Journal Week 6: God's Gonna Cut You Down

Beyond Flannery O'Connor, Johnny Cash has also me a stranger Christian.

Long time readers will know that I've become increasingly interested in the music of Johnny Cash. My work in a prison was the key instigator. I'm currently working on another book with Fortress Press entitled The Gospel According to Johnny Cash.

Liberal and progressive Christians love the themes of solidarity that run through Cash's music. The song "The Man in Black" is an ode to that solidarity, "I wear the black for the poor and beaten down, livin' in the hopeless hungry side of town.."

But there's more to Johnny Cash's music than solidarity. For example, what's a progressive Christian going to do with a song like "When the Man Comes Around" or "God's Gonna Cut You Down"?

Songs of God's judgment upon sinners aren't songs progressive Christians like to sing.

And yet, I get more spiritual sustenance from songs like "When the Man Comes Around" and "God's Gonna Cut You Down" than the worship anthems heard on Christian radio and from church praise bands.  

Theologically speaking, it's hard for me to make sense of this. As a progressive Christian who professes a loving, radically inclusive, big-hearted vision of Christianity, why am I more attracted to songs of God's apocalyptic judgment upon the wicked than to the soaring emotional praise songs of God's love and grace?

Part of it, I think, and I admit this is strange and perhaps paradoxical, is that the only Christians allowed to believe in God's apocalyptic judgment upon the wicked are those who subscribe to God's ultimate reconciliation of all things. I think "Love Wins" and "God's Gonna Cut You Down" need each other. And that if you endorse only one half of the equation something vital is lost.

Conservative Christians tend to go with "God's Gonna Cut you Down" without "Love Wins" and something unhealthy results.

Progressive Christians, by contrast, go with "Love Wins" without "God's Gonna Cut You Down" and something unhealthy also results.

So, yeah, I am a stranger Christian.

I'm a "Love Wins" Christian who likes to warn that "God's Gonna Cut You Down."

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