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"That long-haired radical socialist Jew"

"That long-haired radical socialist Jew" (written and performed by Hugh Blumenfeld). The folk song below receives airplay on KFOG 104.5 here in the San Francisco Bay Area during the holiday season.

Well, Jesus was a homeless lad
With an unwed mother and an absent dad
And I really don't think he would have gotten that far
If Newt, Pat and Jesse had followed that star

So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

When Jesus taught the people he
Would never charge a tuition fee
He just took some loaves, took some bread
And made up free school lunches instead

So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

He healed the blind and made them see
He brought the lame folks to their feet
Rich and poor, any time, anywhere
Just pioneering that free health care

So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

Jesus hung with a low-life crowd
But those working stiffs sure did him proud
Some were murderers, thieves and whores
But at least they didn't do it as legislators

So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

Jesus lived in troubled times
The religious right was on the rise
Oh what could have saved him from his terrible fate?
Separation of church and state!

So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

Sometimes I fall into deep despair
When I hear those hypocrites on the air
But every Sunday gives me hope
When pastor, deacon, priest, and pope

Are all singing out their praises to
Some long-haired radical socialist Jew.

They're all singing out their praises to
Some long-haired radical socialist Jew...


The beautiful Joyce Solarz asks, "Was he a long haired, radical socialist? I know he was Jewish, but the rest?"

Was Jesus long-haired, radical, or socialist? Good question. We humans have a tendency to liken God or God's son in our image.

Attacking racism, for example, Gandhi quoted "love thy neighbor as thyself" and asked if white Christians would ignore the brown-skinned Jesus who said these words.

In an episode of Good Times from the mid-'70s, the kids show their parents a depiction of a "Black Jesus" and cite the description in Revelations of the risen Jesus having hair like wool as proof that Jesus was black!

1. When traveling evangelists Brother Jed, Sister Cindy and Sister Pat visited the UC San Diego campus in the mid-'80s, Sister Pat cited the Apostle Paul's pronouncement that long hair on males is dishonorable. When students said Jesus had long hair, she said the New Testament does not contain any descriptions of what Jesus looked like... the depictions of a long-haired Jesus are from Renaissance paintings.

I'm thinking of the line from the rock musical Hair:

" hair like Jesus wore it
"Hallelujah! I adore it!
"Hallelujah! Mary loved her son
"Why don't my mother love me?!"

Sister Pat said from historians like Josephus, we know first century Jewish males did not have long hair. When some students suggested it's possible Jesus himself might have had long hair even if all other first century Jewish males didn't, Sister Pat countered if that were true, then there wouldn't have been any need for Judas to betray Jesus by identifying him to the authorities -- Jesus' own long hair would have given him away! Sister Pat said further that if Jesus really had long hair, it would have indicated he was a Nazarite, that the Nazarite vows include abstinence from alcohol, and she and the other traveling evangelists were opposed to alcohol (not a popular position to take on a college campus!).

Intoxication: alcohol, coffee, ganja, tea, tobacco, etc. are not forbidden in the Hindu religious tradition, but they are considered low-class, and definitely not permitted in the practice of yoga and meditation!

Gandhi similarly felt the "Indian States should close all liquor shops... I trust the day is not distant when there will be not a single liquor shop in our peninsula...Whereas total prohibition in the West is most difficult of accomplishment, I hold it is the easiest of accomplishment in this country (India). When an evil like drink in the West attains the status of respectability, it is the most difficult to deal with. With us (Indians) drink is still, thank God, sufficiently disrespectful and confined not to the general body of the people, but to a minority of the poorer classes. (Millions) of Indians are tetolalers by religion and by habit. Millions therefore cannot possibly be interested in keeping up the nefarious liquor traffic." (Young India, September 8, 1927)

2. Radical? This I can say with certainty:

In an email dated December 12, 2005, my dear friend Matias Carnevale Cano in Argentina, wrote:

"I am re-reading Keith Akers' (as of yet unpublished) manuscript, Broken Thread: The Fate of the Jewish Followers of Jesus in Early Christianity, because I keep on finding Christians who deny the relevance of a correspondence between life and faith. Many think that faith is just believing in Christ, thus they can do whatever they please...Thank God I do not follow that idea. These persons would not accept the importance of vegetarianism or even leading a simple life, such a pity. If what they have to give is 'love,' it takes just a look to see what the world is becoming because of this Christian 'love.' "

Repeating Psalm 37:11, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Here Jesus refers to Isaiah’s vision (11:6-9) of the future Kingdom of Peace, where the earth is restored to a vegetarian paradise. (Genesis 1:29-31) Jesus taught his followers to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom and to do God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

The kingdom of God belongs to the gentle and kind. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:7-9) “Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Jesus called the peacemakers or pacifists sons of God, because they emulate God’s universal and unconditional love. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:45-48; Luke 6:32-35)

Although the Ten Commandments teach “thou shalt not kill,” Jesus extended this morality to the point where one must never even get angry without cause. (Matthew 5:21-22) And although the Ten Commandments teach “thou shalt not commit adultery,” Jesus taught that “whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

