This song should have a warning label. NSFSC! (Not safe for some Christians). It’s basically a twisted bible story. . As a rule of thumb, I find that those who believe their bibles to be the literal word of god, DO NOT want to have their bible stories twisted, leaving little room for artistic license or fictitious fun. A precious few have approached me likeI poked ‘em with a devil stick, bless their hearts. On the outside I am quite contrite and apologize for their discomfort. But on the inside there’s a tiny voice that says, “Oh, you’re deeply offended? Good! Now you know why God created art!”
The thing is, these are my stories too. I was raised a good Catholic boy, a true believer, who took these stories deeply to heart. And it is largely because of strict authoritarian interpretations that I began to take them less at face value, and treasure them more as beautiful enriching stories. Consequently, I have been challenged by some as not being a real, practicing Christian. But guess what? You can't inject these stories into a child, and then take them away when they to think like an adult. It doesn’t work that way. So consequently, Jesus pops up in quite a few of my songs. I’m clearly still working things out with him one tune at a time. We’re doin’ fine.
So this ballad has four rather long verses, with no bridge to provide any melodic relief. It’s folky that way. And the first three verses are fairly sweet and benign. These are all in third person narrative. It’s the 4th verse, which plays a first person switcheroo, where the trouble happens. Some pesky narrator forcefully inserts himself and shoots off his big fat mouth. My, he’s a brash fellow! Opinionated too!
Most people get it. The point of the whole thing is we might benefit from another kind of teaching too, perhaps from someone other than Mr. Perfect who mostly lived his life as a bachelor. Some people don’t wanna hear that. They usually pass on buying the CD. Thank God I don’t do this for a living.
I would like to mention one last thing. For a songwriter, it’s always a blessing to have somebody else learn your song and play it for others. It is the ultimate compliment and honor when somebody does this. Some people have told me that they learned the song and played it for their church. On at least two occasions people have told me that they took it upon themselves to “change the ending” so that it would be more palatable. I usually just chalk that up to the folk process. People change folks songs all the time, right? So I don’t outwardly object. Go ahead and neuter the lyrics. But know this. It’s probably a long shot, but on the off chance that Mary and Joe come back instead of Jesus, I’m pretty sure Joe’s gonna give you guys a piece of his mind.