If I Had One Song…

I have watched “Walk the Line” a few times as I flip around the dial, and each time I seem to catch a different scene. The one I caught this weekend was one that was pretty defining to Johnny Cash’s style and I thought was pretty appropriate for the type of person, writer and communicator that I want to become.

The question asked and answered here in this clip from the movie is a definitive one for each of us. I grew tired of my own bullshit as a “pastor” and as one that spoke often to a crowd of people on Sunday mornings. I wanted to speak the things that were real and were representative of the things that I truly felt. I did that to some degree but was guarded and so afraid of the backlash if I admitted my true doubts, and my fears.

The subculture of the church doesn’t allow for this type of honesty by-and-large since the variety of church I grew up in (evangelical Christianity) presents a “Jesus is the Answer” philosophy – regardless of the questions raised. I wonder if people from “non-belief” stages of life might feel more inclined to hang around if churches actually raised more questions than they tried to answer.

So now I have a better framework from which to write and share my stories. As honest as I think I have become it might be necessary to be even moreso. In fact, I think I must.

10 thoughts on “If I Had One Song…”

  1. señor,When the pain of struggling with the questions is relieved with a simple answer, that answer is more valuable than it would have been without the painful struggling. At that point, the simplicity of the answer is not written off as simplistic, but in fact profound in its simplicity.A few years back, I remember being intensely impacted by God’s love for me in the face of my flipping him off and telling him that I really didn’t like the way he was running things (and that in fact I didn’t like him too much either). Love in response to loveliness isn’t love, it’s reward. I experienced his love in a profound way because I was honest about how I felt and even rejected his love. At that point I remember asking, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that God loves me.” That thought was followed by the recollection of the hundreds of times I heard somebody say, “Jesus loves you.” My earlier blind acceptance (this side of complexity) of the simple statement “Jesus loves you” didn’t mean much because I hadn’t honestly dealt with some questions (and that’s really hard to do if you aren’t given the freedom to do that by those around you). But, after telling God to kiss my ass and experiencing his simple love in response (on the other side of the complexity) that love was in fact profound.The profundity of a simple answer may even be profound to the degree of the complexity created by the honesty. Who knows?

  2. I just got a chance after all the holiday traveling to read this post. Senor Jeffe gets my kudos. I appreciate your responses.

  3. I hardly remember hearing any Johnny Cash when I was little (I blame my ignorance on my mother’s distaste for that kind of music but I’m glad I know better). I haven’t seen this movie even, but it’s in my list of dvd’s to get. But I can’t help but feel the raw honesty that just swells in this clip. (And in the entire movie, as far as the movie reviews I’ve read) That question bit me so hard that Johnny’s character made the same face as I did when I heard that question. I am resonating to it so much that I feel tremors inside of me.thank you so much steve.

  4. I like this scene from ‘Walk the Line’ and I like how the gauntlet is thrown down to Cash – write a song that means something to somebody. If he never followed this line of thinking we would never have ‘man in black’ and ‘the ballad of Ira Hayes’. Cash took on the struggle of other people like they were his own – he made it mean something to him. I think the best thing our faith can do is make the teachings of Christ relative to every situation in our lives, no matter how brutal the struggle is. Also I think admitting to not having all the answers is very humbling – I appreciate that tidbit from Steve, I find myself in the same boat. But I like honesty, always and always have.

  5. Senor Jefe said:“I don’t think we need more questions. Because what happens is we become addicted to our questions, and shun anything that resembles an answer, for fear of becoming dogmatic or ‘religious’.”I agree 100%! Well said.“If more non-believers could see people who LIVED in real, honest relationship with Christ instead of constant, pseudo-intellectual questioning or blind, dogmatic absolutism, I think we’d all realize that there’s nothing wrong with having real questions or answers… so long as we don’t exalt our questioning as ‘truth’ or force our ‘answers’ on others as gospel. Why not simply show them the path to truth?”I think people look to Christians who claim to have a real relationship with Christ only to wait for us to fall in our walk, so they can call us hypocrites and accuse us of “not practicing what we preach”. Once we declare that we have the “path to truth” are we not saying that all other paths to truth are wrong?“Sometimes, if we really ‘know’ him, Jesus IS the answer…”He is the answer to our biggest problem, sin.

  6. señor,When the pain of struggling with the questions is relieved with a simple answer, that answer is more valuable than it would have been without the painful struggling. At that point, the simplicity of the answer is not written off as simplistic, but in fact profound in its simplicity.A few years back, I remember being intensely impacted by God’s love for me in the face of my flipping him off and telling him that I really didn’t like the way he was running things (and that in fact I didn’t like him too much either). Love in response to loveliness isn’t love, it’s reward. I experienced his love in a profound way because I was honest about how I felt and even rejected his love. At that point I remember asking, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that God loves me.” That thought was followed by the recollection of the hundreds of times I heard somebody say, “Jesus loves you.” My earlier blind acceptance (this side of complexity) of the simple statement “Jesus loves you” didn’t mean much because I hadn’t honestly dealt with some questions (and that’s really hard to do if you aren’t given the freedom to do that by those around you). But, after telling God to kiss my ass and experiencing his simple love in response (on the other side of the complexity) that love was in fact profound.The profundity of a simple answer may even be profound to the degree of the complexity created by the honesty. Who knows?

  7. That’s some raw honesty brother. If we could all be that bold (no matter what type of structure we happen to be in!!) Christianity might actaully become a positive term again.There was a time when Christians were known for the honest, tenacity, and bold selfless faith. And no, I’m not referring to the 1950’s.How sad is it, that now the word Christian is synonymous with money, deceit, and everything fake and hollow.I wonder, Steve, what such bold action would actually look like for you. Could you give us a concrete example of how you might act out such realism?great post!!!

  8. Steve, I’m very sorry you have had such difficulties with your ministry. I have had just the opposite experience. I’m sure my experience is not the norm but I do think your problems may be more about denominations that anything else.

  9. Simplicity on this side of complexity ain’t worth shit. But simplicity on the other side of complexity is profound.I agree Steve. You have to honestly ask the questions to get on the other side. And too often, we get sideways looks (or worse) from people on this side of complexity while we’re trying to get to profound peace.Johnny Cash is a great example. He went through it, and when he caught a glimpse of the other side, he didn’t bother looking sideways. He went straight ahead and offered hope to the prisoners on the way.

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