"What Does God Look Like?"

Deacon Greg has a way of finding the perfect graphic to go with a piece, and he has done it again here – using that painting (which I have shamelessly cribbed) to illustrate this excellent piece by Shu-Fy H. Pongnon

“What if I told you Jesus was a Black man?”

How I came to ask Marie this entirely provocative question five minutes before the start of 7:45 a.m. Mass is a mystery to me now, but I never forgot her answer and its delivery, “Jesus can’t be Black, because I would never bow down to a Black man.” Her voice was firm and her eyes darkened under the memories of abuse she faced at the hands of various Black men in her life, including her then-husband, Max, whose fatal bout with cancer did nothing to inoculate her from his venom.

Say what you will about her logic, but her Jesus, and by extension, her God, had to be the opposite of everything — including color — of the pain she’d experienced her entire life. Her Jesus, and by extension, her God, was blonde, with blue, maybe green eyes. He was gentle, kind, patient, and best of all, loved her — black and blue — to no end.

Those of you who perused Patheos’ summer series on the Future of Religion might remember Shu-Fy from the her touching essay, The Future of Catholicism is the Beautiful Mess of Me. Once again, in answering the Patheos question “What Does God Look Like,” she manages to be both provocative and moving. We need to develop that singular voice of hers!

Also writing on the topic with a sweet and singular voice is Marcia Morrissey, the wife of Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey. Having lost her sight at a young age, Marcia brings a fresh and unique perspective to the question:

Everyone wonders what God looks like, but the question can’t be answered on this side of heaven. The Bible gives us glimpses, but God is a mystery, and Spirit. We have the Lord, Jesus Christ who came down to earth in human form — the Incarnational mystery. We have Moses confronting God in the Burning Bush; his very name, “I AM” denotes mystery. When Jesus identifies himself to soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane, he says “I am he . . . ” and the soldiers fell back, because the power of that name — the name of God — knocked all of them down. Or, perhaps, it was the name combined with the face of God, revealed in Christ.

In some ways I think that my blindness gives me an advantage. Not being able to see people with my eyes, when I meet new people I “see” them in perhaps a deeper, more accurate way. I “see” who they really are, and I am not stalled or prejudiced by outward appearances.

You’ll want to read Marcia Morrissey’s whole entry, and Shu-Fy’s, too. Meanwhile Chris Quinn, of the New Evangelization Network takes a lighthearted and humble view of it all.

What about you? What does God look like, in your world?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    What does God look like, in your world?

    Well, if racial, ethnic, etc. considerations enter into your conception, you’re really missing the point, like Ms. Pongnon says at the end of her piece.

    But on a related note, I’m preparing for a class in December on Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, following a class I did on Our Lady of Fatima in October. Often Guadalupe is associated with the Immaculate Conception, but I’m going to consider it in the context of the Assumption.

    Specifically, I am thinking — what would Mary look like if she were to appear to someone today? Now, the Assumption looks forward to the eschatalogical resurrection of the body that awaits all the faithful, such that Mary already enjoys her glorified resurrected body. So, what would that glorified body of Mary look like?

    It is an interesting question because the image on the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe is NOT that of a Middle Eastern girl, but more resembles that of a girl indigenous to the region that is now Mexico. The reported appearance of Our Lady of La Vang to a group of persecuted Vietnamese was of a girl with eastern Asian features. Meanwhile, the descriptions of Mary appearing at Fatima and Lourdes, etc., are more in line with someone from the Middle East, i.e. lighter skinned.

    Why the differences? Is this proof that the apparitions are all false? Or is it possible that all of these are accurate? that Mary would look like all of these ethnicities/races in her assumed into heaven, glorified body state? That is, she would have a universal appearance?

    And if that is the case with Mary, would that not also be the case with the Resurrected Jesus and, therefore, God? Although, as a strictly historical matter, Jesus was definitely of Middle Eastern ethnicity when He walked the earth 2000 years ago, if He were to appear to any given person or people, would He not be able to have similar features as the persons He appeared to? Would He not also have a universal appearance in His glorified state?

  • Peregrine John

    Look like? God, curiously, doesn’t “look” like much of anything at all, to me. You know how in a dream you can see someone who doesn’t actually look like anyone you know, but in the dream you know they’re your brother or whatever, on the inside? For me, God’s the inside part, without any outside. Never needed it.

    As for Jesus, I have it on fairly good authority He’s Jewish.

  • Cowardly Lioness

    Still just can’t think Jesus looked like anyone but Jim Caviezel:)

    Not sure it’s really a good idea to speculate about this, and really don’t think it’s a good idea to be provocative about it. Just puts people on the spot and raises hackles.

    As for God, He is air; maybe mist. Maybe fire sometimes.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Addendum — And there is also that whole teaching of Jesus that whenever you give one who is thirsty something to drink, etc., you are giving it to Jesus.

    Mother Teresa and others who have given their lives in service to others learned to see the face of Jesus in those they ministered to. And, in expressing love in this way, they tried to let others see Jesus working through them.

    So, again, God, that is Jesus, would look like anyone who loves and is loved.

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Anchoress, I’ve been having a problem commenting here and this is just to see if I’ve fixed the problem. :)

    What about you? What does God look like, in your world?

