Jesus’ Mom was a Punk.

Via Roger Wolsey
on Dec 10, 2010
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A punk rock band should do a song based on Mary’s “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55).

Knocked-up, teen-aged Mary was the first punk singer and the first rock & roller. When she learned that she would bear the Christ-child, she sang a song. It was a song of praise. And it was a song of protest and rebellion. She celebrates that God is about to do something new in the world.

She was celebrating that God was about to turn the world upside-down, knock the wealthy oppressors off their pedestals, lift up those who’ve been oppressed, and usher-in a new reign of social justice and reconciliation.

Here are the words to that song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

After her son Jesus grew up and got baptized by his prophetic (and somewhat nutty) cousin John, he went back to visit the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and fulfilled what his mother had sung about 30 years before

…He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(referring to The Year of Jubilee which involved the redistribution of wealth and property, see: Isaiah 61:1,2 and Leviticus 25)

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

Jesus and his message were so radical that he nearly got thrown off of a cliff immediately afterward (Luke 4:29).  Frankly, Jesus is lucky to have squeezed in 3 years of truth-telling and ministry before he was finally nailed to a cross.

Mary is sometimes referred to as “Theotokos” – the “mother of God.”   I submit that Mary is also “Punkotokos” – mother of all rebels with a cause.  I could elaborate about “this cause” that we’re invited to be a part of.   But I don’t feel like preaching.  Suffice it to say it has something to do with loving enemies, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending to the sick, visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:35-36), and proclaiming that a counter-cultural peasant (who taught assertive non-violent resistance and was executed) is Lord – and that Caesar (a euphemism for the worldly powers that be) isn’t.  As AC/DC put it, “For those about to rock, we salute you!” Whether or not you consider yourself a Christian –  Let’s rock people.

Oi! Amen?

Interesting not-so-side-note: In the New Testament Mary’s real name is Miriam which means “their rebellion.” (English versions of the Bible simply transliterate it as “Mary.”) Miriam is a seriously ROCKIN’ name! : D



From Elephant: If you would like to hear this columnist preaching at the chapel he is the pastor of (and learn about his new book) click here:

It’s a sermon that was part of a recent worship service held at Wesley Chapel in Boulder, CO.  That service featured their Mosaic Gospel Choir.  If you’d like to hear them, click here.

Roger is an ordained United Methodist pastor and the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


52 Responses to “Jesus’ Mom was a Punk.”

  1. Deacon Daniel says:


  2. Roger Wolsey says:

    perhaps play this song while you read this blog:
    : )

  3. Cynthia says:

    I like this modern spin on the Magnificat! Good to be reminded that this "old" song was once new and radical…and that it can be new and radical all over again.

  4. Linda says:

    I'm now imagining Mary as an early Joan Baez. God shall overcome.

  5. tamingauthor says:

    Oh, my. There is a wonderful blog called Acts of the Apostasy that correctly mocks and parodies this approach to the faith. This version of Mary is the epitome of the "let us make the faith culturally relevant." It is an approach that has emptied the churches and sent people scurrying for the nearest Buddhist temple.

    Unfortunately, it would be those who promote this approach who would toss Jesus off the cliff before Caesar even got wind of his existence. It would just take one episode of Jesus trying to whip up some spiritual discipline with this crowd and they would end his ministry.

    I wonder how many readers are now scurrying to their Bibles to find the passage in which Jesus led the people's revolt against Caesar.

    • YogaGoggles says:

      Maybe you should try to "tame your wolf".

      • tamingauthor says:

        Better to beat the bushes and scare the wolf out into the open. Then one can deal with him.

        Too often we let him skulk around, a hidden danger, and we do not bring him into view where we can make real peace. Often we allow avoidance and inattention to substitute for real peace … and the next thing we know there is conflict that is more difficult to reconcile.

        We see this in the world today. We find many situations that really call for a more vocal response and an acknowledgment that things are not as they should be…if we fear noisy exchange, if we fear strong emotion, if we fear the need to negotiate and handle differences, if we fear the need to bring principles to bear on human exchange, conditions deteriorate. So taming the wolf is not necessarily a quiet, sit around the campfire and sing songs activity.

