This weekend I found the video that I had originally wanted to put with this post so I am bumping it. I hope no one minds. Thanks to the Anchoress.
A couple weeks ago the Anchoress took a little break from blogging and on the way out left us with a link to an essay about Johnny Cash which can be found here. I read the essay really hopeful, ended up somewhat disappointed, but came away with a few useful thoughts. Key among these thought was this: God can bring the worst of us to moments of pure gold for His glory and for our good.
I will try to help you understand what I mean by that. One of the first few comments following the article was this, ” A rather shallow article about an unrepetant[sic] sinner. Can’t Catholic writers do better than this?” I have seen this attitude from my fellow Catholics far too often and Christians in general more times than I could remember. A slightly “holier than thou” attitude, pleading to the good that is really nothing more than thinly veiled self righteousness that smacks of deep-grained ugliness. This is not the light and saving love of Christ, liquid and vibrant, blood and flesh, fertile and open. It is a brittle, dried up attitude that claims itself superior while becoming more and more detached from the obligations of need and weakness on the human heart. It is the Pharisee and the Priest crossing to the other side of the road — tisking at the sinner, crime and the state of world while offering no balm to sooth it. And the greatest irony is the sinner they are tisking in the above comment was the one offering the balm to so many.
McMullen spends a good deal of time quoting Cash’s lyrics and relating them to his feelings as a Catholic. It is all in all an enjoyable read. But I feel it really didn’t go deep enough. There are two thoughts I feel are important.
First Cash is a man of his time. His voice spoke to men, hard working country men, men struggling with modern life and men for whom the Church had taken a feminizing turn that really turned them off. His songs struggle with faith as I am sure the man did, as many men of his generation did and many still do.
Second that Cash’s personal character and the state of his soul had very little to do with ability to serve as a tool in God’s hands. This is a thing that slips the minds of many Christians I fear. God doesn’t need us to be perfect, good, or even trying. God doesn’t need us to be in a state of grace, saved, believing or even wanting Him. He can take us while we are running at a break neck speed straight to the gates of hell and wring out of us something good. Sometimes for our souls and sometimes to save someone else.