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.

  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).

  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!

  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

  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.

  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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