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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jesus returns, joins lobby firm as hack for corporatocracy

Don't hassle me with your Christianity.
 I say, don't lay none of that jive on me.
What it did to you is plain to see.
Ain't no fool gonna jive that way with me.
                                  Ol' Massa's church

It's making the rounds on Facebook.  It's a series of cartoon panels called "Coffee with Jesus."  Some otherwise liberal-leaning people are liking it.  It says some things that Christ would clearly approve of like caring for others, as in this panel:  

Jesus is portrayed, as you will note, as a  bearded, coiffed dude in a suit.  If you read all the panels, you will find that he is also a bit of a snarky asshole.  And the people on whom he vents his snarks are portrayed as whining, back-biting malcontents who hate their bosses and are dissatisfied with everything as they crave and envy luxury and status.  Well, Jesus puts them in their place.  He not only tells them to stop bitching and be happy with what they have, but damned well be glad for a lot less.  He sounds like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin,   He portrayed his state's working people as greedy thugs, and he damned well did something about it.  He took away their collective bargaining rights.

Jesus in this setting gets right down to cases regarding the right and privilege to work.  Carl who is featured in these panels, it seems, lost his job as a time shares salesman.  He is now operating a lawn care service at half the money.  Jesus, as you will read in this panel, tells him to be happy in his work and to be even happier by cutting his prices so he's competitive with the Mexican lawn laborers. 

It is from Carl's wife, Lisa, that we learn Carl is so much happier in his new work.  She is so distressed at her new, lower status that she implores Jesus to come back and redeem the earth right now.  He tells her 7-Eleven is hiring.

And so, Jesus rebukes Carl and Lisa for that entity we call the American Dream.

He does not advise them simply to face and work out of their reduced circumstances.  He castigates them for desiring a better life and to have somewhat equal status with others in the economic scheme of things.  He does make a snarky implication about what comprises the corporate world--lying, cheating, and swindling.  But it is presented as kind of a moral condemnation of Carl's ambitions, not that there may inequality and injustice in the circumstances Carl finds himself in.

These panels resurrect a theology that was preached to the slaves.  In a speech Frederick Douglass, a former slave, made to a group of Irish abolitionists, he recounts that form of Christian theology:

The Ministers of religion actually quoted scripture in support of the most cruel and bloody outrages on the slaves. My own master was a Methodist class leader (Laughter, and "Oh"), and he bared the neck of a young woman, in my presence, and he cut her with a cow skin. He then went away, and when he returned to complete the castigation, he quoted the passage, "He that knoweth his master's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." (Laughter.) The preachers say to the slaves they should obey their masters, because God commands it, and because their happiness depended on it. (A laugh.) Here the Speaker assumed the attitude and drawling manner so characteristic of the American preachers, amid the laughter of all present, and continued—Thus do these hypocrites cant. They also tell the slaves there is no happiness but in obedience, and wherever you see poverty and misery, be sure it results from disobedience. (Laughter.) In order to illustrate this they tell a story of a slave having been sent to work, and when his master came up, he found poor Sambo asleep. Picture the feelings, they say, of that pious master, his authority thrown off, and his work not done. The master then goes to the law and the testimony, and he there read the passage I have already quoted, and Sambo is lashed so that he cannot work for a week after. "You servants," continued the preacher, "To what was this whipping traceable, to disobedience, and if you would not be whipped, and if you would bask in the sunshine of your master's favour, let me exhort you to obedience. You should also be grateful that God in his mercy brought you from Africa to this Christian land." (Great laughter.) They also tell the wretched slaves that God made them to do the working, and the white men the thinking. And such is the ignorance in which the slaves are held that some of them go home and say, "Me hear a good sermon to day, de Minister make ebery thing so clear, white man above a Nigger any day." 

Here we are living in the era of what Newt Gingrich calls the Food Stamp President, and Jesus comes back in a cartoon to set us straight.  In response to being read scripture and preached to about being obedient and content with their lot,  the slaves formed their own worship groups at which they sang "sorrow songs," sometimes called negro spirituals, which offered messages of equality, cause for hope, and some specific directions for boarding the underground railroad to escape out of slavery.  This version of Jesus which condemns working people for greed and class envy is not the Jesus of The New Testament which records what Jesus actually said.  This is a descendant of the old plantation Jesus as portrayed in the slave owner's manual.  But we have texts which can lift us out of the insulting and disparaging castigation of working people and give us a view of the real American dream that can redeem the nation.

One of the texts is Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again," as excerpted here:

 Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States