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I Miss the Old Radicals
A thought on Christmas morning 2021
I just heard Harry Belafonte’s beautiful Christmas carol, Mary’s Boy Child, and my thoughts went to my youth in the 1980s. How the years have softened me and hardened the enemy.
In the 1980s, I was too political for my age. I knew, for instance, that Harry Belafonte was a radical leftist who despised Ronald Reagan and everything Reagan stood for. Because of this, the first few notes of any Belafonte song sent me into a tizzy.
Belafonte was a civil rights champion in the 1960s, but in the 1980s he morphed into a pro-Soviet, pro-Castro radical. If only he had stuck with civil rights.
And, yet, compared to the radicals of today, Belafonte looks tame, especially considering his Christmas music. I mean, could you imagine how quickly a pop star would be de-platformed and cancelled for singing these lyrics from Harry Belafonte’s Mary’s Boy Child?:
Long time ago in Bethlehem So the Holy Bible say Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ Was born on Christmas day Hark, now hear the angels sing A new king born today And man will live forevermore Because of Christmas day Trumpets sound and angels sing Listen what they say That Man will live forevermore Because of Christmas day
(Lyrics written by Jester Hairston)
The lyrics are a bit theologically inept. Man will live forever more because of Christ’s death and resurrection, not His birth, but the resurrection could not have happened without the birth. But let’s not nit-pick on Christmas. The fact remains, Belafonte could not mouth those words today and still be taken seriously by his political allies.
So, on Christmas my thoughts toward Mr. Belafonte are merciful. I assume that he recorded Mary’s Boy Child out of more than just commercial interest. The song conveys deep, if simple, theological faith and hope in the promises of Christ. There is none of the indifferentism we find in Belafonte’s newfound Baha'i Faith, which teaches all religions are pretty much the same. Or, the indifferentism and false ecumenism we hear from the Bishop of Rome just about every day in his every action.
No, in these lyrics we hear unequivocally that “man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day,” a poetic acceptance that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and life,” and no one goes to the Father except through Him.
If there was once in Mr. Belafonte a spark of faith that allowed him to announce these truths to world through music, there remains in him that seed of faith. On Christmas, I pray that the Holy Ghost waters that seed and that, this time, it finds good soil free of thistles that could strangle it.
A public conversion of a ‘60s-era civil rights activist and pop star might even soften the hearts of his ideological prodigy who, unlike Belafonte, would never associate themselves with lyrics acknowledging Christ as King. But even a private conversion that we never hear about would be a defeat for the devil and win for the Christ child. And that is really the only game that counts on Christmas.
Please pray for Harry Belafonte’s conversion and enjoy his beautiful carol.