Growing up in the South meant a constant barrage of country music. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with county music; it just wasn’t my go-to genre when growing up. However, as the years have changed and I've matured in my faith and life, I find myself listening to country music more and more. Theologically speaking, I do prefer the wholesomeness of the Christian music genre, but even there a radio station without a biblical foundation might play Christian music that doesn't proclaim a Scriptural message. Many of my nominal Christian associates consider country music to be wholesome and overall Christian. They couldn't be further from the truth.
To be sure, Waylon Jennings is a thousand times more wholesome than Cardi B. If you call yourself a Christian and enjoy listening to Cardi B and her filth, you clearly don’t know what it means to be a Christian. However, just because you don’t listen to Cardi B does not automatically make you a Christian. There are some out there who equate country music with Christianity. Sure, many country artists claim the name Christian and include Christian themes in their music, life, and charity. And there are some explicitly Christian Country artists out there. But to equate or even intimate country music and Christianity is to conflate religion and politics.
In fact, this conflation is at the heart of the social justice movement. Those who are Christians and buy into the social justice movement have a misinterpretation of biblical justice. They define justice as equality—everyone receives equal treatment. The Bible defines justice as equity—everyone receives what he is owed. I was listening to a local country music station and Johnny Cash’s Man in Black came on. Immediately, I could tell this was one of those protest songs from the mid-20th century. After doing some research, that hunch was confirmed. Cash wrote Man in Black in 1971, an era that was a precursor to the social justice movement of today.
I mention this because in that song, Cash presents a gospel that is very much part of the lexicon of Christian social justice warriors. About a third of the way through, Cash introduces a stanza with, “I wear the black for those who’ve never read / Or listened to the words that Jesus said.” When I first heard that line, I thought, man that’s deep. What type of visual ministry that could be! Of course, the beauty of that line was ruined by the next: “About the road to happiness through love and charity / Why you’d think He's talking straight to you and me.”
And there we have the Gospel According to Johnny Cash. Truthfully, you could replace his name with anyone from the social justice movement. According to Cash et al., the gospel is a road to happiness. That right there shows a complete misunderstanding of the gospel. The gospel is a road, but it is not a road to happiness, at least not happiness in and of itself. Rather, the gospel is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Of course, we know who that is: Christ Jesus himself. To be fair, the gospel does lead us to happiness. Christ himself said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.” Without the immediate context of that passage, one could say Cash was in full agreement with the Scriptures, however, Jesus’ command to rejoice is found in the Beatitudes, specifically “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” I have a sneaking suspicion the happiness Cash has in view is to be enjoyed in the here and now.
But he doesn’t stop there! Cash describes that this gospel road to happiness comes “through love and charity.” Love and charity are indeed important parts of Christian living. Paul, James, Peter, and others are in agreement with our Lord who commands “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Indeed, if anyone calls himself a Christian and does not display love for God or neighbor, then that person clearly does not know what it means to be a Christian.
However, Cash is not describing the Christian life but evangelism, for why else would he lament those “who’ve never read or listened to the words that Jesus said.” I, too, lament that there are many who die without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ. I am deeply saddened and hurt by the countless souls who do not hear the outward call of the gospel. It is clear that the gospel Cash has in mind is not the gospel enumerated in Scripture, but one fabricated by a generation whose agenda is to twist Christian doctrines into a political agenda.