"How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man." - Johnny Cash
Well, today is Johnny Cash's birthday, and if you've followed this blog for at least a couple of weeks, you'd know that I try to incorporate Johnny when possible. So, I thought I'd offer a quick quip as to why I find him near invaluable for the Christian.
The other day, the site Experimental Theology posted a blog about Cash's musical anthology and the theology it offers. To discuss this, the author took one compilation specifically, the set entitled Love, God, Murder. Ignoring the "Love" portion, the author went on to identify Cash's constant juxtaposition of God and sin as being vital for appreciating Cash. And I completely agree.
Too often we either buy into the lie, and we see ourselves as unredeemable, or that God's not there for us, or, we get too cocky, and boast in the lie of our own perfection and sinlessness. Now, this latter choice might not be so obvious, but is too easily witnessed in how we judge others and their sins. The Gospel is a reminder that we are all simultaneously broken and His beloved.
To this, like the Apostle Paul, Cash affirmed,
"Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight." - Cash
Love it or hate it, this was Cash's testimony. I get that he could've "walked the line" more consistently, but we all could. I get that he's not the image we want representing us to the prisons, but neither are we... if we lived as transparent as he did. I get that his theology was sadly shaky at times, and needed refinement. We might hear his music and think, "Why would someone sing about that?" or "That's just too dark for Christian music." But, by his own admission, he was
"not a Christian artist, (but) an artist who is a Christian." - Cash
He was a man who wore black. His persona was no stage gimmick, but a daily reminder to all who encountered him that despite what many would have you believe, this life is hard, and that we were not alone in bearing it. This persona was exemplifying 2 Corinthians 12, to then further illustrate the bright, glorious reality of the One who is hope.
I'm not trying to make as big of a deal about his theology here, as much as I am his transparency. In other words, the intent of living "candidly" and "honestly" is not some new social-media phenomenon of this current generation. It's a thread that has consistently helped knit the Church together ever since its birth. To this aspect of Christian living, Cash can be an indispensable encouragement to us all.
If Cash's life could teach us any one thing, it's that nothing we merit is worthy of taking the seat of God; nothing we make ourselves into is worthy of bolstering ourselves above God; and nothing - at all - promises us hope, rest, and salvation, except for God. Now, please enjoy this video of what I'm talking about. This is Cash's reappropriating of a Nine Inch Nails' (an atheistic band's) song for Gospel use. Please take the time to watch and enjoy the simplicity of the Gospel that Cash professed - we fail, but God doesn't.