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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SONGS I LIKE: God's Gonna Cut You Down (Johnny Cash)

But as sure as God made black and white
What's down in the dark will be brought to the light

Cash
One of the reasons I like comic books and detective novels both is not due to some masculine love of violence or machismo, and its not because I never grew up. Its because they are about justice and truth, about good triumphing over evil (at least, they used to be).

And that's something that appeals to be a great deal about Christianity. The Psalms have many examples of people crying out for justice, complaining that the evil seem to prosper in this world, that the good seem to suffer. And indeed, too often doing the right thing carries a painful, heavy price - not the least of this is watching the wicked pass us by and prosper as we try to do right and fail in this world.

And one of the core principles of Christianity is that eventually, one day, ultimately, there will be justice. All the evil that is unpunished on earth will be in time. All the people who prospered by grinding down the helpless and the weak, all those who became rich and powerful and comfortable by doing wrong will face justice.

And that's what this song is about - the implacable, unstoppable, and inevitable justice of God. Johnny Cash tells of a mission he feels he's learned, to tell all the people who get away with wrong, to tell those who are arrogant, self-important and uncaring that God will be there at the end of the day. Its about justice, about forcing people to recognize their wrong. And that appeals a great deal to me.

Plus, its written with a simple, hammer-blow line of base and drums, a driving beat that moves along like a march toward an inevitable conclusion that has great power and Johnny Cash delivers it so well you can't help but nod along.

The only regret for me as a Christian is that there's no gospel, no hope, no forgiveness. And that's the key to Christianity; if all we had was the justice of God and not His love... we'd all be doomed and damned.

This song has been used a lot, from the video game Red Dead Redemption to the True Grit remake and beyond, so you've probably heard it.

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down

Well, my goodness gracious let me tell you the news
My head's been wet with the midnight dew
I've been down on bended knee
Talkin' to the man from Galilee
He spoke to me in the voice so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel's feet
He called my name and my heart stood still
When he said, "John, go do my will"

Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Well, you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin' in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What's down in the dark will be brought to the light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down


This is part of the Songs I Like series.

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