The Bible limits compensation to “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but Jesus taught his followers not to defend themselves against attack or aggression. “All who take up the sword must perish by the sword,” Jesus warned. (Matthew 26:52) The Bible teaches men to love their neighbors and hate their enemies, but Jesus taught them to love their enemies and bless and pray for their persecutors. (Matthew 5:38-44; Luke 6:27-29)

Jesus forbade divorce, except for unfaithfulness. When asked why Moses permitted divorce, Jesus replied that it was a concession to the hardness of the heart. He insisted upon the moral standards given by God at the beginning. (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18)

Jesus told his followers there is no need to pray to God for material blessings or even necessities. (Matthew 6:8,31-33; Luke 12:29-30) God’s compassion extends to all creation and He will easily provide for all of man’s needs:

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin. And yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field... will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:26-30; Luke 12:24-28)

Jesus and his disciples lived lives of voluntary poverty and preached God’s word among “the poor.” When asked why he ate with sinners, he replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32)

In the 1986 edition of A Vegetarian Sourcebook, secular scholar Keith Akers notes that there was a link in Judaism between meat-eating and animal sacrifices, that the prophetic tradition to which Jesus belonged attacked animal sacrifices, and that Jesus attacked the practice of animal sacrifice by driving the money-changers and their animals out of the Temple. He concludes, “The evidence indicates that for those who first heard the message of Jesus... the rejection of animal sacrifices had directly vegetarian implications.”

Jesus taught humility and servitude. “You know the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27; Mark 10:42-44; Luke 22:25-27)

When his disciples argued amongst themselves who would be the greatest, Jesus told them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:33-35) On another occasion he explained, “For he who is least among you all will be great.” (Luke 9:48) According to Jesus, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11)

Jesus told his disciples they were to think of themselves as unprofitable servants who simply do their duty. (Luke 17:7-10) Jesus even washed the feet of his disciples after the Last Supper, to set an example to his disciples about humility and equality before God. (John 13:1-16)

Jesus taught that before God, no one can be called good. (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19) He saw the righteous and the wicked with equal vision. When Jesus was informed about Galileans who suffered at the hands of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, he responded: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them,” Jesus continued. “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

The Pharisees apparently claimed religious leadership without such humility before God. “If you were (spiritually) blind,” Jesus told them on one occasion, “you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore, your sin remains.” (John 9:41)

According to Luke, the Pharisees trusted in their own righteousness and therefore looked down upon others. Jesus told a parable of two men—a Pharisee and a tax collector—praying at Temple. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like the other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.”

Meanwhile, the tax collector stood off in the distance. He would not even raise his eyes towards heaven, but merely prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Jesus said it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee, for “everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Jesus instructed his followers to perform their charity, prayer and fasting in private. Religious devotion must never become a means to adulation, fame and social recognition. (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18) Jesus’ disciples did not fast in the same manner as the disciples of John the Baptist or the Pharisees (Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39), but they did fast. (Matthew 6:16-18) Jesus even taught that certain kinds of demons could only be exorcised through prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:17-29) Jesus taught constant prayer. (Luke 21:36) He often withdrew into the wilderness to pray. (Luke 5:16) At least once, Jesus went to the mountains and spent the night in prayer. (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12)

Jesus explained that celibacy is not something everyone can practice; it is meant only for those whom God has ordained it. He used the euphemism “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” recalling his euphemism about denying or dismembering bodily urges rather than having the entire body destroyed by sin. (Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8-9, 19:10-12)

The apparent celibacy of Jesus is unusual by ancient Hebrew standards. The Bible does call for temporary abstinences, under certain circumstances. According to the Talmud, Moses voluntarily chose to give up sexual relations with his wife after he received his call from God. He reasoned that if the Israelites, to whom the Lord spoke only once and briefly, were ordered to abstain from sexual relations temporarily (Exodus 19:10,15), then he—being in continual dialogue with God—should remain celibate.

Philo of Alexandria tells us that to sanctify himself, Moses cleansed himself of “all the mortal calls of nature, food and drink and intercourse with women. This last he had disdained for many a day, almost from the time when, possessed by the Spirit, he entered on his work as a prophet, since he held it fitting to hold himself always in readiness to receive the oracular messages.” Given this information, Jesus’ apparent voluntary embrace of celibacy, from the time of his baptism and reception of the Spirit of God, becomes meaningful to Jews and Christians alike.

