Singing with the Damned

I usually think it’s silly when anyone less experienced than Roger Ebert tries to write movie reviews, but I just watched “Walk the Line” and I can’t get it out of my head.



I’m thinking of what it would be like to be a celebrity Christian like Johnny Cash was, an adulterer and an addict who is suddenly cleaned up and converted and saved. The world that once loved you now mocks you, and I think the church, to be honest, does not always want you. I think the church gingerly embraces celebrity Christians like Cash, because what if they mess up in front of the whole world? What if they relapse? What if they aren’t quite clean-cut? What if they make a movie about their life and don’t peddle their faith right?



But I’ve seen again and again that a conflicted, halting, even doubt-filled Christianity is more often real than the pat, clean-cut kind. I see it again in the scene where Cash’s promoter tries to talk Cash out of singing to convicts. “Your fans are church-going folks, Christians,” the man pleads. “They don’t want to hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists.” The promoter was probably right. But so was Cash when he bluntly replied, “Then they ain’t Christians.”



Bono once said, “Johnny Cash doesn’t sing to the damned, he sings with the damned, and sometimes you feel he might prefer their company.” It takes humility to sing with the damned — not the smug, sanctimonious kind but the kind that comes when we realize that we are all damned, that we are all adulterers and addicts, and that of all the sinners everywhere, as Cash said, “I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”


~ by stultiloquence on July 1, 2006.

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