Tuesday, July 17, 2007


With the incomparable spiritual conviction that Johnny Cash brought to songs about God and faith, even Christopher Hitchens would be tempted to become a believer.

Okay, maybe not Hitchens. He is his own god, after all. But Cash might make some fence-sitters give the matter some serious thought.

If you're a fan of Cash's Christian songs - especially if you're Catholic, this article at Catholic Exchange is a must read.

The reason I feel compelled to write this article is due to the effect of listening to the music of Johnny Cash as a Catholic. Allow me to explain. One of my favorite songs, found on his album Personal File released posthumously, is No Earthly Good. The song begins:

"Don't brag about standing or you'll surely fall ...

you're shining your light, and shine it you should,

but you're so heavenly minded you're no earthly good.

If you're holding heaven, then spread it around.

There's hungry hands reaching up here from the ground.

Move over and share the high ground where you stood...

so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good.

The gospel ain't gospel until it is spread

but how can you share it where you got your head?

There's hands that reach out for a hand if you would..."

What an indictment against some Christians' ministry, which is solely focused upon getting people saved so they can keep a running tally of the number of salvations as they eagerly await the rapture and the destruction of the world.

Another song with a similar theme worth mentioning is A Half a Mile a Day. It is written from the perspective of a man who visits a church one evening where several members are witnessing to their salvation. One man reports,

"I'm going to heaven as fast as I can go

like an arrow from a bow."

Another says,

"I'm sailing into heaven...on a sea of blue."

Yet another announces,

"I'm flying into the portals of heaven on silver wings!

Sailing over all the troubles and trials down below straight on in."

Obviously Johnny did not subscribe to this point of view because the last person to stand is a little old lady who claims that she's making it to heaven about a half a mile a day. The woman admits the difficulties and her stumbling; the way to heaven is not rapid transit. Instead she says:

"I believe that if I'll heed the things he had to say

even I might get to heaven at a half a mile a day."

No talk of rapture here. She's too busy living the kingdom. She continues:

"Lord, when I let you lead, I don't make any speed

because I have to stop and touch the ones who need so much

and then sometimes others pull me off of your narrow way,

and by my mistakes I barely make a half a mile a day."

Powerful imagery of a Christian concerned for justice and peace.

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