Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Reminder From Woody Guthrie That Jesus Was No Capitalist


For all the manufactured "shocking" behavior of today's music stars, there is nothing around today that is as remotely subversive as this 1940 Woody Guthrie song. After all, it celebrates the Bible's most subversive passage, Mark 10:21: a verse in which Jesus tells the rich that they need to sell all their property and give the money to the poor in order to avoid the flames of hell.

Indeed, this is a Bible verse that is so troubling to the Christian Right that the latter basically just quietly tiptoe away from it and try to pretend it doesn't exist. What must be particularly worrisome to them is the simple clarity of the passage. This isn't one of those vague Bible verses that can be interpreted dozens of different ways.

If there is a God, then all these hypocritical, GOP-supporting "Christians," with their "screw-the-poor" attitudes will be roasting in Hell someday.

Meanwhile, let's celebrate Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ," a brilliant song that reclaims the heritage of Jesus from the Right Wing. It reminds us all that the Republicans have hijacked Christianity and have proceeded to warp and distort Christ's message of generosity, peace, love, compassion and forgiveness.

Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land
A hard-working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your goods to the poor,"
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave

Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in His Grave

He went to the preacher, He went to the sheriff
He told them all the same
"Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor,"
And they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.

When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky

This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.

Lyrics from:


Manifesto Joe said...

I worked in Oklahoma for a short time while young. Woody Guthrie, a native son there, was remembered, if at all, in one of two ways: as the writer of the song "This Land Is Your Land," as performed in censored form by beauty pageant contestants; and as a slimy commie.

Those were strange leftovers for a U.S. region that was arguably the hardest-hit by the Depression. There was a strong and well-organized cell of the Communist Party U.S.A. in Oklahoma City in the '30s. Not that that's anything wonderful to look back on -- it's a reflection of what happens to people politically when the times get hard enough -- but it's a strange thought when you look at Oklahoma's politics now.

Marc McDonald said...

Oklahoma has long done a good job of censoring its own history.
For decades, the state's textbooks and history books completely omitted any reference to the 1921 Tulsa "race riot."
This was an event in which the white residents of Tulsa charged into the black section of town and burned 35 city blocks to the ground during 16 hours of rioting.
Airplanes were even seen circling overhead, dropping firebombs on the citizens.
The death toll was estimated by the Red Cross to be 300. Other estimates are as high as 3,000.
And yet this incredible event was pretty much scrubbed from the official history of the state of Oklahoma. Stalin would be proud.