“A Boy Named Sue,” by Johnny Cash
— Friday, September 2nd, 2011 —
For some time now I’ve been concerned that Christians are not paying serious enough attention to a temptation the apostles warn against constantly. That temptation is “pugilism” or “quarrelsomeness.” It is, you might say, the draw toward hyper-masculinity, in which assertion and aggression itself is defined as “manhood.” You can see that in everything from Hip-Hop lyrics to some evangelical sermons about Jesus.
And, man, is it dangerous.
In this week’s episode (below) of “The Cross and the Jukebox,” we take a look at another song by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue.” This is a lighter song of Cash’s—certainly not on the level of a song we examined last week, “Hurt”—but I don’t think the issue in the song is merely of a father’s naming his son “Sue” in order that he might grow up to be “tough” and “mean.” The key matter isn’t just the name. It’s that the father left. The son had to prove himself a man, without a father there to affirm that manhood.
This song, I think, ought to prompt a question about what it means to affirm a holistic masculinity, in which manhood is defined in terms of Jesus Christ, and not the other way around. Listen in, and join the conversation.