Many years ago I went to see a theatrical production called Cotton Patch Gospel, a musical about the life of Jesus with an Appalachian, country-western twist. It was based on Clarence Jordanís paraphrase of the New Testament, by the same name. It tries to tell the story of Jesus as if he has been born in Georgia in the 1950ís. The lyrics and music were written and composed by the late Harry Chapin. I wish I could play one of the songs for you, for it is both gripping and haunting.
It begins with Herodís men singing:
All through the ages, the wise men and sages,
have said there are dirty deeds that simply must be done.
To keep society going, and the benefits flowing,
thereís the simple necessity of hurting someone.
It means strength and agility, taking responsibility,
itís the core of what leadershipís really about.
When the red blood starts coming, just think of it as plumbing, if youíve got a problem you must flush it out.
Then the narrator comes in and tells this story: Herod had seen to it that on Sunday morning a bomb got tossed into the nursery of a church where Jesus was supposed to be. Fortunately, Joe had taken Jesus to Mexico, so the plan failed to get him. But the explosion did kill 14 innocent infants and toddlers. It was a horrible sight that morning. The doctor couldnít even convince one mother that her child was dead. And then the mother sings her song:
Rock a by sweet baby, Mama is here
Hush a by sweet angel, thereís nothing to fear
Close your eyes sweet darling, all through the night
Mama will hold you safe Ďtil the morning light.
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