Gospel’s ‘new possibility’ still as new as ever
by Dale Short
Dec 24, 2012 | 1244 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dale Short
Dale Short
I discovered the music of John Fahey at a particular stage of my youth (age 20, maybe 21) when my stereo system was probably worth more than my car--which is not saying a lot, in either case.

I had just discovered the type of audio speaker known as a "sub-woofer," which weighs a ton and gives an extra throbbing punch to the super-low notes you don't even realize your music has, if you've only listened to it on the car radio or a cheap record player.

Somebody gave me an early Christmas present that year: a vinyl LP by Fahey titled "The New Possibility," and said it would blow me away, which was an understatement. It was a solo rendition of traditional Christmas carols played blues-style on an acoustic guitar with a kind of brash authority I had thought only a supernatural entity could summon from plain earthly wood and strings.

I not only fell in love with the music, but with the unorthodox title too. Not a word about Jesus or mangers or chestnuts roasting or sleigh bells jangling or pretty paper and ribbons of blue. Just three simple words whose association with Christmas was somewhat cryptic, for a young guy whose thought process was a jangling sound on a good day.

But finally it hit me.

All those verses in the New Testament where Jesus is walking the countryside, pouring out his heart to crowds of strangers, there's no record of folks responding to his teachings with, "Amen, brother!" or "Yes! Preach it, Lord!"

Apparently a lot of his teachings were met with uneasy silence. Another common response from listeners was, "This is a hard saying." Whether they meant hard to understand or hard to stomach is not clear. There are also instances of the equivalent, in the local language of Aramaic, of mumbling and grousing among themselves.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, for a message that would change the history of the world. The problem, I think, was that the new possibility Jesus represented was too new, too radical, for most people to comprehend.

One exception was a small group of his followers who were enthusiastic firebrands.

They told Jesus they supported him 100 percent, and whenever he was ready they would get together a sort of militia and help overthrow the government so he could "come into the kingdom" he had told them about.

He got frustrated and told them they were missing the whole point, and apparently they pouted for a good while.

At a time when religious education consisted largely of individuals debating the fine points of how to interpret the Ten Commandments of Moses, Jesus upset their apple carts by saying, in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another as I have loved you." Most people were struck speechless. If this new commandment was actually the case, then what was left to argue and debate?

It made no sense, and it threatened a lot of their livelihoods besides.

The writer of the timeless hymn "O, Holy Night" perhaps says it best of all: "His law is love / And his gospel is peace..."

Love your enemies. Do good to those who "spitefully misuse you." No matter what their skin color, nationality, personal habits, religion, or lack thereof.

A hard saying.

Unfortunately, John Fahey had a turbulent life. Plagued by illnesses and alcoholism, he died far too young. But I don't think it's an accident that his album "The New Possibility" is one of a select few that's never gone out of print, and I believe it will still find new audiences as long as there are ears to hear.

Even the title itself has proven timeless. The new possibility presented by the teachings of Jesus is still a new possibility for the world.

Because we haven't tried it yet.

Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, books, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio pro- gram "Music from Home" airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM and is archived afterward on his web- site.