we get letters

OK -- I guess I'm unofficially off vacation since I have posted here more this week than all the sidekicks combined. I got this e-mail today from a presbyterian reader who axed me, "cent, I was watching this video on YouTube of Johnny Cash, and, um, what do you think of Johnny Cash?"

The first thing to say about the Man in Black is that he never pretended to be a theologian or a preacher, so he gets a lot of grace for being what he was and not what he thought he wanted to be. And that includes his charismatic/AOG leanings. You, the reader, can contrast that with, say, Bono, or me for that matter, and draw your own conclusions.

But the far more important thing to say about Cash is that because of his flaws, he had a genuine and fully-orbed Christian testimony. Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that because he wore his pain and suffering on his sleeve he made more sense to people? Oh please: one of the things I admire about Cash is that he did not wear his pain and suffering on his sleeve: he wore the redemption of Christ on his sleeve.

Let me give you a great example of that:

Listen: if you ever catch Bono talking like this, call me immediately. But it'll never happen -- because he thinks Jesus is about a political change on Earth. Now, the more erudite of you might say, "well, cent, Jesus does call for a political change on this Earth," and I might agree with you: Jesus calls for an eschatological change in this world. But it's not a change which puts the U.N. in charge of world affairs: it's a change which puts Christ in pre-eminence above all things.

Johnny Cash, sitting in a crowd of MTV zombies, preached the Gospel. When was the last time you put yourself on the line like that for Jesus?

So I think much of the drug addicted and adulterous Johnny Cash. He had real shame, and real hope -- which is more than we can say for a lot of people. God willing it is not more than we can say about ourselves.

UPDATED: This is the video our vigilant reader saw --

Let me say two things about that video:

[1] In the first place, I promise you that maybe one or two of the people who are seen in that video actually "get" what the words of this song are saying. Maybe.

[2] But in that, make sure you freeze the frame on the graffiti Bono paints on the handbill wall. It says, "Sinners make the best Saints. J.C. R.I.P."

Listen: if you need evidence that Bono is nothing like Cash, it's right there in Bono's handwriting. Jesus is not "R.I.P.". Jesus is Lord and Christ, and our proof is that he walked out of the grave. Jesus is not a Gandhi: Jesus is Lord and Christ. And if this song is about Jesus who is "R.I.P.", then it is meaningless -- but if it is about sin, and judgment, and the end of men who do not repent, then it is about men who will ultimately be judged by Christ.

Holy ... listen: use this video to preach the Gospel. It was sung to preach the Gospel -- use it that way. Don't let people like Kid Rock and Flea from RHCP and (pheh) Justin Timberlake co-opt the message of the Gospel for some kind of ludicrous popular gravitas. Pray for them that this song is used by God to change their hearts, and let them be cut down by God and then raised up in the likeness of His Son.


Stephen Cathers said...

I don't know if someone wrote this in in the old comment system, but I'm certain that the "J.C." in that "J.C. RIP" referred to Johnny Cash, not Jesus Christ.

Frank Turk said...

I think that's ambiguous at best, but I also would allow that it's possible. Thanks for your comment.