angel Gabriel and Mary

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

An earlier generation of Americans were presented with one such fantastical notion in a series of charming paintings that ran in a Christmas issue of Life Magazine in 1938 depicting the boyhood of Jesus as if he were born and raised in New England.

 

 

vintage art painting Mary, Jesus and Joseph

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

The beautifully rendered paintings painted in the style of illuminated manuscripts  were the work Lauren Ford a devout artist who wished to bring the teaching of Jesus to the modern world. In the familiar setting of her farm in Bethlehem Connecticut among barns and silos, pumps and rails fences she depicts the birth of Christ.

 

vintage painting baby Jesus

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

By painting the Holy family as if they were country neighbors, Miss Ford followed in the traditions of the great Renaissance artists who also painted  the son of God and His followers as if he lived in their own towns and times. Her paintings are supplemented by texts from Mathew and Luke.

 

vintage art Jesus Mary and Joseph

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

“Far from sacrificing any of its majesty,” Life explained to the reader,  “Ford has brought new truth and universality to the immortal story.”

 

vintage art Mary Joseph and Jesus travel in New England snow storm

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

These eight paintings were published in children’s picture book  called “The Ageless Story” that Lauren Ford wrote. Printed in 1939 by Dodd Mead and Company it won the Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 as the most distinguished American picture book for children that year.

 

vintage art painting Jesus as a boy in New England by Artist Lauren Ford

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford as seen in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

Visually transforming the brown-skinned Middle Eastern Jew into a white skinned blue-eyed blonde Yankee, Jesus’s re-imagined  childhood is straight out of  a Currier and Ives print.

 

vintage art paianting Jesus childhood

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

A few years later in its Christmas  issue of 1944 Life featured a portfolio of Laurens Fords religious paintings and said of her art:

“Once in every generation of painters ever since the first story of Christ was told in pictures one artist has emerged who can tell the ancient story better than any contemporary. Today in the US Lauren Ford is such a painter.”

Vintage art painting Jesus childhood with Mary and Joseph carpenter

“The Boyhood of Jesus” by Lauren Ford appeared in Life Magazine December 26, 1938

“Portraying Christ as if He were born and raised in New England,” the article explains, “a devout artist proves that his life is timeless and universal.”

Indeed, Jesus’s message of sympathy to the poor, enmity to the rich, and love for humanity is more timely than ever. And one needn’t be a Christian to have that faith.

 

Copyright (©) 2014 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

 

 

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12 comments

  1. Of course being a good Jewish boy there might one or two places where JC might not find such a warm welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right Paula, and that’s a whole other post unto itself. It’s a good bet that in 1938 Joseph and Mary were not listening to Catholic priest Charles Coughlin an outspoken anti Semitic whose radio show was wildly popular. According to a poll from the same year approximately 60% of respondents held a low opinion of Jews labeling them greedy, dishonest and pushy.
      A month before this lovely pictorial ran in Life magazine there was the horror of Kristallnacht in Germany and on December 18 in the true spirit of Christmas, 2,000 of Father Coughlins followers marched in NYC protesting potential asylum law changes that would allow more Jews ( including refugees from Hitlers persecution) into the U.S. chanting ” Send Jews back where they came from in leaky boats!” The protests continued for several months.

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  2. I guess that, if Jesus were that all-American kid, He would be a righteous member of the NRA. His stepdad would have taken him out on the shooting range to learn how to use his very own AK47. Then He would get a conceal-to-carry license. He wouldn’t have much time for the poor. He’d be running His very own corporation, being the capitalist he would be. Besides we will have the poor with us always. He definitely would be a WASP. White and Anglo-Saxon Protestant. He’d have blond hair and blue eyes. And none of that healthcare biz. He wouldn’t want the government telling what to do.

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  3. Fascinating work by artist Lauren Ford and really neat to read about the Life articles written back then. I felt the dig against Republicans though and the religious right was unnecessary. The stereotyping and mean spiritedness of that small part took away from the whole, otherwise beautiful piece.

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  4. Isn’t it amazing that all of this renditions show the family as Caucasians???? Jesus was not white with blue eyes and blond hair,like Jeffrey Hunter portrayed him, because of his heritage he would have had to be olive skinned, black or dark brown hair and dark brown eyes……Amazing the stuff we got fed over and over in the 50′ and 60’s…..

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    • Do you remember the the great debate last year about the color of Santa?
      Santa Claus this historical figure of our imagination commercialized by the Mad men of Madison Avenue for generations, is just as fictitious as a blue eyed blonde Jesus that has been presented in countless mid century illustrations. You might find this post to be of interest http://wp.me/p2qifI-1V2

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  5. I like the fact that in the first illustration all the people closest to Jesus have dark complexions. Even if he does look oddly blonde — they’re with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My family was Jewish but not religious. As a child I attended a private boys’ school which, while certainly not a “Christian school” by today’s standards, contained a capacious, dimly lit chapel, with a pipe organ and stained glass windows. The only religious teaching or observance at school consisted of a 45-minute Episcopalian morning service twice a week, including singing of hymns and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Aside from those innocuous chapel services, religion was almost never discussed or alluded to at school. In that context, I admired the story of Jesus’s kindness and his unselfish philosophy.

    Now, remembering so much plain niceness in the stories, I find it impossible to imagine that a contemporary White American Jesus would promote free market capitalism, dislike poor people, and carry a handgun for protection. That just cannot be.

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    • As a Jew I was raised to believe in the inherent goodness of Jesus, a deeply compassionate man who cared about social justice. Though we may differ on whether he was the messiah, our sense of his righteousness as a man is never questioned. That is why now even as a Jew I take offense at those small group of Christians who have risen to power over the past decades and exploit the name of Jesus to support policies that lead to injustice, cruelty and war.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Apparently you and I are similar in that respect. I am relieved to learn that I am not the only Jew who is willing to discuss admiration and respect for the man who is now worshiped by Christians as their messiah. Thank you.

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