By John Thomas Tuft

Jesus the Busker was on the corner playing the unmistakable opening to Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on electric guitar with an amp and speaker attached. When he finished, he smoothly transitioned into Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” Passers-by would stop and listen, if so inclined, and throw some money into the jar near his feet. Jesus cranked up the volume as high as it could go before launching into Bruce Springsteen’s “Radio Nowhere.” A group of small children began dancing with abandon as adults stood by impassively. When he hit the opening chords to “The Rising” some Gen X people in the crowd sang along in a moment of shared experience and respect. Jesus smiled at this and after the song finished he immediately turned to The Hooters’ song, “Satellite.” The swelling crowd joined in the chorus of mocking television preachers and their prosperity gospel, “So jump in the river and learn to swim, God’s gonna wash away all your sins. And if you still can’t see the light, God’s gonna buy you a satellite.” Jesus the Busker knew how to work a crowd.

A passer-by, who had recently received his Doctor of Theology, called out, “Play that R.E.M. song, ‘Losing My Religion!’” Jesus the Busker smiled and said, “Congratulations, friend. What were you doing with it in the first place?” And Jesus laughed because he knew that the Doctor of Theology didn’t know what the song was actually saying. Next to pass that way was a certified Spiritual Director. “How do I know myself to the fullest so I can experience the Divine more fully?” she called out. Jesus the Busker launched into Simon and Garfunkel’s “Fakin’ It”. When he finished, he smiled and began singing, “Punky’s Dilemma”, one of the most astute descriptions of spiritual direction ever set to music. A young man hollered from the back of the crowd, “How do I become a disciple?” Jesus the Busker stopped playing. “Of what?” The young man replied, “Not what. Whom?” Jesus began playing the opening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “At the Zoo.” Before he started singing he answered, “Don’t follow the ‘right’ people. Follow your principles. I suggest grace and humility, but that’s just me.” And the young man turned away, sorrowful, until someone slipped him a card for a Jordan Peterson event.

Before moving on from Simon and Garfunkel, Jesus the Busker addressed the Richard Smoley and Richard Rohr type of enthusiasts in the crowd, known by their unostentatious clothes and pens attached to notebooks, by singing “The Only Living Boy in New York,” because its origins are very esoteric and the lyrics don’t really mean much of anything but, “here I am.” When they realized this, the Smoley/Rohr type enthusiasts grew agitated. “Which church is the right one?” They taunted him, whipping out their phones and hitting record so they could eviscerate him on social media. His girlfriend brought out a keyboard and Jesus the Busker did a mashup of Elton John’s early songs, “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon.” When he finished, he addressed them, saying, “You tell me! There are tens of thousands of Christian sects. What is a church? A cultural cult of your own making. Leave me out of it!” Needless to say, his answer went viral on the world of the internet, and his follower count on social media dropped precipitously.

While they fumed, Jesus the Busker did some Creed, Three Doors Down, even Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, Usher, and Coldplay, ending with Anne Murray’s, “Could I Have This Dance?” The crowd was down to just a few when one young teenage girl approached. “Who is your favorite singer?” she asked in a shy voice. Jesus the Busker waggled his eyebrows as he was able to grok her concerns and broke into Taylor Swift’s “Love Story.” It spoke to her, and she sang along…  Then he taught her the Led Zeppelin tune, “Immigrant Song.”

Words are magic and writers are wizards.