Yes, GetReligion is rather fond of the music and legacy of Johnny and June Carter Cash. Sue us.
I mean, what can you say about a man who once described his taste in music this way: “I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And mother. And God.”
So, folks, what we have here today is a rare triple plug of writings by friends of this blog concerning this man and this movie. I won’t feature a lot of quotes, since I primarily hope that other journalists will check out the information in these pieces. One crisp quote from each will do.
• One is by Frederica Mathewes-Green (yes, OK, the wife of my parish priest) of NPR, Beliefnet and elsewhere and it just went up at National Review Online. Look for the headline: “Cash’s walk with women.” The big idea here is that the film basically had to choose between three different themes to stress — rebellion, romance and faith. Guess which two they picked? The rebellion theme is real, but handled as a mere stereotype:
A department store employee, for example, coldly tells Carter that her famous singing parents are “good Christians” and that she’s surprised that they still speak to her after her divorce. “Divorce is an abomination,” she intones. This is the kind of tin-ear dialogue that results when a disapprover, usually Christian, has to be dragged onstage in order to make the rebellion engine work. Such stereotypes have as much to do with real Christians as Stepin Fetchit had to do with the real condition of African Americans in the 1930′s.
• Also up at NRO is this essay by Steve Beard of Thunderstruck.org (A truck stop for the soul), titled “An Incomplete Cash: Walking into a ring of fire.” Beard has been writing about the Cash story for years and knows his stuff.
Beard is frustrated with the pre-conversion timeline issue, but knows why the movie did what it did with one side of Cash’s soul. Thus, he notes: “In the film, you see plenty of the pill popping but none of the Bible-thumping.”
• The third essay is featured at Beliefnet, with the headline “A Faith-Life Johnny Cash.” This essay is by Mark Joseph, who has written a number of books on religion and rock & roll and works on a wide variety of projects in Hollywood. Here is the heart of his piece, which ends up quoting Cash on the redemption of Johnny Cash. Quoting Cash is never a bad idea:
The key moment in Cash’s turnaround happened when he tried a unique method of suicide — crawling through a cave hoping to never make it out alive. Cash wrote:
The absolute lack of light was appropriate, for at that moment I was as far from God as I have ever been. My separation from Him, the deepest and most ravaging of the various kinds of loneliness I’d felt over the years, seemed finally complete. It wasn’t. I thought I’d left him but He hadn’t left me. I felt something very powerful start to happen to me, a sensation of utter peace, clarity and sobriety. I didn’t believe it at first. I couldn’t understand it … the feeling persisted though and then my mind started focusing on God … there in Nickajack cave I became conscious of my destiny. I was not in charge of my own death. I was going to die at God’s time, not mine. I hadn’t prayed over my decision to seek death in the cave, but that hadn’t stopped God from intervening â€¦ I told my mother that God had saved me from killing myself. I told her I was ready to commit myself to Him and do whatever it took to get off drugs. I wasn’t lying.
The big question: Where is Nickajack cave in the timeline of the Walk the Line movie? That sounds like it would have been a rather dramatic scene, to me. Maybe it would have been too dark, or too light, or too something else.