The Man in Black on The Man in White

by Fr. Christian Mathis on December 9, 2011

A friend recently suggested I might be interested in reading a book by Johnny Cash entitled, The Man in White. The book is a fictional account of six years in the life of St. Paul the Apostle and while I have just begun reading, I couldn’t help but share a few lines from the introduction where Cash describes a conversation with a reporter concerning his book.

“Is it written from the Baptist Church’s angle?” one (reporter) asked. “You are a Baptist, aren’t you?”

“Paul was not a Baptist,” I replied. “He admonished those whose doctrinal tenets focused on John the Baptist.”

“Then you’re a Catholic, maybe?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I said, “since Catholic means universal.”

“But not the Roman Catholic Church?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “Paul was a Jew. He was a doctor of the law.”

“Then it’s written from the Jewish viewpoint, right?”

“No, mine,” I said.

“But you’re a Baptist.”

“I finally settled on a fundamental answer. “I, as a believer that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, the Christ of the Greeks, was the Anointed One of God (born of the seed of David, upon faith as Abraham had faith, and it was accounted to him for righteousness), am grafted onto the true vine, and am one of the heirs of God’s covenant with Israel.”

“What?”

“I’m a Christian,” I said. “Don’t put me in another box.”

“There was a long pause and then he said, “Really, Adolph Hitler was a Christian.”

“He was not,” I argued. “There was nothing Christlike in what he did.”

“How do you know?” he asked.

I thought for a minute. “I don’t really know,” I said, “but Jesus said, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them,’ and I’ve seen his fruits.”

“Where?” he asked.

“At the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem,” I said.

As someone who admires the life of St. Paul and loves the music of Mr. Cash, I look forward to reading this book.

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