  6. BrotherRog says:

    taming, methinks you doth protest too much. I didn't say anything about leading revolts. but, feel free to put words into my mouth. you have a track-record of that. : P
    For the record i am of the opinion that nonviolence is an essential of the Christian faith.
    (and so is being counter-cultural. so there).

    • tamingauthor says:

      I misread the phrase "knock the wealthy oppressors off their pedestals, lift up those who’ve been oppressed, and usher-in a new reign of social justice." I assumed you were talking about the Marxist class warfare of your buddy Jim Wallis. That is where I went wrong. Sorry. Apologies.

      I also misread the idea of attributing a punk attitude to Mary as being offensive, and thus revolting, but that is violence of another sort. Maybe that was not clear.

      My primary complaint was that when one reduces the faith to the lowest common denominator of the current culture that one robs the faith of its supernatural component and one drives away people who truly are seeking spiritual transformation.

      They look at the reduction of the highest truths attainable into the banal as an indication there is nothing there and they move on to other practices, missing out. I realize this may not be the intention—as the viewpoint that we must translate the faith into current cultural symbols is big in some quarters. I am just saying the results are pointing to that approach being an error.

      You could poll your readers to see if they will respond candidly with regard to their own feelings or perceptions when sacred figures are reduced to the latest cultural icon. Is that something that draws them closer or pushes them away?

  7. BrotherRog says:

    1. re: your insincere assertions that you "misread" what I stated – this has nothing to do with Marx. It seems to me you are misreading Luke 1:46-55 and 4:16-21. Kinda hard to exegete them in a way that blesses the status quo.

    2. re: "when one reduces the faith to the lowest common denominator of the current culture that one robs the faith of its supernatural component and one drives away people who truly are seeking spiritual transformation."

    God takes the ordinary stuff of this world and makes it extraordinary. God took a common peasant girl and transformed her. God took a common barn (or cave) and manger and transformed them. Jesus took common fishermen and transformed them. Jesus took ordinary bread and wine and transformed them. Jesus took common me and transformed me. A low Christology is actually the highest Christology. There's no need for me to poll anyone. This is the truth. And it doesn't get any more punk.

    in pax Christi (not pax Romana nor pax Americana), Roger

  8. tamingauthor says:

    Provocative articles beg for strong responses, not unthinking applause.

    God does transform the ordinary. Jesus does transform the ordinary. But your article and references do neither. They take the extraordinary and turn it into the ordinary. They take the supernatural and convert it into the banal.

    A "low Christology" is not "the highest Christology." That is the romanticism of those who wish to set aside the discipline, the rigor, the calling, the mission of Christ and turn the supernatural into the culturally banal. It is a way to dump Christ's promise into the new skins of culturally irrelevant fads. It is to denigrate Christ's promise so as to cause people to turn away not even knowing what lies beyond.

    It really would be good to poll your readers, the people on the street, the people in your community. If you do so in a way that invites honesty and candor I think you will be surprised to find the degree to which this approach turns people away. There is research that backs this up…. but it is best you do your own research so that it is personal and immediate.

  9. Jack Leininger says:

    Roger, I just want you to know that I see exactly where you're going with this and I love it! I hope most people who read this beautiful modern day connection will see that the oppression Jesus tackled was religious oppression and had nothing to do with government.

    If I'm not mistaken, Jesus only asked folks to respect their governing authorities — take the "fish tax" for example. It was confinement to oppressive religious dogma that Jesus was "setting the captives free" from.

    This is why Caesar had no problem with Jesus per se… instead, it was the religious "authorities" that had a problem. This is also why many Jews rejected Jesus as Christ — he was "supposed to" free them from captivity as they knew it, not as God knew it.

  10. Deacon Dan says:

    I don't think Roger's creative re-visioning of Mary as "Punkatokos" is much different from the Virgin of Guadalupe that is so beloved by Catholics around the world. Both images (correctly in my learned opinion) identify Mary as a subaltern….just as the Scriptures do. The entire Gospel story is inherently offensive to those of privilege and power because it turns common expectations of political authority and religious righteousness upside down. Roger didn't make that up…it's there in the texts. Perhaps there is also a misunderstanding by tamingauthor about punk culture(s)? I don't know any punks who are "marxists", anarchist perhaps, but so (one could argue) are the Amish, the Hutterites, and other Christian groups in the Anabaptist tradition. Finally, I don't see Roger's article here as "turning the extraordinary into the banal". I think folks who try to turn Jesus into "the greatest salesman on earth" do that. Or all the health and wealth tv preachers who turn Christ into a snake-oil Santa Claus. There is nothing "unorthodox" in any of Roger's article. Seems to me it is unfair to fault him for not writing about what he wasn't writing about! Finally: look up "Crashdog" on youtube and you watch/listen to a great 1990's Xtian punk band. 🙂 Peace!

