Greg's Blog

Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon

by Greg Laurie on Aug 12, 2022

I think we’ve all heard of Johnny Cash and can recognize his music—even today’s young people can. He had a musical style that was so unique and could transcend time, setting him apart from other musicians. 

But there’s more to his story.

Saint or Sinner?

Johnny Cash wasn’t just known for creating unique music, but for being a unique individual as well. Sinners thought Johnny was a saint, saints thought Johnny was a sinner, but, in reality, he was both. Just like us, he was flawed, he blew it, he fell, and he got up again. But he never lost his faith. In fact, at the very end of his life, it was stronger than ever.

He embodies the paradox of every Christian who wants to do what is right but struggles to do it, just like the apostle Paul described in Romans. That’s one reason I’ve wanted to tell his story for such a long time. His story is that of redemption, and it resonates with so many of us who mess up, yet still have God saying, “I’m not done with you yet.”

If we learn nothing else from the story of Johnny Cash, we learn that God gives second chances, and third ones, and fourth ones…

I wanted to come together with my friend, Marshall Terrill, to tell the spiritual side of his story—one that’s often overlooked and unknown. Basically, I wanted to move the spotlight from his music to his faith; I believe he would’ve wanted to bring attention to that as well.

My Interest in Johnny Cash

Millions of people were touched by Johnny’s life and music, including me.

My own fandom comes from a very personal place. Johnny was a touchstone in my life, dating back to my childhood. I remember watching him perform on television with my grandparents and hearing that deep, booming voice which was once called “The Voice of America.”

At the peak of his career, Johnny had done it all. He lived the ultimate rags-to-riches story; from growing up on a cotton farm in the Deep South to becoming a Nashville and Hollywood sensation, singing alongside household names like Elvis Presley, and even performing for several US presidents.

During his heyday, Johnny was constantly in the news, though not all the headlines were stellar. He was often embroiled in scandal or controversy stemming from high-profile arrests, car accidents, and other drug—and alcohol—induced escapades, including one that resulted in a devastating forest fire.

Sometimes Johnny’s dark side overruled his true nature. His behavior caused collateral damage to his family and friends, causing heartbreak, betrayal, and sadness. He felt his trials and tribulations were akin to those endured by the Apostle Peter who, at one point, even denied knowing Jesus. 

Like Peter, Johnny fell and got back up again.

The superstar was an old hand at petitioning God and hailing Him as the author of his salvation. But, the fact is that he usually ran to God when a crisis was at hand and he needed rescuing. 

Johnny also kept God’s number on speed-dial for emergencies, but otherwise sought direction and fulfillment through earthly channels. A lot of people live this way.

Cash’s Relatability

In reality, John R. Cash was a lot like the rest of us.

Johnny’s faith was tested many times in his lifetime, and it only grew stronger, not weaker. Near the end of his life, he was speaking openly about his “unshakeable faith.” What caused him to turn from his past and move forward with Christ?

I wrote a book on it called, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon and it’s now available. 

I think exploring his story in a new light, including his ups and downs, offers a way for people to understand that no one is beyond hope.

This book is for every conflicted soul who feels they’re too far to be reached by God—because the truth is that anyone can be redeemed. If it happened for Johnny Cash, it can happen for you or any loved one. 

If you want to hear more stories like Johnny Cash’s, I’ve also written a book on Steve McQueen and we’re sending a copy to anyone who donates this month as a thanks for helping us spread the gospel.  

Please pray for God to use these works in ways unimaginable to us!

Get your copy of Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon  

Related: Steve McQueen: How the King of Cool Met the King of Kings

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