Not Jesus

Not Jesus has a tale to tell 

He wants you to listen well 

Lessons earned from generations come before him 

Not Jesus, like Back From The War, is a song that was one thing, then became another. The original concept was based on a real person. An older man with a long white beard who walked around in a bright pink t-shirt with black lettering that read “Not Jesus”. I would see him around the high school when I was dropping my daughter off for class. He had quirks other than his self proclaimed moniker. He would press the button at the light to stop traffic then not cross the street. He would shake a wrapped condom at the passing cars. One day his shirt read “Women Lie”. He air drummed to the beat of his pseudo speed walking and tossed a water bottle around like a baton. I had to write a song about this guy. So I made a loose narrative about his mission to warn youth about the dangers of unprotected sex. It was irreverent and crude and the lyrics had a nice flow to them. I quite liked the chord progression of the chorus section. I finished the song and said “Well that was fun” and put it away. It wasn’t a keeper. 

Except one line decided to become a squatter in my brain and would not leave. 

In this world of fear and strife 

If he can change just one life 

Then Not Jesus is not not an answer 

I decided to revisit the idea, come at it with a fresh approach. Not Jesus was not one eccentric man, he was bigger than that. A concept started to take shape. I sat to write, and Not Jesus was reborn. 

The murder of George Floyd prompted me to get serious about educating myself to the truth of the Black experience in America. Not the whitewashed version predominately white authors and historians have penned to soften or outright erase the horrors of the American legacy of slavery and subsequent generations of systemic oppression against Black and Brown humans at the hands and for the benefit of the white population. A system devised by white elites, men who recognized the need to divide the lower classes, reorganizing the social structure and getting certain segments of the population to champion their cause through propaganda and strategic marketing because America is first and foremost a business. It’s always been about the money. Who has it, who is allowed to acquire and keep it, and through what methods. Most importantly, who holds the power to make those decisions. Even only reading history-lite, the fact is not hidden, indeed it is often exalted that any manner of abuse is justifiable in the pursuit of wealth. Some of America’s most revered slave holders lamented their moral trepidation over human bondage, but what’s a man to do? They paid for those poor souls and property is property. The right (for some) to own property was (and is) the highest law of the land. Might lose a (very) little sleep over it, but no one expected them to lose money over it. Not one cent. 

There were those who knew in their hearts that kidnapping and trafficking humans was reprehensible, even in the pursuit of wealth. The practice of chattel slavery was a stain on the soul. So other reasons had to be invented to justify such moral depravity. Never fear, the church is here. Providing an easy answer that shifted the blame off of the shoulders of slave holders and their financiers and beneficiaries and laid it squarely at the feet of the creator. This subjugation was god’s will. Divine decree outlined the hierarchy of chosen and not chosen. Saved and not saved. Master and slave. Jesus and Not Jesus. 

One of the many widely circulated maxims was that enslavement liberated the Africans from their heathen ways, providing a path to Christianity. An opportunity for the devout to prove their worthiness of god’s eternal favor by converting said heathens. It seems to me this creates a feedback loop, upending the notion of who was saving who. 

Not Jesus slept like a baby at night 

The kind that cries till the morning light 

Caught between the stress and the strain of being a savior 

It is true that progress has been made. We no longer allow slavery at the individual level. It’s now the exclusive providence of the state. But every successful move towards justice is met with severe backlash. 

The weight of the cross kept him down 

Upon his head that thorny crown 

Till he laid them down and learned what it means to suffer 

Those who maintain our systems of racism and oppression are loathe to have their authority challenged and their acolytes have always been willing to defend them. 

His burden cast upon the ground 

The old guard wailed and thrashed about 

Called upon the masses to execute their warfare 

It has proved effective historically to pervert the motive of equality and the intention of equity to be the taking of money from hard working white people and redistributing it to undeserving Blacks. It’s a lie of course, but it works. Every time. 

Empathy a fleeting whim 

Compassion become the cardinal sin 

(They’re) scared of the scarcity manufactured 

The oppressed are made responsible for their own deliverance from oppression, the criterion for which is forever changing and somehow never satisfied. The complacent and complicit require continuous blood sacrifice to even take notice at all. 

They wanted him to begin again 

Not Jesus wondered when will it end 

How would he win when the people need their martyrs 

Taking a knee is not enough when the knee of the oppressor is on your neck. Taking to the streets becomes necessary. 

Under the weight on bended knee 

Unanswered faith failed to speak 

Left on his own Not Jesus took back his power 

Enough is enough; not one more 

Truth will not be ignored 

He was not put here to use for our amusement 

Society at large has a bad recurring habit of making minimal effort to temporarily acknowledge these affronts, cleansing their collective conscience before retuning to happily denying systemic injustice exists at all. A thinly veiled attempt to shed guilt without giving up advantage. 

Not for him to carry the load 

That frees us all from the weight of our own 

We only mean to bury him with that baggage 

The way forward is in front of us and there are many working to achieve it. Fighting the good fight to tear down our systems of oppression and inequality and replace them, not with one of revenge or retribution, but one that champions justice and equity. Where we are all truly sisters and brothers working together for the betterment of every human being. A concept beautifully embodied in the Beloved Community. 

Dismantle this hierarchy 

And build the Beloved Community 

Peace and Love together born of a dream 

This has always been the message. We need to listen. 

Not Jesus has a tale to tell 

We should all listen well 

Lessons earned from generations come before us

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