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A Believer Sings the Truth – Belgian Beer and Johnny Cash
It’s funny the memories you carry through life.
Two of the strongest memories from my 17 years in Tokyo are of Belgian beer and country and western music.
I was in Tokyo in the 1980s when the yen and the stock market were soaring. The department stores were awash with the top imported goods from around the globe. As an enthusiast for premium beers I discovered those of Belgium, surely the best in the world. I became a huge fan of the fruity Hoegaarden wheat beers and of the full-bodied, top-fermenting Orval and Chimay beers, the latter both made by monks in Trappist abbeys.
It was also in Tokyo that I discovered country and western music, thanks to the programming of the Far East Network, the US armed forces radio station, and I became a big Johnny Cash fan.
One day I borrowed from a public library a Johnny Cash LP record called A Believer Sings the Truth, and made a cassette tape of it. I listened often. It was Cash at his hard-driving, rockabilly best. It was also – though I didn’t realise it at the time – a celebration of hard-core Southern Baptist fundamentalism.
I wasn’t a Christian in Japan, and there was no apparent Christian influence on me there. I have often wondered how it was that on arriving in Australia in 1993 I so unexpectedly felt the urge to turn up one Sunday at my local Baptist church, and so quickly gave my life to Jesus. Could it have resulted from a constant listening to Johnny Cash?
A Believer Sings the Truth is surely one of the great Christian recordings (and I don’t understand why it hasn’t been put on CD). At the time I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics, or so I thought. But was I picking up more than I realised?
From lyrics like these?
I was dying,
And the dead of all the ages
When the tribulation darkens the way,
Yes, I know when Jesus saved me,
I was lifted one night
Several writers have speculated that the immense popularity in Japan of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is bringing many Japanese to the Lord. Could Johnny Cash have done the same for me? Johnny Cash and perhaps some Trappist beer?
January 6th, 2003