Jesus The Rebel
By Cole Kinney
21 January 2008
The title shocks at first glance. But then, so did Jesus. At first glance, second, and on into the centuries or, as the New Testament puts it, into the ages of the ages. Jesus of Nazareth? A Rebel with a capital R?
To those who actually know New Testament theology, which is to say, those who know their scriptures, the picture does not shock at all. Rather, it fits. And fits well at that.
Wait a minute.
“Cole, honey, you done taken your Full Loft today?”
“It’s Zoloft, Momma, and I don’t take it anyway."
"What do you take, then?"
"Well, take some of that, sweetie, what with you talkin bout Jesus an all in such way."
"Yes, ma’am. Right away."
OK, where was I?
Well I know where I was last night. Reclining in an easy chair while listening to Bebo Norman’s rendition of Rebel Jesus, a Jackson Browne song from the early 90s. Yes, the same Leftist from the same Left Coast. Nonetheless, ol’ Jackboy seemed to strike a nerve, as several Christian artists have now recorded the song. And the lyrics are intriguing.
After talking about streets "filled with laughter and light" (nice alliteration, Jackboy) of the Christmas season, Browne introduces a hint of darkness with “families hurrying to their homes” as “the sky darkens and freezes.”
Then to the point. “They” call Jesus the “Prince of Peace” and “The Saviour.” “They” pray for his help while filling his churches “with their pride and gold.” Then an odd turn. “But they’ve turned the nature that I worshipped in/From a temple to a robber’s den/In the words of the rebel Jesus.”
Hmm. Nature? Maybe that would be Malibu?
But at least he makes his point. Folks bent upon the outward show of Christianity with little to recommend them to the real Jesus. The professors are now running for their reference tomes to confront me with “Just who is the real Jesus?” But I’ll let you decide that one for your own selves.
But I know this. One of the reasons I started writing for the Fire Eater was a conversation I had with MacDonald King Aston a couple years ago. He referred me to the concept of “The Pale Galilean,” from J.B. Phillips’ book, Your God Is Too Small.
The Pale Galilean is the inverse of Jesus the Rebel. The Pale Galilean, or the meek and mild Redeemer-With-A-Toothy-Grin, is very much the old Puritan’s God, transmuted to fit the Yankee’s need for exorcising his endless (and whiny) guilt, changed from the stoic episkopos of the Puritans to the tidy Bostonian. What the ex-Confederate soldier and matchless theologian, Robert Louis Dabney, called “the New England Christ.”
In fact, once I started reading a proof of Mr King Aston’s book of essays, Yankee Babylon, I started to realise, not without a certain amount of attendant shivering, that the majority of alleged Christians are not Christians at all. Jackboy, however Hollyweirded he may be, had a point. A simple one at that.
Jesus the Christ is not the Pale Galilean. Jesus the Christ is not the Just-A-Nice-Man preached from so many pulpits. Jesus the Christ had and has a lot more to do than to sit around taking care of every one of your so-important sins (read: guilt feelings). Jesus the Christ came for essentially one reason. To kick butt. To overturn the way things were and are. To walk into a temple after fashioning a whip by his own hands and use the dang thing to run the first-century equivalents of the Yankee mercantilists out of God’s holy house.
Or, as he put it, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” (And yes, I do know the context. See Matthew 12:48-50.) Sound like a Rebel to you?
Of course, I do not mean to imply that the sole mission of the Christ was to strike terror into the hearts of miscreants and demons (both of which he did quite well, though). No, he came with such passion and fury because his Father’s creation (ktisis) was in danger of sliding into the ocean of nothingness. Because lawyers, politicians, and mercantilists had betrayed God and God’s people.
