Also in the SBL Forum, Frederick L. Downing provides an excellent introduction to Clarence Jordan and the Cotton Patch Gospel. By re-casting the story of Jesus as if it took place in the pre-Civil Rights Movement American South, he found a creative way to raise people’s awareness of the issues of race, violence, and economic injustice.
Jordan introduces John the Baptist and the prelude to the portrayal of Jesus as prophet by saying: “the word of God came to Zack’s boy, John, down on the farm. And he went all around in the rural areas preaching and dipping in the water—a symbol of a changed way of life as a basis for getting things straightened out.” What does John say to the folks in the “rural areas”? “You sons of snakes, who put the heat on you to run from the fury about to break over your heads? You must give some proof that you’ve had a change of heart. And don’t start patting one another on the back with that ‘we-good-white-people’ stuff, because … God … can make white-folks out of … rocks.”
The Cotton Patch Gospel is still in print, by the way, and you can order all four volumes, covering most of the New Testament, here.