“Jesus Christ was a man that traveled through the land,
A Carpenter true and brave;
He said to the rich, ‘Give your goods to the poor,’
So they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
“Yes, Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand,
A carpenter true and brave,
And a dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
He laid Jesus Christ in His grave.
“He went to the sick and He went to the poor,
He went to the hungry and the lame;
He said that the poor would win this world,
So they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.”
-Woody Guthrie, “Jesus Christ Was a Man,” 1940
As someone raised in a Protestant church, and who goes to one now, I’ve been getting progressively into the Christmas season, in a good way. I haven’t been running around getting presents; without kids or grandkids nearby, that’s not a priority. But I have been thinking more than usual about Jesus of Nazareth, who Jackson Browne called “the rebel Jesus.”
Several days ago I heard for the first time a song which got me thinking I should write one of these columns. The name of it is, “A Strange Way to Save the World,” by David Allen Clark, Donald A. Koch and Mark R. Harris. Here’s the words which got me thinking:
I’m sure he must have been surprised
At where this road had taken him
Cause never in a million lives
Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger
He saw with his own eyes
The message from the angel come to life
And Joseph said
Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world.
These words made me remember one of the first times I heard this kind of analysis of the specialness of the birth and life of Jesus of Nazareth, born to a prematurely pregnant mother, in the eyes of society, born in a barn, born with a carpenter father, living with his people under Roman occupation. I heard it about 40 years ago in the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, NY from the church minister, Rev. Herbert Daughtry. Rev. Daughtry was a leader of the National Black United Front and a dedicated social justice activist.
Daughtry eloquently and passionately roused the congregation, me included, as he pointed out in different ways the significance of who this person was, this man who became a “son of God” and birthed a religion which, for 200 or so years after his death, was all about world-changing and person-changing, both together, through acts of charity and acts of resistance to evil.
As I think about Jesus in this Jesus birthday season, this is who I will remember. In that way, if not in other ways, he, and so many others like him down through history who acted and suffered for the common good, will continue to live on in my and others’ hearts and minds.
Ted Glick works with Beyond Extreme Energy and is president of 350NJ-Rockland. Past writings and other information, including about Burglar for Peace and 21st Century Revolution, two books published by him in 2020 and 2021, can be found at https://tedglick.com. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick