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Justin (koavf)

John,

I've worn black every day since he died.

Here's hoping: http://clydesburn.blogspot.com/2009/01/johnny-cash-american-vi.html

-JAK

JohnFH

Man o' man, Justin, I didn't know there is another album on the way. Too good to be true.

John Lyons

Hi John,

Thanks for the heads-up on your comments. It is always nice to hear reactions to what you do, even critical ones :)

Hopefuly the tone of the piece makes it clear that I wasn't personally ascribing to Cash a defective view of scripture. It just seemed to me that some evangelicals would. You may disagree, but I find it hard to imagine those words - "most of it anyway" - being taken with equanimity *everywhere* in American evangelicalism. (I had the Dallas crowd in mind myself.) Are you absolutely sure my take on this is absurd?.

The final section is more of a reflective and ironic comment on what seems to happen with Revelation and texts like Daniel. If opening out the message of a text is really what is important, Cash, I wanted to suggest, did it better.

Last thing I'd say is that the echoes that you discuss are simply not there for everyone who hears the song - that is the point of the Youtube stuff. You, I and Cash might well agree that we can hear them, but the further claim that they make the song iredeemably Christian and are somehow intrinsic to it for everyone is unsustainable it seems to me in light of the reception of the song. For you that section of the essay is peripheral (commentworthy as something perhaps unavoidable), but to me it is fundamental to the case. The song can and does function as a non-Christian apocalype. That I find very, very interesting.

Best wishes,

John

John Lyons

Hi John,

I am curious though as to why you write the following:

"It’s possible that in his longer treatment of the reception history of Cash’s song (see bibliography), Lyons notes my references to the song on-blog, but I doubt it. For one thing, my references to Cash and his song without disclaimers do not fit Lyons’ narrative."

I am not used to being described as someone who would exclude a person's work because it does not fit my narrative. So something to say perhaps. When you read the longer piece and find it doesn't reference you, then consider it might be because your references to Cash never came up on any of the web searches I ever did and so I was unaware of what you wrote, rather than assume that I am the sort of person who habitually twists what they find to suit themselves.

Is this really the scholarly world you inhabit, John? Not that I would claim perfection, but I do like to think of myself dealing with all the evidence I can round up. One of the nice things about your comments here on my essay is that it would be great to generate more dicussion of exegetes like Cash. I could find precious little of it before.

Best wishes,

John

JohnFH

John,

No, I don't think you will find someone like Darrell Bock ripping into Johnny Cash because he expresses himself as he does on Scripture. Anymore than Bock would rip into C. S. Lewis despite the fact that Lewis is not even a native son as Cash is.

Evangelicals tend to have an innate respect for anyone who has had a born-again experience, stays true to it, and for whom the Bible is a light onto their path. All of that covers a multitude of sins, though of course tenured seminary professors are held to a different standard. I don't think Billy Graham's comment which you quote is anything but typical.

You make a very important point when you say that the song can and does function as a non-Christian apocalypse.

I wish as much as you do that transfers of this kind were studied more. The intense impact Christianity and in particular, evangelical varieties of Christianity, have had on non-Christian cultures and non-Christian religions, remains little studied and even lesser known. I don't mean only individual cases, like that of Ghandi, the missionary he knew, and his reading of the Sermon on the Mount, or the more recent example of Sadi Othman, Petraeus’s advisor to the Iraqi government (a Palestinian-American, born in Brazil, raised and educated by Mennonites and pacifists in Jordan; who, along with Emma Sky, the British woman, expert on the Middle East and an anti-American anti-military pacifist, were instrumental in turning the fiasco of American intervention in Iraq into a relative success with the surge).

I mean wider phenomena, like the way Hinduism and Buddhism reshaped themselves in response to Christianity, absorbing key themes, such as a "social gospel."

Evangelicals ignore the subject matter all too often, because they are thinking of "conversion to," rather than "conversion in." But that's short-sighted in any case. The Chinese government knows better. It has banned Handel's Messiah. A very smart move. Handel would prepare the way for many more changes that government has good reason to fear.

One of the chief reasons Christianity is such a powerful cultural force in the world, such that it invades everyone else's "system of signs," is precisely this crazy multi-colored coat of a text we study, the Bible, with its accounts of creation and fall, its passion narratives, its apocalypses. In more than one way, Hovhaness's "He made the great whales," Cash's song, and Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, are derivative, w.r.t. Gen 1, Revelation, and an atonement theology of the cross, respectively. Viewed systemically, the baseline code / document is irreplaceable.

BTW, I don't know how good your German is, but if you enjoy reading it, I recommend Jurgen Ebach's "Apokalypse: Zum Ursprung einer Stimmung" in Einwuerfe 2 (1985) 5-61. A brilliant, brilliant essay, right up your alley.

For the rest, I'm glad to hear that you didn't find my on-blog references to Cash's song, but not for want of trying. Which reminds me, I have pages and pages of review notes on Crossley's volume I should work up into a post or two. His discussion of bibliobloggers and their online product illustrates a number of hazards and methodological issues that have yet to be adequately addressed.

John Lyons

Hi John,

I am not sure that I expect anyone to rip into Johnny Cash - he wasn't that kind of guy. Nor was CS Lewis. The question is more how his comment would be received if it came from someone less...exalted? I think I'll let others argue that one out.

That said, I wouldn't like you to miss the wood for the trees either. One of the main points of the extended paper is that Cash was very widely read and from some unusual sources. I was trying to argue that The Man Comes Around reflects a different style of Bible reading and songwriting to his song, Matthew 24, a thoroughly dispensational piece. Indeed it was Cash's reluctance to say he understood Revelation in the liner notes that first drew my attention to the song (but that is another story).

In so many ways, what is really interesting about Cash is his ability to be several things at once. I am certainly not sure that I would follow you in claiming him for my side - that smacks too much of domesticating the Man in Black to me.

Best wishes,

John

JohnFH

John,

It's been fun bantering with you about Johnny Cash. A very interesting musical artist.

Your point that Cash's eschatology as expressed in The Man Comes Around is not pre-trib nonsense is well-taken (in allusive fashion, I made the same point in the post I refer to). However, I think it's also the case that Cash succeeds in the space of a single phrase of capturing the entire truth of the Late Great Planet Earth series (the rest is either window-dressing or misleading): "'Til Armageddon, no salaam, no shalom." That's probably true, whether one likes it or not.

For the rest, it's not a matter of claiming him for Southern Baptists (BTW, I am not a Southern Baptist), the larger southern evangelical milieu (I'm a northerner, a pietist if you wish, of a different mold), or the greater movement referred to as evangelicalism, as if to do so was doing violence to him.

It's a matter of recognizing that Cash was the product of a Southern Baptist heritage and did not disown it.

That bothers people - whether it bothers you or not, I don't know - people for whom the question, "What good can come out of Southern Baptist territory?" comes naturally.

I would also suggest that Cash was faithful to his heritage, not at odds with it, insofar as his eschatology was not banally dispensationalist. He transcended that, precisely because, as you suggest, he was a careful reader of the biblical text, and preferred its contents to man-made creeds. That's an old Baptist distinctive. An excellent one, in its own way.

Esteban Vázquez

“John the Revelator” (great moniker)

Great moniker indeed! And a great song, too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Revelator_(song)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_veQRT7bus

JohnFH

Esteban,

That's a fabulous recording. I wonder if there is a youtube recording of Son House's version. My tribute to House is here:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/03/eddie-son-house-a-tribute.html

BigThinker

That's interesting, never knew Johnny Cash talked about the new world order, have to look that musical artist up.

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