    • tamingauthor says:

      I agree with most of your analysis, Deacon.

      My emphasis is on the difference between anarchists and nihilists (and Marxists) and the supernatural, transcendent, and spiritual nature of Mary.

      Too often the rejection of the culture of materialism (and consumerism) in an anarchist manner (and in a Marxist manner) becomes equated with the rejection of that culture by Jesus. This mixing of views I feel misleads as the two are very different.

      Francis of Assisi and Clare are other examples that help us discern the differences between reaching for Christ through poverty and humility and the counter cultural views of punk rock.

      As Roger says, he intended it to be metaphor, but we can see where metaphor can mislead rather than inform. I believe there are some fine distinctions that can be made between Mary and punk rockers. The discernment that goes into recognizing those distinctions may be the most valuable part of the exercise.

  11. 2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

    Brother Wolsey, this is our "Troll Policy" at The Christian Left. It's worth noting. There comes a time when debate becomes futile. —>

    We know your heart is in the right place with this article, and all the other articles you write.

    The Christian Left

    • tamingauthor says:

      The phrase "The Christian Left" speaks volumes.

      So don't be resentful. Don't call people trolls. Go ahead and teach. Do you see no difference between Mary and a punk rocker? In what ways is the metaphor helpful, in what ways is it misleading?

      • YesuDas says:

        TA, if people call you a troll, may I suggest that it isn't what you say, but how you say it that is prompting them? You might take a cue from Benjamin Franklin, who made a habit of "never using when I advance any thing that may possibly be disputed, the Words, "certainly,' 'undoubtedly,' or any others that give the Air of Positiveness to an Opinion; but rather say, 'I conceive,' or 'I apprehend' a Thing to be so or so, 'It appears to me,' or 'I think it is so for such & such Reasons' …This Habit I believe has been of great Advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my Opinions & persuade Men into Measures that I have been from time to time engag'd in promoting."

        • tamingauthor says:

          One can use language for many effects. There are no doubt times when one framing suits a particular need more than another framing. That is the choice of the author.

          Likewise, using the term troll communicates a great deal about the author as well as the target.

          We live in an age of too much political correctness where people are not allowed to express their convictions as they are … we live in an age of the covert censor (aka political correctness), a sickness that must be healed.

  12. RevRogerMac says:

    Taming, you are correct to point out that Jesus never called for revolt.
    What he did speak of more than any other thing, while on earth was the "kingdom of God"; as in NOT the kingdom of Caesar.
    Jesus' call to those who would follow him echoes down to this day. "Feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, visit the prisoner, etc. This in not a call to overthrow the current system of government, whatever that may be; but rather to live according to a higher law, the law of love.
    Is that counter-cultural? Yes, it most certainly is.

    • tamingauthor says:

      Very counter cultural indeed. To this day it remains counter cultural to the extreme!

      That was, in fact, part of my objection. That in trying to garner the approval of the contemporary culture, in its counter cultural punk rocker form, one was betraying the more fundamental counter cultural nature of the faith.

      As I have since explained, I believe it is important to discern one form of counter cultural from another. Not all counter culture is equivalent. Mary turned toward the supernatural, toward the transcendent, toward the spiritual, toward obedience to God, and toward an acceptance of Divine Providence.

      Punk rockers, in contrast, tend to be more anarchist, nihilistic, and anti-spiritual. They tend, from what I have observed, to cling to materialism (the belief there is no supernatural) as much or even more than the mainstream culture.

      Do you see how I view the two counter cultures going in different, even diametrically opposed, directions?

      At any rate, whatever view people tend to find acceptable to them personally, I believe it is an important factor to be considered, and not simply be taken at face value.

