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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 Jordan’s 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 1950’s. 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 Herod’s 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,

there’s the simple necessity of hurting someone.

It means strength and agility, taking responsibility,

it’s the core of what leadership’s really about.

When the red blood starts coming, just think of it as plumbing, if you’ve 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 couldn’t 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, there’s nothing to fear

Close your eyes sweet darling, all through the night

Mama will hold you safe ‘til the morning light.

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