To a Contemporary Bunkshooter
YOU come along … tearing your shirt … yelling about Jesus.
Where do you get that stuff?
What do you know about Jesus
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem everybody liked to have this Jesus around because he never made any fake passes and everything he said went and he helped the sick and gave the people hope.
You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist and calling us all dam fools so fierce the froth slobbers over your lips… always blabbing we’re all going to hell straight off and you know all about it.
I’ve read Jesus’ words. I know what he said. You don’t throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I know how much you know about Jesus. He never came near clean people or dirty people but they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out of the running.
I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men now lined up with you paying your way.
This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who lived a clean life in Galilee.
When are you going to quit making the carpenters build emergency hospitals for women and girls driven crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about Jesus—I put it to you again: Where do you get that stuff; what do you know about Jesus?
Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash a whole wagon load of furniture at every performance. Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your nutty head. If it wasn’t for the way you scare the women and kids I’d feel sorry for you and pass the hat. I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when he starts people puking and calling for the doctors.
I like a man that’s got nerve and can pull off a great original performance, but you—you’re only a bug-house peddler of second-hand gospel—you’re only shoving out a phoney imitation of the goods this Jesus wanted free as air and sunlight.
You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it up all right with them by giving them mansions in the skies after they’re dead and the worms have eaten ’em.
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross and he’ll be all right.
You tell poor people they don’t need any more money on pay day and even if it’s fierce to be out of a job, Jesus’ll fix that up all right, all right—all they gotta do is take Jesus the way you say.
I’m telling you Jesus wouldn’t stand for the stuff you’re handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn’t play their game. He didn’t sit in with the big thieves.
I don’t want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my religion.
I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth and never cherishes any memory except the face of the woman on the American silver dollar.
I ask you to come through and show me where you’re pouring out the blood of your life.
I’ve been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha, where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is straight it was real blood ran from His hands and the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth.
— Carl Sandburg (1878–1967). Chicago Poems. 1916