Jesus is a redneck

Jesus wasn’t born in a boss’s house. He didn’t come into this world inside them big ole homes up on the hillside, up above all the squalor down below. No sir. When that youngin’s mama gave birth it was down in the bottom on the creek bank, where the common workers and their families lived in cramped shanties with newspaper as insulation. Where the soot from the coke ovens coated your existence and red dog[1] served as asphalt on the mud-caked “street.”

No, Jesus wasn’t born in the fancy house up there where Mine Superintendent Herod lives. He was born right here in Number 7 camp where the Black miners come up from the South Land stay. It happened in the dead of winter. His mama wrapped him up best she could and laid him in the only place there was to lay him – a coal bin.

Good News to the Poor

When them angels came down here from heaven they didn’t go to the courthouse or the statehouse to announce that youngin’s comin. Nope, they went straight to those Poles down in Number 5 camp who were put in charge of tendin the blind mules that never see no sunlight cause they always down in that hole.

Them folks didn’t know what hit em when that bright light shone all about, and that voice said “I’m a bringin ya’ll good news today. Good news for all the poor people of the earth. Today up yonder in a coal bin the one who is gonna save all ya’ll from corporate power has come. God’s peace is here for you, because it is ya’ll who God has taken a likin to.”

Release to the Captives

When Jesus started goin all around these hills and hollers preachin this good news about this new company in charge – God’s company – he didn’t go to the old company church houses to do it, where the preachers say “obey the company” and “work hard for the boss and you’ll have an eternal reward.” Nope, you could find him alongside them miner-preachers, standin with the people preachin in those “organized” worship gatherings in the tent colonies where folks didn’t have no home nor hope.

Clinton Chapel AME Church, Jenkinjones, McDowell County, WV (Photo by Brad Davis)

You could find him in places like what that writer lady Denise Giardina said was called “Uprising Chapel” up toward Jenkinjones in Conklintown in western MacDowell County. It was there she said ole Doc Booker, one of the church elders, got so worked up when Jesus was talkin bout “hit’s time to break them chains” that he took out a red bandana and started wavin it around in the air before tying it around his neck.

She say itsa “old sign of poor people standing together…,” a sign of solidarity – a sign that liberation has come.[2]

That’s why I say Jesus is a redneck. He’s one of us. He’s for us. He’s with us.

Recovery of Sight to the Blind

When them gun thugs finally caught up to Jesus they accused him of bein a Bolshevik revolutionary, a commie red hellbent on upsettin the apple cart – of tryin to make the last first and the first last, of tryin to cast down those livin on the hill and lift up those livin in the bottom.

They dragged him off and did what gun thugs do – whopped him good – before they and Mine Superintendent Herod handed him over to the state police to be charged with treason.

By that time Jesus coulda called the whole Redneck Army, all those miners who picked up their rifles and marched off to set their kin free, to come to his aid and go to war with that Baldwin-Felts detachment from the home office in Rome and the forces of the state.

But he didn’t. He chose another way.

Rather than fight back with the same company violence used to keep our people enslaved to the exploitative system that displaced, dispossessed, and used us up, that youngin born all those years ago in a coal bin down in Number 7 decided to show us the God company way. Rather than return hate with hate, he says I’m a gonna lay it down so that you can be lifted up.

And with that he entered into the suffering of his people and absorbed all that company violence that we’ve endured for a century and a half. All that suffering and sorrow they been inflictin on us Jesus chose to take upon himself to reveal to everybody with eyes to see that he is one of us – common folk abused by the Powers. He knows what it’s like, and he stands with us.

They tied a red bandana around his neck and strung him up on the courthouse steps. And with his final breath said “it’s finished ya’ll.”

In his death he entered into solidarity with the suffering of our folks.

Jesus is a redneck. He’s one of us. He’s for us. He’s with us.

Liberation for the Oppressed

When them women folk went up the holler to the cemetery to lay flowers at Jesus’s grave they saw quite the sight! That grave was empty! There wasn’t no body there, just that red bandana a layin on the ground, flickerin ever so slightly in the breeze as if to say “I told ya so!”

Ole Jesus, who was a preachin at Uprising Chapel not so long ago, now was a himself Up-Rising! He done beat them Powers at their own game and made a mockery of em. He done beat violence, oppression, exploitation, dispossession and disinheritance with solidarity, compassion, understanding, empathy, and love.

All poor and oppressed people everywhere, be they coal miners or campesinos, or any in between, in that moment are vindicated by God and the God company. All poor and oppressed people are liberated through Jesus’ Up-Rising. And because of his Up-Rising, they too can rise up!

There’s a healin in that from all the pain we’ve endured, because Jesus is a redneck.

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

When Jesus comes back ya’ll, ain’t gonna be none of this stuff that we still endure to this day. He ain’t gonna tolerate nobody bein abused. He ain’t gonna tolerate nobody bein kicked off their land. He ain’t gonna tolerate the rich getting richer by makin the poor poorer. Nope. None of that.

When he comes back ya’ll, whew chile it’s gonna be a sight. We all goin back to the homeplace, back to where it all started. Back to how things were before they come here and took our land. Before they herded us into those work camps. Before they enslaved us. Before they abandoned us after they’d done used us up and tossed us aside as expendable.

Before they dug out all our own resources under our feet and shipped it outta state for them big city folks to get rich while our children starve, our men’s lungs blacken, and our valleys get filled in and streams blocked. While we suffer human and environmental violence.

Nope. They’ll be none of that! And none of that can be in the here and now. We can start striving toward that day today! Cause we God’s people, in solidarity with one another.

We goin home ya’ll. To the Promised Land. Back to Eden. Where we belong.

Because Jesus is a redneck. He’s one of us. He’s for us. He’s with us.


[2] From the novel Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina.

Rev. Brad Davis (he/him) is the founder of  The New Society, a grassroots Central Appalachian kingdom movement. A native of one of the nation’s most economically and socially exploited regions, Brad’s passion is connecting its people to a holistic, therapeutic, liberating message of salvation he calls the Holler GospelClick here to read more of Brad‘s work.

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