Home Christian News Franklin Graham Decries CT Article on Asian Representations of Jesus’ Birth

Franklin Graham Decries CT Article on Asian Representations of Jesus’ Birth

Franklin Graham CT Asian Nativity
Left: Council.gov.ru, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Right: Photo by Greyson Joralemon (via Unsplash)

After Christianity Today (CT) published a photo essay about Asian artists’ depictions of the Nativity, some evangelical leaders and social media users berated the magazine for being “woke.”

The Dec. 18 piece, titled “How Asian Artists Picture Jesus’ Birth From 1240 to Today,” was written by Victoria Emily White, an art curator and creative director.

In the introduction of the article, White acknowledged that “Some may object to depicting Jesus as anything other than a brown male born into a Jewish family in Bethlehem of Judea in the first century, believing that doing so undermines his historicity.”

“But Christian artists who tackle the subject of the Incarnation are often aiming not at historical realism but at theological meaning,” she went on to write.

Representing Jesus as Asian, White added, helps “convey a sense of God’s immanence, his ‘with-us-ness,’ for their own communities—and for everyone else, the universality of Christ’s birth.”

Asian Artist: Jesus ‘Chose To Make His Home in Every Human Heart’

The photo essay features “indigenized Nativity” artwork from areas such as Iraq, Persia, Turkey, India, China, Thailand, and Japan. The figures often wear regional dress and are depicted with regional foods, animals, and instruments.

In the article, modern-day artists shared insights about their backgrounds and artistic intentions. Sawai Chinnawong, who was raised in Thailand as a Buddhist, became a Christian in young adulthood. “I believe Jesus Christ is present in every culture, and I have chosen to celebrate his presence in our lives through Thai traditional cultural forms,” he said.

“My belief is that Jesus did not choose just one people to hear his Word but chose to make his home in every human heart,” he added. “And just as his Word may be spoken in every language, so the visual message can be shared in the beauty of the many styles of artistry around the world.”

Japanese artist Sadao Watanabe, who converted from Buddhism to Christianity as a teen, said, “I owe my life to Christ and the gospel. My way of expressing my gratitude is to witness to my faith through the medium of biblical scenes.”

White, in her article, emphasized that “not all Asians prefer Asian-specific representations of Christ. In fact, Christians in Asia tend to prefer the traditional European-style art with which many were introduced to the faith; they consider it the most authentically Christian.”

Because most Asian converts to Christianity “want to distance themselves” from their original faith, White added, their biblical-themed artwork “often does not find widespread support in their own country.” Instead, demand comes mostly from the West.

Social Media Responds: Stop the Woke Nonsense

On Dec. 24, CT posted a link to the photo essay, writing: “Jesus was born in Asia. He was Asian. The artists in this photo essay bring him back to Asia—but not to ancient Israel. These nine artworks ‘proclaim the expansiveness of Christ’s kingdom.’”