The Poor Come First

December 23, 2016

By Harry T. Cook

The assignment was to tell Journal readers why I celebrate Christmas and why Christmas is important to me. Why me? Because, I suppose, it is fairly well known that I have spent almost 60 years aspiring to be a Christian, because I am a priest of a Christian church and because I am a former journalist – i.e., I can write comprehensible English prose.

In another way, I am an unlikely choice for this assignment because I do not believe most of the things Christians are supposed to believe. I think the proclamations of Jesus’ virgin birth, resurrection and ascension into heaven are ridiculous and, demonstrably, are derivations of Greek mythologies of dying and rising gods that were a dime a dozen in the first century.

We have no idea where and under what circumstances Jesus was born. We know, in fact, hardly any reliable thing about such a person. Two gospel writers among many place his birth in Bethlehem, yet he hailed from Nazareth, a remote Galilean village far from the City of David.

But that is the clue. The messiah, it was said in Hebrew lore, would be a latter-day scion of the great David whose ancestral home was Bethlehem. Thus myth-makers would take great pains to place Jesus’ birth there.

As of Jesus’ linage, who knows? Was he a descendant of David? And does it matter one way or the other? It was only to the gospel writers Matthew and Luke to whom it mattered. Other New Testament writers mention neither Jesus’ birth nor his birthplace.

Yet it is Luke’s story that sticks in our minds, because the imagery of the midnight visit of angels to lowly shepherds has long since captured the collective imagination. Check out the ubiquitous nativity scenes at this time of year.

Luke’s familiar story (“and there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night”) is a clue as to the real meaning of what we call Christmas. Luke’s elegantly mixed metaphor of an infant king being born in a cattle feeding trough in an out-building of a cheap hotel with divine messengers appearing to shepherds – people at the absolute bottom of the socio-economic heap – adds up to a picture that is related to Luke’s exquisitely political phraseology: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted the humble and meek.”

Luke was meaning to tell us that Jesus’ ethic (“turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, treat others as you want to be treated”) may represent the divine design for peace on earth, goodwill to man.

In his wonderfully imaginative tone poem of the angels and the shepherds, Luke was meaning to tell us that God is concerned first with the poor, and that, whatever God may be, she is not impartial.

Which means that any religion that dares name Jesus as a founder had damned well better have to do with economics, public policy and politics where the care and welfare of disadvantaged human beings are concerned.

That is why I celebrate Christmas, because beyond the holly and the ivy I can glimpse the prophet of Nazareth and hear the Second Isaiah saying, “‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,’ thus saith your God. ‘Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together’.”

I celebrate Christmas because I identify with that vision – a vision that is likely not shared by the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and its sycophants, whose cramped vision is of short-term wealth and comfort of the few and the devil may care for the rest of us.

Think shepherds. Think sheep.

Harry T. Cook, an Episcopal priest for 30 years, spent 8½ years as a Free Press reporter, assistant city editor and editorial writer. In 1987 he became rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Clawson. His wife, Sue Chevalier, is a locked-out Free Press copy editor.

Twenty years ago, during the Detroit newspaper strike, I clipped this essay from The Detroit Sunday Journal, which was published by the striking newspaper workers. Harry T. Cook’s website has an archive of more recent work.


The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors

May 17, 2008

Published: February 26, 2008 in The New York Times

Link to article here.

One cat just leads to another…

June 17, 2007

I seem to be getting a lot of traffic from folks looking for lol cats.
Oh, well. Since I’m not doing much here lately, here’re some links for you accidental tourists. Enjoy!

The picture above is from Ape Lad’s Flickr set
The real origin of Laugh-Out-Loud Cats
I can has cheezburger?
LOL Cats, Volume 1
LOL Cats, Volume 2
Macro Cats
Rate My Kitten
Kitten War 
The Infinite Cat Project
LOL Cat Bible Translation Project 

“One cat just leads to another.” ~Ernest Hemingway

God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian

May 28, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dr. Jack. Welcome back.

More paintings by Dr. Kevorkian can be seen here.
The art used above (the one on the left is the mirror image) is titled Very Still Life. A detail from this painting was used on the cover of his audio CD (reviewed here).

July 2008 Update: Kevorkian has collected enough signatures to run for congress in Michigan’s 9th district.

November 2008 Update: Link to election results

Do we own ourselves? by Miriam Allen deFord
Published in The Realist, issue 41, June 1963
Page scans available at The Realist Archive Project:
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

Post title borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut.
Transcript from WNYC’s On the Media of Kurt Vonnegut’s meeting (courtesy of Dr. K.) with Eugene Debs in the afterlife available here. There is also audio (includes a lot of extraneous crap) at that link. This might explain.

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Kurt is up in Heaven now

April 12, 2007

birdhasflownKurt Vonnegut, Jr.
1922 – 2007

Cold Turkey By Kurt Vonnegut

The Books of Bokonon

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The Nuclear Family

November 22, 2006


Lil Suzie and Atomic Energy, an animated gem from Virgil T. Crow, explores the wonders of radiation.

Update: The Virgil T. Crow sites are nomo.  Sorry. You missed a gem.

Scenes from the Fallout Shelter Handbook (1962)
presented by the Ward-O-Matic.

The cold war classic, Duck and Cover
is available at The Internet Archive.

Update: Comic books, If an A-Bomb Falls and Power For Progress.

Interview with Ray J. Mauer, former Archer Productions, Inc. in-house writer, about Duck and Cover. Here’s something about the catchy tune. I was surprised to learn that Dave Lambert (Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross) had a hand in that.

Less amusing content follows.

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Don’t let this happen to you…

November 12, 2006

Feeding cats for health at CatNutrition.Org.
This will explain the photo caption, perhaps.
I can has cheezburger?


November 7, 2006

Did you settle?

Pass the Lord, and praise the Jesus pizza

November 5, 2006


Looking for the Lord in all the wrong places?
Jesus of the week might help.
As if the miracle of transubstantiation wasn’t tasty enough,
here’s s’more Jesus.

Update: Parable of the Pie postcards are available (wholesale) here.
Holy hotcakes! No more waiting for a miracle to occur. Serve them up daily from your very own Jesus Pan.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement Site

November 4, 2006

Among other things, I like Nina Paley’s art at VHMET’s website. If you scroll to the bottom of the main page, you can access some animated shorts in QuickTime movie format. There’re three static samples in the Biology and Breeding section.


Q: What is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement?

VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is a movement not an organization. It’s a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.

We don’t carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.

Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology.

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Call any vegetable

November 2, 2006

Birth - Mark Ryden

Carrot from The Musem of Food Anomolies.
Oil Painting (The Birth, 1994, 30 by 40 inches) by Mark Ryden
Postcard (Tuber Family) from Ken Brown’s postcard collection.

You say goodbye and I say hello

November 2, 2006


Dog, are you bidding adieu to your tender, lickable, dangly parts? Never fear, Neuticles are here.

To paraphrase the spiel: Neuticles are the revolutionary testicular implant procedure for pets. Over 100,000 caring pet owners worldwide have selected Neuticles as a safe, practical and inexpensive cosmetic option that allows your pet to retain his natural look and self esteem.

Can’t afford canine cosmetic surgery? Take solace in the arts:
Haiku for the newly neutered.

Good-bye, testicles!
I will meet you in heaven.
Now I gnaw on shoes.

– skot

Show me! Shoyu!

November 1, 2006

It’s intercondimental warfare!


St. Maneki Neko

November 1, 2006


From Michael Paulus’ on-line gallery:  Skeletal Systems.

St. Charles

November 1, 2006

Cause And Effect

the best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
why anybody
would ever want to
get away

Charles Bukowski