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Jesus Was A Capricorn

December 28th, 2010

By Gary Kohls

Kris Kristofferson recorded a John Prine song back in the 1970s entitled “Jesus Was A Capricorn”. I remember resonating with the words the only time I heard it on the radio and have often wondered (but I think I know) why I have never heard it sung again. The essential verses went something like this:

    Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods.
    He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes.
    Long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends.
    Reckon they'd just nail him up if He came down again.

    ’Cause everybody's got to have somebody to look down on.
    Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
    Someone doin' somethin' dirty, decent folks can frown on.
    If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

    Egg Head's cussin’ Red Neck's cussin' hippies for their hair.
    Others laugh at straights who laugh at freaks who laugh at squares.
    Some folks hate the whites who hate the blacks who hate the Klan.
    Most of us hate anything that we don't understand.

The lyrics have stuck with me all these years because they express some profound truths about the long-lost message and mission of Jesus, the one that Christians often call, with a certain lack of conviction “The Prince of Peace”. Such a label, though biblically accurate, is an obvious anachronism in this modern era of the mass slaughter of innocent people in our endless American wars - realities that seem to be essentially unopposed by most people who claim to be Jesus’ followers.

Jesus was a bleeding heart liberal

Besides being a back-to-the-earth, nature-loving, peacemaking humanitarian whose food choices were never synthetic or poisoned by a (nonexistent) Palestinian food industry, Jesus was obviously also a deeply spiritual holy man. He also met the definitions of bleeding-heart liberal, pacifist, contemplative and a fearless political activist who had a penchant for doing the right thing no matter the personal risk. Jesus thus advocated for those made poor, sick, malnourished, ill-clothed and he spoke out courageously against the exploitive ruling elites of his era, both secular and sectarian.

From all the gospel accounts, Jesus was clearly a fearless defender of the oppressed and discriminated-against, groups that were consistently exploited or persecuted by any number of establishment Principalities and Powers, elites whose political and theological beliefs were grounded in violence, greed, domination systems, blind patriotism and the willingness to kill for whomever was the local flag-waving Fuhrer.

In his time, Jesus was a major “thorn in the flesh” to those entities whose policies led to economic oppression, militarism and racism. Over the past centuries, far too many religious leaders have been silent about - or have even collaborated with - the pro-violence leaders who have held secular power.

Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune

Throughout much of history tyrants have feared the prophets that echoed Jesus’ radical message. Jesus knew that Jerusalem was the center of power where the prophets were killed. And he went there anyway, calling for freedom for the oppressed, relief for the impoverished, food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless – willing to risk the wrath of the rulers by living his life in accordance with the will of his god.

But tyrants everywhere have been known to kill the prophets – and I suppose they still do that, but now, in these modern times, there are subtler ways to silence their voices. The best example of how it is done is the corporate elite’s virtually total control of the US media, whose endless propaganda campaigns articulated by attractive, highly paid, well rehearsed talking heads, equally well-rehearsed politicians and their sponsoring think tanks. These institutions regularly shout down every truth-teller and whistle-blower, so that their important stories remain unreported and therefore unheard. Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune, as they say.

Is it naïve to continue to trust the “speaking truth to power” principle?

The old saw about Speaking Truth to Power seems to me to be essentially obsolete. The Principalities and Powers, when Truth is spoken to them, may listen, but there is never any response. And Absolute Power (always totally corrupted, according to Lord Acton’s axiom) doesn’t even listen.

The hidden ruling elite in the shadow government are calling the shots without any input from others, and they have the resources to bribe, buy or sell elected officials and Supreme Court judges from either major political party. They themselves never have to run for the political offices they perennially control. They just have to be able to pay out the money that buys the means of control.

Those in the shadow government despise our so-called democratic ideals. Their preferences for doing business include slavery, feudalism, monarchy and fascism. Princes, kings, dictators, capitalists and fascists hate socialism, cooperatives, dissent, fair debates and trade unionism but they do have ways to obtain economic power in quasi-democratic states. They hate having to share the podium or power with their “inferiors” in free and fair elections. And so elections are no longer free and fair.

All the corporate-owned mainstream media has to do is to censor their investigative journalists, refuse to report on the messages of the opposition political parties, ignore the peacemakers and the warnings of the prophets.

The spirit of the “reason for the season”

It seems to me that if the spirit of Jesus were truly present in Christendom, aggressive, faith-based peace and true justice movements for the relief of the suffering of the oppressed would be the norm for churches.

If the spirit of Jesus were truly present, his followers would intuitively see as job #1 the difficult, serious and dangerous work for world peace and real justice for the downtrodden.

And if the spirit of Jesus were truly present, the modern disciples would not simply be providing charitable emergency relief (as critically important as that is) but they would, as Jesus did, be naming and then resisting the tyranny and the tyrants that are at the root of the evils. That is the challenge and, according to Matthew 25: 31 – 46, the recipe for salvation.

The only power that is incorruptible is the holy spirit of unconditional, Christ-like love, mercy and forgiveness, which is what the ministry of Jesus was all about. The truths he taught and the way he lived his life inspired those that founded the original form of Christianity, and it is that spirit that has energized such faith-based peacemaker groups as the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Voices in the Wilderness, Every Church A Peace Church, Nonviolent Peace Force, Fellowship of Reconciliation, the historic peace churches (Friends, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren) and any number of denominational peace fellowships, all of whom are willing to step into that dangerous space between the world’s victims and their oppressors who always seem to be ready and willing to throw the “first” stone.

Jesus embodied love, compassion and empathy, and John Prine’s song reinforces the image. Jesus proved that the nonviolent love of friend and enemy was practical, and those teachings launched the religion that was intended to propagate that message.

John Prine’s song speculates that if Jesus re-appeared in modern America, he would be in deep trouble, even with his co-religionists. Rather than be contented with the inevitable adoration that would result, he would be compelled to be “out there” on the streets, doing the right thing, opposing injustice, healing the sick, releasing the captives, risking imprisonment, torture or even crucifixion by leading or teaming up with the other dissidents in the nonviolent revolution.

Jesus would be in league with the dangerous prophets, the poets, the singers, the whistle-blowers and the peace activists even if they seemed to be heading towards Jerusalem or Washington, D.C. or some other lethal showdown location where the armed enforcers of the agendas of the captains of industry might try to put down their dissident group that might be making a nuisance of itself demanding relief for the suffering of “the least of these”.

The success of Jesus’ original mission – still untried and therefore not accomplished - depends on the courage and commitment of his modern disciples and their trust in his clearly outlined peace plan. There is probably no better place to start than at Christmastime.

Joyeux Noel. Heilige Weihnachten. Merry Christmas.


Dr. Kohls is a founding member of Every Church A Peace Church (www.ecapc.org) and its local Duluth-area affiliate, The Community of the Third Way. Dr. Kohls is a critic of fascism’s major components: corporatism, militarism, racism and economic oppression. He is an advocate for peace, justice and planetary sustainability and a believer in the power of nonviolent resistance to evil.

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