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Anchoress | A First Things Blog -- Topsy.com

  • http://veneremurcernui.wordpress.com Tantumblogo

    Seeing as St. Thomas establishes that he is non-corporal, I think of God as something like an incredibly pure, blinding white light. Jesus I tend to think looks much like those who live in Palestine today, perhaps somewhat lighter skinned with slightly straighter than usual hair for that part of the world.

    Why must God have a body, look like a man? He is All and our creation in His Image is not so much a reflection of our physical natures, as it is of our possession of our spiritual natures -the soul and the ability to transcend the matter of which we are constituted.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Anchoress, I’ve been having a problem commenting here

    Lucky is the man that doesn’t have every other comment end up in the spam filter (I’m in there all the time, (like my first comment), all because I represent a government official in Nigeria who needs banking assistance here and because I have various “enhancements” to sell)!

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    OK, I think I’ve fixed “IT” Go Figure!

    The way I see “IT”, God looks like each and every one of U>S (usual sinners) and let me try to explain if I can.

    God lives withing the centre of our heart of heart and every one of His Children receive a spiritual Loving cell of God at Baptism which looks just like each and every one of us and as His Child we grows wiser and stronger in God’s Love with every deed that we might perform during this life on earth.

    I hear ya! There’s nothing impossible for God, Right Victor? :)


  • Christine

    I guess I picture Him looking like a Jew. With a BIG HEART, big beard, big grin and that funny, Jewish sense of humor.

    I love HIM.

  • Beth

    I picture him as physically nondescript, fitting in with his time and place, but with an inner presence that immediately captures one’s attention.

    He was not recognized at first by the apostles or by Mary when he appeared to them after the Resurrection, but still they knew him.

    I believe that the body is important, though, and therefore Jesus is physically important. He did not appear before Thomas as a spirit, but as his physical self whom Thomas recognized.

    But at other times, his eyes are said to blaze fire and he shimmers with a blinding light.

    All this together is how I “visualize” him, but I’m more focused on “talking” with him.

  • Patrick

    @ Christine:

    “I guess I picture Him looking like a Jew.”

    Uh…Yeah. Why wouldn’t he look fairly Semitic?

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    “Jesus can’t be Black, because I would never bow down to a Black man.”
    Oh how disgraceful. What does it matter? I do picture him as a middle eastern man, though, which today aren’t exactly well liked either but some segments of the population. Again what does it matter.

    One note though. Jesus, if he was incarnate, had to have actual features. There is a difference between Him and God the Father.

    [Manny, read the whole piece. -admin]

  • Ellen

    I never picture God the Father as human when I think of Him. To me, He is perfect being.

    Now as for Jesus, I think of Him with features like the Man on the Shroud.

  • Brian

    I picture a piece of unleavened bread carried by a large white dove through a blinding white light. Seems to cover everything.

  • Steve Colby

    Well, if we are make in the image of God, then God looks like … Nancy Pelosi AND Sarah Palin. God is clearly bigger than we can get our heads around.

    Jesus, on the other hand, looks like Kenny Loggins. Everyone knows that. :-)

  • Jennifer

    It’s tempting to shape God in my imagination like the white-haired, grandfatherly figure we’ve seen in so many icons. But the Father is surely much more than that, much more than we can comprehend.

    But Jesus, for me, is forever etched in my mind and heart like Jim Caviezel’s Christ. (The same for Mary.) That’s the astounding gift of Jesus — our God took our own flesh so we can touch Him and experience Him and see Him. There’s nothing unknowable about Him.

  • Jeff

    We know what He looks like. His face is on the Shroud of Turin.

    He left us a photograph of him.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    [Manny, read the whole piece. -admin]

    I apologize. I did not read the entire thing and the exerpt did not disclose the complete context and irony of that quote. I understand now what she is saying.

  • Nora

    God = Gandalf + Aslan (this is what happens when one is a very early reader and is reading LOTR and the Narnia Chronicles just as one begins Catholic school).

    I relate much better to the OT God than I do to the NT Christ. I’ve probably always been a little more Jewish, theologically speaking, than Christian. I’m sort of on the fence about Jesus, Savior, and all that.

  • newguy40

    Wow. What a good question. What does Jesus look like to me.

    When I have envisioned him as a human being, I see him as he appeared 2000 years ago. A common hebrew man coming in to his full adult manhood. Rather short of stature as we well fed americans would view him. Common regular features but expressive. Especially expressive brown eyes.

    When I am at Adoration, I envision him sitting with me while I talk with him and hold his hand.. Sometimes… many times… I am higging his legs and feet.

  • Jeff

    If you mean the second person in the trinity, I would suspect he looks like a Semitic man from 1st century Palestine.

  • Ben Hartley

    To answer the question that was asked: (“What does God look like?”)…

    I haven’t the foggiest idea what He looks like. Nor to I particularly care.

    Ben Hartley

  • Tonestaple

    I read something recently, and it may have been here, about people who have trouble with God the Father because of their problematic relationships with their own flesh-and-blood fathers. Shortly after reading that post, I happened to see a man taking his toddler son for a walk. The little boy looked to be maybe 2 years old and was still quite unsteady on his feet. Dad would walk a few feet away from him and wait for him to get to Dad, with Dad still close enough to catch him if he falls. So that’s what God now looks like to me. He’s way, way taller, and never so far away that he can’t catch me if I fall.