There But for Fortune

Marianne Faithfull sings Phil Ochs’ There But for Fortune


I recently saw a disturbing BBC documentary called Torture, Inc: America’s Brutal Prisons on Google video, which documented prisoners being tortured and humiliated, and sometimes killed, by prison guards in several U.S. states. The comments section of the page included a large number of people who angrily denounced the video and insisted that if a person is in prison then they deserve to be tortured and beaten to death.

I wonder if any of the people who left those comments are Christians.

I’ve never been able to get my mind around fundamentalism. Never mind the complex history of Christian scripture, even if you think you’ve got that part figured out (or you don’t know much about it and you don’t really care, like a lot of fundamentalists–see previous post). It seems obvious that nobody really believes that every word of the bible is true. Everybody picks and chooses the parts that they believe and they ignore the parts that they don’t want to believe. Even if you have some kind of rule about it, like you’re going to prioritize the passages that are attributed to Jesus, or Jesus and Paul, or only the new testament, or whatever, you still can’t make it all fit together. So people choose the parts they want to focus on. Quoting scripture says very little about what God or Jesus would want, but it says a lot about the person doing the quoting.

Here’s one of my favorite scriptures:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

This old Phil Ochs’ tune expresses a similar idea.
More antiwar songs


~ by lolarusa on January 3, 2007.

2 Responses to “There But for Fortune”

  1. This post echoes what I feel every time I’m exposed to anti-christian fundamentalists. I like the Marianne Faithful video as well. When I was a teenager I used to play this song on my guitar and sing along in my tiny high pitched voice.

  2. Hello there, Nag. It’s funny you should have looked at this today. I was just watching it yesterday after not thinking about it for years.

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