I just opened my Bible at random to Matthew 26:59. All the “ruler priests” (sounds like Yankee to me) and the guvmint (Sanhedrin, or Supreme Council) were trying to find some “false testimony” from Jesus. Why? To put him to death. Put him to death? Why would they care so much about one man’s opinions that they would want to kill him, which, as we know, they eventually did? The answer is simpler than the convoluted chaos you see in your Official Christian Church of a Sunday morning. The answer is: Jesus was a Rebel. He did in fact rebel against the Way Things Were. And that upset a lot of important people with money behind them. (Hmm, the Yankee factor again.) Including the lawyers (Pharisees). They knew good and well that Jesus was breaking the law by having his disciples work on Sunday (Matthew 12:1).
Breaking the law. Sound like the nice neighbour next door type to you?
Of course, God was well pleased with him (Luke 3:22). But God was hardly on the minds of the lawyers and the Jerusalem Bostonians. And if you were a demon? Forget it, boy. Because Jesus took care of you with “authority and power.” (Luke 4:36) Out you go and don’t hit your hind end on the window on the way out.
Jesus didn’t mind cussin’ either. Most people don’t like to dwell on the topic, but there you go. Seems like he was forever calling folks names: hypocrites, snakes, lawyers (associated with the word “woe” time and again), losers and failures. “Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear?” (Mark 8:18) Heck, he even called his own disciple (Peter) a Satan. (Mark 8:33) Yep. That would be the rock upon which the Church yonder in Romish quarters built itself upon. Satan. And of an entire generation, “adulterous” and “sinful.” And “faithless.” The latter I get a kick out of. “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you. How much longer must I put up with you?” (Mark 9:19) Sounds downright angry to me. Not the mealy-mouthed Jesus I learned of growing up. Not the Pale Galilean by a long shot.
No, this is a man who walked straight into a temple and “began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying.” Who then kicked over the chairs of the merchants and the tables of the bankers. Fact is, he wouldn’t even allow anyone to even carry anything through the temple.
Sound like a nice guy, as the Yankee says, to you?
I have a friend who once told me, “You know, Cole, that God will come to judge both the North and the South. I don’t know why you go on about your precious Dixie. They’re both going down.” And for a while, he had me going. Then one morning I awoke, and the picture grew clear. Try to follow along here.
One people (Yankees) came down into the homes of another people (Southerners). Southerners had not killed or even threatened to kill the Yankees. But the Yankees began to kill the Southerners anyway (tarriffs, slavery, lassitude, any excuse worked just dandy).
But God says it is wrong to murder folks. Of course, God has a way of taking care of those who do wrong. And it ain’t pretty. So one people killed another without provocation, without reason, and without mercy.
Now upon whom would God look down with his eyes of mercy? The Yankee in Boston? U. S. Grant with his whisky cup in hand and murderous eyes above? Or Robert E. Lee down on his knees in a field of Virginia sweet grass, praying in all humility to the Lord of all creation? Or Stonewall Jackson, sending money regularly to make sure the black kids back at home had a Sunday School to attend?
There is, in short, a holiness to Dixie that cold logic can not attain to, that the Yankee can not grasp. And that holiness has survived to this day. Even the Yankee knows that Dixie is still “the Bible Belt.” What would Rhode Island or Massachusetts be? At best, the Factory Belt.
But I’m not God, thank God. And perhaps God will take the all those murdering John Brown types and forgive them their bloodlust and rape. Or perhaps not. Perhaps God will look into the eyes of every Yankee who passes his way and ask, “Why did you kill my children who did not hurt you first?”
And before that Yankee can start mumbling atheistic Abolitionist rhetoric, God might well interrupt and point out an embarrassing but holy truth. “I never said, repeat never said, that slavery itself was wrong. Read my words. Never. In fact, those who love me are my slaves.” The Yankee’s knees would probably be shaking at this point because in the pseudo-church he attended, he had never heard the word slave (doulos in the original Greek) but merely the word “servant.”
How nice. How Pale Galilean. How Nice Guy. How New York.
Small problem, though. God ain’t no Nice Guy. He is the Creator of all that is. All that is belongs to him to do with as He sees fit. And He will. All this Jesus the Christ knew (and was).
So to me Jesus fits the pants of the Rebel far better than the fancy duds of the Yankee.
The Fire Eater copyright 2008