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Text of Bono's Introduction to the 'God' CD of the New, 3-CD Johnny Cash Anthology

June 01, 2000
By: Bono

 

Somewhere in an old, black bible I read how Moses had led the children of Israel out of slavery with a plague of frogs and a big stick that turned into a snake. In return they promised not to worship any false Gods, especially golden cows (popular at the time, still are...), yet despite the cover of sky fires at night, and an endless supply of God's own bread (manna) in the day, this was a promise they managed to keep for about a minute...Upset that they still hadn't entered the Promised Land and moaning about their nomadic life in the desert, they soon returned to the altar of the "golden cow."

Warning after warning they ignored. Moses couldn't believe his people could witness such a season of miracles and still choose gold over God. God, too, was furious, but even as He told Moses to get out of their midst or be destroyed along with His wayward people, an amazing thing happened. Moses refused to move...In fact the Scriptures record that "Moses knowing the heart of God" ran amongst the people crying to God "smite me if you're going to smite them." God in his mercy backed off.

It's an amazing story of empathy and then grace. It's the kind of story Johnny Cash could have written and sung...Empathy and grace are written in his face, etched into his voice...So are the years in the wilderness...Gospel music has a joy that in most hands come off as sentimental; a sweetness so easily saccharine. Why is it that in these songs the angels feel like they're 'round the corner from the devils? We feel he has made a choice to "pitch his tent at the gates of Sheol." Johnny Cash doesn't sing to the damned, he sings with the damned, and sometimes you feel he might prefer their company...

So the sugar is turned to salt and the triumphalism is quieted by the brokenness of a voice that knows the compromise of real life. Big John sings like the thief who was crucified beside Christ, whose humble entreaties had Jesus promising that night he would see paradise.

Johnny Cash is a righteous dude and he keeps righteous company with June Carter Cash and the Carter Family, but it's the "outlaw" in him we love...the "thief" who would break and enter your heart, and leave you with a nagging question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

  © 2000 Bono. All rights reserved.



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