Black Jesus, Religious Truth, and Tupac Shakur: Belief and the Irony of Faith

Dustin Zielke


Tupac Shakur’s black Jesus should be understood through a distinction
between belief and faith. The point of this distinction is not merely a
matter of semantics. Rather, it helps illustrate how black Jesus challenges
us to re-imagine religious truth and recognize the powerful role of
irony in religious matters. Religious belief is commonly understood
as a belief in a religious reality, or something that is objectively true.
Tupac’s black Jesus, however, refers neither to an objective reality, nor a
historical black Jesus. Nevertheless, he is a figure of religious devotion.
Other scholars have noted the radical nature of Tupac’s black Jesus, but
I suggest that they have overlooked, or understated, the unique way
that Tupac’s black Jesus re-orients our idea of religious truth. Tupac’s
black Jesus encourages religious truth to be understood as something
that addresses individuals instead of regarding it as a Truth that is
universally prescriptive, or potentially provable.

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