Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Salvation Across The Border

Muddy Jesus by Ian Moore

Jesus lived in a ramshackle shack
with a fat New Orleans junkie
A charismatic cholo soul
Some say was born plain lucky
He'd cruise the streets of Juarez
In his low cut El Dorado
Divine command and oil slick hands 
A brash and bold bravado
Mother Mary said your time has come
The river's wide but can be fought and won
For the very love of God and man
Jesus cross the Rio Grande

Jesus fell in step with a group
of high-powered Federales
Who set him down and formed their plan
through a haze of cold Tecates
Judas said now Jeez I know
you're prone to walk on water
But if you swim downstream
there's a better chance
that you'll make it across the border
Mother Mary said your time has come
The river's wide but can be fought and won
For the very love of God and man 
Jesus cross the Rio Grande

Jesus made his run on a hot
and humid Friday night
But his vision was blinded
by the bright El Paso lights
He never saw the shot
That left him short of freedom's land
But the faithful they're still waiting
for the coming of their man 
Mother Mary said your time has come
The river's wide but can be fought and won
For the very love of God and man 
Jesus cross the Rio Grande

Ian Moore is a memory from my short drinking history. I used to see him play at the Continental Club down on South Congress Avenue in Austin. I would see him standing there before the show, just hanging out. Nobody around him and almost close enough to touch. I could have walked up to him and started a conversation, but I was a 'fraidy-cat. (I also missed out on meeting Lenny Kravitz once just because I was in my PJs. What is wrong with me?) I just admired him from afar and danced like a wild thing when he was singing.

A couple of years later when the song "Muddy Jesus" came out, I remember the little fundamentalist that still ran around in my head saying that Ian should be whipped with a Bible belt for being blasphemous, irreverent, sacrilegious, and five other bad things. The music lover in me was feeling the rhythm of the song move through my body. I think the music lover won. (I did not really want to mess up Ian's good looks by whipping him anyway.)

I've had "Muddy Jesus" playing on my computer over and over for the past few hours. I have been thinking about the words of the song and wondering what life would be like for me if I had grown up on the other side of the border. You might consider this as a purely academic exercise, but it really isn't for me. 

Growing up in South Texas, near the once-disputed border with Mexico, the lives of our neighbors to the south were relevant to our own and often a hot topic of conversation. The labels "wetback" and "beaner" were thrown around freely, and resentment towards people who would illegally cross into the US was fierce. 

I'm willing to bet that the parents of some of my classmates from public school were illegal immigrants. The man I was dating during my first few years of college had two undocumented workers on his crew at the oil lease. I have actually watched a man swim across the Rio Grande. Mexicans who wanted to become Americans were not just nameless, faceless numbers in my life. 

So what if I had grown up on the other side of the border? Would I have been one of the little kids sent out by my mother to sell candy and gum on the street corner? Would my father have tried to make it into the US so that he could work and send what seemed like a large sum of money home? Would the land of the other side on the river have looked like the Promised Land?

Mexico is a predominantly Catholic country. Many of the people there have been taught and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I wonder, though, who their savior is? Is it the man who rose from the grave three days after being crucified? Or is he any man who can get them across the border into the States? Where I come from, a person who leads illegal immigrants across the border is considered a smuggler. We call them coyotes. But to a person who can barely afford to feed his family, much less provide medical care and education, one of these smugglers may very well be the provider of salvation. How sad that these people live in a situation so dire that they might be persuaded to value freedom in Christ as secondary to freedom in the United States. 

I do not care to discuss the politics, economics, and logistics of letting Mexicans into our country versus keeping them out. As long as Rick Perry is still running for President, there will be plenty of arguing about that without my contribution. What I would like to say, as this blog's only bleeding-heart social worker author, is that I am more concerned about helping people in need than worrying about their nationality and immigration status. Where others might see a "wetback", I see a child of God.

I would also like to say that I would like to live in a world where the only salvation needed is that provided by Emmanuel, God-with-us. I would like to live in a world where people are not given derogatory labels just because they want better lives for themselves and their families. I would like to live in a world where people do not have to endanger themselves to find freedom. I would like to live in a world where people realize that salvation is at hand without them having to swim across a river.

Maybe Jesus does need to cross the Rio Grande. Maybe Ian Moore's song is just as pertinent as it is impertinent. Come, muddy Jesus, come.

Linking with Jen and the Soli Deo Gloria party.


  1. Carolyn, thank you for sharing this. I have never heard of Ian Moore before this but already love his music.

    I agree with you about people putting their complete faith in Jesus for their salvation and not others. We have had many people illegally come into Canada through boats and like you I won't go into the politics, but to know that these people are willing to sell themselves just a perceived Freedom when true freedom is in their grasp is sad.

  2. Every trip I've taken into Mexico, especially to the border towns, has illuminated for me the blessings of being born on this side of the border. I know for a fact that, had I been born across the border, I would be doing anything I could to get to the other side.

    I can't help but remember that Jesus ministered to the human needs of people first ... turned the water into wine, gave sight to the blind, healed the sick. How can Christians do less?

    And the politics of illegal aliens and deportation? Don't get me started.


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