Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas II 2013

The Rebel Jesus, by Jackson Browne

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus


  1. I'm always a day late, should have read this before I posted my day-after post.

  2. Well, I was educated (in seminary) into a radically economic view of the gospels, i.e., that one core of the teachings was against the system that perpetuates poverty. That is (again), poverty is not a natural condition, like drought or flood or wildfire, it is a human-created one. So when Brown sings "But if any one of us should interfere/In the business of why there are poor" it goes right to the heart of my understanding of both the gospels, and the reason for the Crucifixion (you don't mess with the Pax Romana).

  3. There is also a radically economic view of the Torah: the term C'naani (Canaanite) need not refer to an "ethnicity" but refers to wealthy merchants, essentially what the late great Molly Ivins would point out that in Texas y'all would call (Grande or even Haute) Bourgeoisie. Whatever "Mosaic" religion is, it is in opposition to (Grande/Haute) Bourgeois values.

    An interesting socio-economic aspect therefore of Pharisaic (and later Rabbinic) Judaism is that it adopts the fundamentally Proletarian religion of Moses, Israel and Judah into a religion by and for the (Moyenne) Bourgeoisie. Perhaps some of the anti-Pharisaic sentiment of the New Testament makes sense in this economic light? Of course, speaking as a member of the Moyenne Bourgeoisie (by birth and breeding and hopefully in a few years -- once I manage to get my next promotion or once my wife is able to get a job -- by economic status as well), I do find Judaism to be a nice fit ;)

    I guess you could say that Puritanism (and its antecedent and successor movements) also represent an attempt to adopt Christianity to (Moyenne) Bourgeoisie values. Which I would imagine is part of why they hated Christmas so much: if historically Christmas celebrations involved the first becoming last and the last becoming first (e.g. the Lord of Misrule), where does that leave those in the middle? In the same place? And if so, then what's the point of the celebration to those in the middle?

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