Archive for Johnny Cash

Advent Calendar Day 11: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Posted in Music, Religion with tags , , , , on December 12, 2012 by bradellison

The significance of bells as a Christmas symbol really makes itself felt when you dig into the music of the season, even a little bit.  Another thing you learn pretty quick while rooting around on youtube listening to different versions of various Christmas songs is just how great Johnny Cash was.  I knew that already, though.

Here’s Mr. Cash and his better half, singing another one of my favorites, a song about bells, a song about war, and a song about good and evil.

Mr. Henry Wadsworth  Longfellow wrote the words in the Christmas of 1863, not long after learning that his son had been seriously wounded in the war, not long after Longfellow’s wife died an untimely death.  He wrote down the truth.

The truth of it is something I believe in my bones.  Hate is strong.  Beyond question.  It makes a mockery, we make a mockery, of the idea of peace and good will.  The evil we all carry in us sometimes seems to poison every grain of sand and blade of grass and drop of water on this corrupted world, and it’s getting worse.


God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.

The wrong will fail.

The right prevail.

Peace on earth.

Good will to men.

The light is bound to swallow the darkness.  Slowly.  Imperceptibly, sometimes.  Sometimes the darkness pushes back.  Pockets of it linger.  But the end of the story’s written, and the light will prevail.

Let those now mired in darkness hear this good word: the darkness passes.  May those beset by the encroaching cold of winter see the coming spring.  Let those who walk in the night make ready for the dawn.  Let the sufferers who endure war and greed see the coming of peace and good will.

Hear the bells.  Some day soon, the Man will come around.


Advent Calendar Day 2: The Little Drummer Boy

Posted in Music, Religion with tags , , , , on December 3, 2012 by bradellison

This song is on the short list of department-store standards I can stomach.  It’s not a perfect song by any means, and I can’t much dispute any of Kyle Kinane’s arguments against it, but I like it.  Partly that’s because it’s a right pretty song, and that parumpumpumpum bit’s satisfying to the ear, and outright gratifying to sing.  Mostly it’s because of the sweetness of the little fable it gives.  It’s a little more treacly than I generally care for, but, well, it’s Christmas.

Here’s what “The Little Drummer Boy” tells us: the Christ may ask us to give everything we have, but he won’t ask for more than that.  Give yourself, and that’s enough, no matter how much or how little you’ve got to give.  And a broken and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise.  So don’t hold back when you devote yourself to the Way, but don’t be afraid of not measuring up.  The highest teaching of the Master is that we gain more than we can imagine when we give away our substance.  This is the way to live as a conduit for light.

One other reason I have a love for this song:

Some more notable Christians of the 20th century

Posted in Religion with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2009 by bradellison

Mister Rogers

I think probably there’s never been a better, purer human being on television than Fred Rogers.  He was a saint, a bodhisattva.  With every atom of his being, he was a conduit of unconditional love, flowing out in an endless torrent to everyone around him.

Read this.  I’m not messing around here, you click that link, and you read that essay, and see how hard it is to keep a tear from your eye.

Look at this.

What you see there, in that video, is one man overcoming the United States Senate through sheer force of virtue.  Kindness.  Gentleness.  Meekness. Humility.  These things emanated from Mr. Rogers in a palpable wave, and they gave him a power against which no strength, pride or cynicism could prevail.

I’m a surly misanthrope who drinks, smokes, curses, loves violent movies, and tends to regard the human race with a detached cynicism.  I’m not like Mr. Rogers.  I don’t think I have it in me to be, although certainly I could try harder than I do.  Maybe it’s best that I’m not.  But the world needs people who are like Mr. Rogers.

I just watched that video.  Tears are welling up in my eyes as I type this.  This man was a living embodiment of agape, the perfect love of the Christ.  How many lives, how many millions of lives, did he touch with that love?

T.S. Eliot

That’s right, we’ve got the greatest poet of the 20th century.  Suck on that, other religions.  It makes up for having Stephen Baldwin.  It almost makes up for having Kirk Cameron.

As a fan and co-religionist of Eliot, and of Tolkien and Lewis, I also find it kind of hilarious that those latter worthies hated Eliot’s poetry.

The church shall be open, even to our enemies.
We are not here to triumph by fighting , by stratagem, or by resistance,
Not to fight with beasts as men. We have fought the beast
And have conquered. We have only to conquer
Now, by suffering. This is the easier victory.

Johnny Cash

Look up the word “badass” in a dictionary.  If the definition is anything other than that picture, your dictionary is probably defective.  Johnny Cash was probably the greatest country musician ever.  His voice was made of raw pain, anger and power.  In his earlier years, he spent a considerable amount of time raising hell.  Then one day he crawled into a cave while out of his mind on drugs and looking for a good hole to die in.  What he found instead was God.  He crawled out, got clean, married June Carter, and went to his knees before the altar at Evangel Temple in Nashville.

He continued to be a total badass.  He wasn’t much like Mr. Rogers at all either.  Indeed, he spent his final years on Earth covering metal songs in a fashion guaranteed to break the heart of any human being listening.

If you can watch that music video without being moved, you’d probably fail the Voight-Kampf Test, because you’ve got a subhuman lack of empathy.  But while his version of “Hurt” is the one people remember, I maintain that the better epitaph for the man is “Further On Up the Road.”


So what if he’s fictional?  He’s Superman.

In fairness, Batman is almost certainly an atheist.