Jesus Gonna Strip You Naked

Jesus Gonna Strip You NakedThe Greater Morning Star Pentecostal Church is on Dix Street in Northeast Washington, D.C. On Sundays, the Bishop Charles E. Johnson preaches to the true believers. The rest of the week Morning Star sends out roving teams of street preachers to sing, dance, and pray for the souls of passersby.

A few weeks ago in Dupont Circle, a park in Washington, I stopped during my lunch hour to listen to one of the Morning Star teams as they preached via a bullhorn to the crowd of lawyers and homeless chess players. First, a young man sang a song about Jesus. Then three women in long dresses jumped up and down and clapped and shook their hips-apparently, a dance about Jesus. And finally, a short, dark-skinned woman with chipmunk cheeks, angry eyes behind big glasses, and a voice that made her sound like the love child of Muhammad Ali and Janis Joplin took the bullhorn.

“The Lord,” she boomed, “that is, Jes-us, Jes-us, Jes-us”-that much she said slow. Then she ducked her head, took a big breath, and came up rapping:

He got somethin better than money
He got somethin better than yo honey
He is out here to save you from money,
The honey,
and all damnation.
Now lay yo money down!
Lay yo money down!
He gonna make you clean,
He gonna take yo cigarette,
He gonna take yo needle,
He took it from me,
He take it from you.
I know! I was a ho!
Yes, I worked these streets, I stood out here with myself for sale, yes,
I had on the hot pants,
I had on the spike heels,
I had on the bi-kee-nee, showing my teeties
And I said I wuz for sale!
But Jesus wasn’t buyin,
Jesus only savin.
I was a ho, I was a crack ho, and He took the smoke right out of my veins.
He took the cigarette from lips,
He took the liquor from my tongue,
He stripped me naked,
And He gonna strip you naked too,
Jesus gonna make you clean.
You all come over here, we gonna tell you,
He gonna tell you.
He gonna shout it,
Jesus, He gonna whisper it,
Jesus is it,
We gonna whisper Jesus in yo ear,
We gonna strip you clean,
Clean for Jesus!
You think you clean in yo $500 suit,
You think you clean in yo armani-versace-ralph-karan-donna-lauren-tommy-hilfiger thousand dollar ni-ke clothes, yo fancy shoes, yo shiny car,
with a woman ain’t yo own, a man ain’t yo own, well Jeeesus gonna tell you,
Jesus here today to tell you,
Jesus gonna tell you: You ain’t clean.
You ain’t clean now.
He gonna clean you up.
You gotta let him help you.
I let him help me.
I was a ho.
You may be a ho too.
Jesus don’t care.
Jesus love the hoes,
Jesus loves you with the needle,
Jesus loves you with the $500 suit
Jesus loves you with yo honey,
And honey, Jesus love you too.
But He smell your perfume,
He don’t like it.
Jesus see your suit,
He don’t like it.
Jesus see yo green money,
He don’t like it.
Jesus gonna help you!
You can cry for yo momma,
You can cry for yo daddy,
Bring ’em down,
Jesus help them too.
‘Cause there ain’t no help but Jesus,
Nothing you do is but Jesus,
You think you clean, it’s because a Jesus
You take a shower, that’s Jesus,
You button up your bright white shoe, that’s Jesus
You tie your shiny black shoe, that’s Jesus.
Jesus already there, you just gotta open up!
Everybody hear me now?
Open up!
Everybody hear me?
Open wide,
Stretch your heart wide,
Open yo window!
Jesus wants to come in,
You gotta let Him in
Don’t matter if you 5, 25, 125
Jesus, He comin’ in.

She was still going strong, but my time was up; worldly concerns awaited me. So I crossed the street and asked for a pamphlet from Reverend Green, the man who’d sung the warm-up song. Instead he gave me a hug and told me to come down to Morning Star.

“Does she preach there?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah!” he said. “She ain’t even preaching now. All that she’s doin’? It’s just mumblin’.”

I promised I’d make it some time, but I haven’t yet. Just the mumblin’ of the Lord was almost too much for me.

Jeff Sharlet is a founding editor of Killing the Buddha, coauthor with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (2004) and co-editor of Believer, Beware (2009). Sharlet is also the author of Sweet Heaven When I Die, (2011), C Street, (2010), and the New York Times bestseller The Family (2008).