Author Richard Beck, psychology professor and leader of a prison ministry, offers an accessible, informative, and thought-provoking analysis of the life, songs, and theology of Johnny Cash. Cash was a devoutly Christian singer-songwriter who rose to fame on the country and pop charts in the mid 1950s and continued recording and performing for decades.
As the book recounts, Johnny Cash lived a hard life and struggled with addiction. He also leaned hard on Jesus and never wavered in his faith. Many elements of this book are noteworthy, but two stand out and make it a worthwhile read for Christian school leaders and teachers. First, Cash understood the importance of lament in Christian theology and second, Cash understood that the gospel message was for everyone and he prioritized bringing the gospel to the down and out, the marginalized, and forgotten. Cash courageously and consistently challenged his producers and promoters (along with the social norms of the day), taking the road less traveled, often at great personal and professional cost, to bring his songs (and therefore his theology) to the marginalized (the poor, the addicted, the prisoner, First Nations). Reading this book caused me to wonder if I possess the courage to challenge the social order of our day by calling for justice, embracing hospitality, and serving those on the margins of society.