John the Baptist told the people to share half of their food and clothing with the needy. (Luke 3:11) Jesus was pleased when Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, promised to give half his goods to the poor. “Today salvation has come to this house, because he is also a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:2-10)

However, Jesus went even further, and called for renunciation of worldly goods. He did not regard the accumulation of material possessions as a meaningful goal in life. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy...But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:33-34)

Jesus told the multitudes that followed him, “...whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25,33) “No one can serve two masters,” Jesus explained. “...he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13)

Jesus had no interest in worldly disputes over money and property. (Luke 12:13-14) “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Jesus condemned those who lay up treasures for themselves, but are not rich towards God. (Luke 12:15-21)

In his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus expressed concern for materialistic persons. When a rich, young ruler came to Jesus and said he had kept God’s commandments since youth, Jesus prized him dearly and replied, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” The man went away, saddened. Jesus observed that it is hard for those attached to earthly riches to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:16-24; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 18:18-25)

Jesus even demanded the renunciation of family ties. (Luke 14:26) It appears Jesus had little contact even with his own family; he regarded only those who do God’s will as his brethren. (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21) When a woman said to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts which nursed you,” Jesus replied, “More blessed still are those who hear and keep the word of God.” (Luke 11:27-28)

Perhaps the most famous narrative depicting Jesus as a Jewish religious reformer is John 8:1-11. Jesus was teaching people at Temple early in the morning. The scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery. “Now Moses, in the Law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?”

“Let he among you who is without sin,” Jesus responded, “cast the first stone.” The woman’s accusers all found themselves convicted by their own conscience. They released her and went away. No one was left to condemn her. “Neither do I condemn you;” Jesus told her, “go and sin no more.”

Aside from the Pharisees, the gospels and Book of Acts mention the Sadducees as the only other major school of Judaic thought. The Sadducees tended to be rich, nationalist and secularist.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived during the time of Jesus, wrote that the "Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances...which are not written into the laws of Moses and" which "the Sadducees reject," but they "are able to persuade none but the rich," whereas "the Pharisees have the multitude on their side."

Thus Jesus never rejected Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17); only the excesses of the Pharisees with regards to its observance.

(It was Paul, not Jesus, who taught that the Law was abolished. A completely different theology!)

3. Socialist? I felt George W. Bush proved himself to be an intellectual lightweight in 2000, when during the political debates, he said his favorite political philosopher was Jesus Christ. These kind of sound bites might win points with the Christian right, but (unlike Thomas Jefferson or any of the other founding fathers of the United States) Jesus was not a political philosopher.

(It could have been worse... George W. Bush could have cited Machiavelli as his favorite political philosopher, although that sounds like Dick Cheney!)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said not to lay up treasures on the earth which are temporary, but to seek first the kingdom of heaven. Jesus called his followers away from not merely personal possessions, but family ties, duties, etc. This suggests monastic living, like the Essenes, Theraputae, Pythagoreans, Buddhists, and other previous religious traditions with similar theologies.

Reading the New Testament, of course, leaves one with the impression Christianity began as a monastic movement, with Jesus calling his followers away from personal possessions, family ties and duties (e.g., "let the dead bury the dead, and come follow me...") and through Paul became a congregational-based religion with faith in Jesus as its only requirement.

Secular scholar Keith Akers writes in his as of yet unpublished manuscript, Broken Thread, however, that the monastic orders came centuries later, in an attempt to return the church to its pristine state. On the other hand, we know from both church history and secular history that Christianity was pacifist until Constantine, and reading the New Testament gives one this impression as well. (It's possible, historically, that Christianity began as a vegetarian religion, too.) Keith Akers writes in Broken Thread:


"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
--Matthew 5:9

Peace Pilgrim tells the following story which illustrates the obviousness of the pacifist message in the New Testament, at lest to those outside our own culture:

During World War II, an American Sunday School teacher who was in the Pacific had captured a Japanese soldier. In marching the soldier, the American discovered that his prisoner spoke English. "You know what," said the Japanese soldier, "I was once a Christian." The American deliberated a moment and then said, "Why did you give up Christianity?" A look of surprise came upon the Japanese soldier, and he answered with a puzzled expression, "How can I be a soldier and still be a Christian?"

(Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. Friends Of Peace Pilgrim. Santa Fe: Ocean Tree, 1983. page 103)


Although he was the son of a military officer, the early Christian father Tertullian (AD 200), a vegetarian, was opposed to militarism and violence. Professor G.J. Heering in The Fall of Christianity, writes:

"The question Tertullian faces is not whether a Christian may be a soldier, but even whether a solider may be allowed within the church. He answers 'No.' The soldier who becomes a Christian ought to leave the army. 'One soul cannot be true to two lords -- God and Caesar. How shall a Christian man wage war; nay, how shall he even be a soldier in peace time, without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? -- for in disarming Peter he ungirded every soldier."

The latter prophets (Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, etc.) emphasized social justice, caring for the poor, the widows, the orphans, etc. (as did Jesus' brother James). And Jesus placed himself in the tradition of the prophets before him. Some liberal theologians see Jesus' call for renunciation of personal possessions as Christian socialism, as do some conservative scholars with disdain, like Dr. Martin A. Larson (an atheist) in his monumental book, The Story of Christian Origins.

I see attempts by both the right and left to connect Jesus to socialism/communism as a mundane interpretation of Jesus' spiritual teachings... calling his followers away from material attachments.

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