    • revrogermac says:

      While you may be correct in your characterization of punk culture, at its heart is a rejection of the societal norms which oppress. From Wikipedia: "Although punks are frequently categorized as having left-wing or progressive views, punk politics cover the entire political spectrum. Punk-related ideologies are mostly concerned with individual freedom and anti-establishment views. Common punk viewpoints include anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity, direct action and not selling out. Other notable trends in punk politics include nihilism, anarchism, socialism, anti-militarism, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-nationalism, anti-homophobia, environmentalism, vegetarianism, veganism and animal rights."

      • revrogermac says:

        Many of those viewpoints are entirely in keeping with the teachings of Christ and the Magnificat of Mary.

        Think about it: This young, pregnant, unmarried peasant girl was undoubtedly the topic of many slurs and much gossip. It is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that she was called a whore, and told that she was bearing a bastard. Instead of bowing to the judgment of the establishment she had the temerity to hold to her faith and claim a brighter future for her child; and through that child for all of humanity.

        Sorry if it offends, but to me that is entirely in keeping with the finer points of punk ideology.

        • tamingauthor says:

          I would not disagree with the characterization of the punk scene you lay out above. The list you provide is a good and comprehensive list that perhaps illustrates my point. And I have a problem with equating Mary or the faith with such isms. That is precisely the point I am making — on which we appear to disagree.

          The punk scene is an "anti" scene that lacks an allegiance to Truth and the supernatural reality that is fundamental. The punk scene is, in my view, nearly the antithesis of Mary and the Christian faith. The faith rejects the evils of society and goes one way; punk rock rejects the evils of society and heads in the other direction.

          The point I was making to Roger was that equating Christianity (specifically Mary) with punk-ism was to misrepresent (through poor metaphor) the nature of Christianity. And that misrepresentation has driven people away from the faith and certainly away from a deeper understanding of the faith. It amounts to down-converting the supernatural to the banal. And that is essentially gutting a religion.

          The Christian religion is not limited by "protest against" or by an "anti" stance. Too many have taken the faith and turned it into a justification for left wing protest, the "social justice" of the Jim Wallis types. And this, in my view, is a direct attack on the foundations of the faith and damages the value the faith can impart to those seeking a deeper understanding of life.

          Roger's example provides us with an opportunity to assess these factors and discern the usefulness of the metaphors we use to convey the nature of the faith. A valuable lesson no doubt.

  13. Nicole_M says:

    Roger- Your articles never cease to give my brain the goosebumps. I also enjoy the discussions/comments they inspire!

  14. BrotherRog says:

    Nicole, that's quite the compliment. I am honored. Not sure that everything I post will have that effect. I'll try to stay tuned to the muse – or at least, to be amused. : )

    Re. the O.P.,
    On a Related Note:

    –: )

  15. […] referred to as “a one-man-Clash,” and his friends may here have attained the zenith of punk music – and are offering the world a profound spiritual experience if they’re willing to […]

  16. BrotherRog says:

    on another related note: (for those who are more visually oriented)

  17. […] us as in everyone else, we get sucked into the either-or-ness of it all. And so doing, we lose the subversive power of putting things together that the world wants to keep […]

  18. […] his sermon on the mount, Jesus instructs us how to give charitably. He says in Matthew 6:1-4, “Be especially careful when you are […]

  19. Sioux says:

    Rock on! Christianity– and for that matter all religions in general– lose their identity when they become so institutionalized as to blur the lines that at first made them stand out in sharp contrast to accepted behaviours/beliefs. There's a reason why radical change (i.e., conversion) is the primary call to discipleship in just about any form of faith tradition, even if, and especially when, that radical changes includes parting company with the religious institutions of the day. Keep questioning, keep turning over and over that prism of truth to get a new and fresh perspective, another angle to let the light shine through. 🙂

  20. […] this about Padmasambhava being born on a lotus in the middle of Lake Dhanakosa? Sounds like “virgin birth” all over again. Or is it? As with most things in the vajrayana, there is an outer and inner […]

  21. […] she is right in front of me asking me to give her exactly that with my presence. The fact that I, the mom, sometimes neglect to see that makes me really reflect on my […]

  22. rogerwolsey says:

    If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy this re-telling of the Christmas story as it might happen today:
    "fast hog to breadhouse"

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