The death of the artist formerly known as “Prince” has, once again, ignited a storm of social commentary about what is legally termed as “intellectual property.” Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Artists like Prince and Michael Jackson were worth a mint in intellectual property. However, I contend that nobody’s name, image, likeness and words have been abused like Jesus.’ One day I thought to myself, “If Jesus were to return and demand royalties from the use of name and likeness so that he could donate it to the poor, how much would he be worth? An even bigger question is “who would he have to go to war with in order to secure what is rightfully his.”
Contrary to popular misconception, as a Muslim I do believe in Jesus. This article is not an attack against Christianity or my brothers and sisters who love Jesus. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at some economics. In the book of Matthew 21;12 Jesus is seen in the temple turning over the table of the “money changers.” But for the past 2000 years it seems as if everywhere his good name is mentioned there has been big money changing hands.
The Holy Quran is the most widely read book in the world, while the Bible is the most widely sold. I did some research and learned that over 100 million copies of the Bible are sold or given away annually in the United States. Bible sales hover at approximately $650 million annually in this country. In 1555, the first slave ship carrying our African ancestors from Africa landed on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia. According to the Library of Congress the name of that ship was JESUS. How wicked could you be to use the holy and righteous name of Jesus as the name for the slave ship that transported thousands upon thousands of Black Africans to their holocaust. For what purpose did they bring slaves to America? So they could force our ancestors to work for free in order to create wealth for White slave owners. These slave ships had to blessings of both the Queen of England and the Pope of Rome. It was all done in the name of Jesus.
Christmas, which has been sold to us as Jesus’ birthday, nets corporate American well over 600 billion dollars per year. Easter, a.k.a. “Resurrection Sunday”, usually rakes in 15-20 billion. All in the name of Jesus.
Would Jesus condone the use of his image and likeness for the purpose of deceiving the poor and fleecing them of their hard-earned money? Though Jesus was Black, it was more profitable for Europeans to propagate him to the masses as a European. In 1619, the emperor Constantine decided that the cross would be used as the symbol of Christianity. Underneath it were the words “in hoc signo vinces” meaning “with this sign we shall rule.” That rulership was not simply religious, but economic, as well. Historians say that when the European landed in African they had to Bible and the Africans had the land. By the time they left the Africans had the Bible and the European had the land. That’s right! Real Christians should be angry as hell at the way Jesus has been exploited by the warmongers and money merchants of this world.
The Catholic Church is the biggest financial power on Earth. According to my research the Catholic Church is so wealthy that you cannot even calculate her worth. The richest men in the world, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim and others have calculable wealth. Apple Inc., Wal-Mart, Shell, Petro-China and others have calculable wealth. The Catholic Church has so much loot you need a new kind of math to calculate it. The Catholic Church takes in an estimated 850 million to 1 billion dollars per week in tithes. The Vatican has large investments with, of all people, The Rothschilds. It has billions invested in Chase-Manhattan Bank, the Morgan Bank, Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, T.W.A. etc. etc. etc. The Catholic Church is so rich that they could probably end World Hunger overnight through the use of its resources.
Avro Manhattan, author of the book “The Vatican’s Billions” puts it like this: “Jesus was the poorest of the poor. Roman Catholicism, which claims to be His church, is the richest of the rich, the wealthiest institution on Earth. She is the biggest accumulator and property owner in existence. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe.”
Now let’s talk about the Black church. According to research the Black church has collected more than 420 billion dollars in tithes and donations since 1980. Yet economic deprivation is still the order of the day in the Black community and our communities are falling down around us. If these churches would pool their resources they could build socio-economic institutions that create jobs to feed, clothe and shelter millions of Jesus’ people. All of this money is being collected in the name of Jesus. Where does most of it end up?
Those of us who sincerely love Jesus should come together to start a movement for the “decommercialization” of Jesus. We should desire to take back his image and likeness from the moneychangers who only want to make a fast buck using his name. Just as greedy, money grubbing individuals and institutions are going to do their best to gain control over Prince’s body of work, image and likeness they have done the same thing to Jesus. And if they’ll do it to Jesus then no one else is safe.
If your father were Prince, Michael Jackson or Bob Marley and you saw others using his image and likeness in a way that would displease him it would be your duty to go and challenge those who were abusing your father’s legacy. It is the duty of every righteous person to challenge the misuse and abuse of Jesus’ name, likeness and legacy. You can start by taking the European depiction of Jesus off of the wall in your homes and churches. Let us stop participating in these commercialized holidays that only serve as money making opportunities for corporate America: in the name of Jesus. It’s okay to give tithes to the church, but make sure your money is being utilized to serve the poor and to spread and institutionalize what Jesus taught. It is your duty.
What kind of world would this be if we actually read as many Bibles as are sold? What kind of world would this be if the Catholic Church used its incalculable wealth to stop wars, feed those who are dying of hunger and make sure the world had clean drinking water? What kind of community would we have if Black churches set aside their denominational “beefs” and put their billions together to purchase land, build businesses and decent housing? We would be a people that God and Jesus could be pleased with. Jesus came to redeem the poor; not to get rich off of them. Those who love him must reclaim his name.