Trains, Jesus, and Murder: The Gospel According to Johnny Cash

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$18.99  $17.66
Fortress Press
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.4 X 0.6 inches | 0.7 pounds

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About the Author

Richard Beck is professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, where he also lives. He is a popular blogger and speaker and the author of several books, most recently Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age. His published research also covers topics as diverse as the psychology of profanity and why Christian bookstore art is so bad. Beck leads a Bible study each week for inmates at a maximum-security prison.


"(A) welcome companion for anyone wanting to know more about what Cash insisted was not only the key to his music but to the kingdom, too." --The New Yorker

"Mixing biography, theology, social justice, and music history, prison chaplain Beck (Stranger God) unpacks the meaning behind the music and lyrics of singer-songwriter Johnny Cash (1932-2003) in this wonderful work...Fans of the Man in Black who are interested in how his faith informed his career will love this." --Publishers Weekly

"This is a book for everyone, even if you are new to the music of the Man in Black. I wouldn't have considered myself a Johnny Cash fan, but that changed with Beck's thoughtful storytelling about this beautiful, yet troubled man who somehow found salvation with the damned." --Luke Norsworthy, pastor; author of God over Good

"A must read for Cash's legion of fans..." --Booklist

"For longtime fans and those who know nothing about the Man in Black, this book is a profound and beautiful meditation on the spiritual legacy of Cash, a story of how each of us can find salvation and grace in surprising and unlikely places. Trains, Jesus and Murder will heal your heart, stir your soul, and call you to action." --Ian Morgan Cron, author of The Road Back to You

"Beck's book is a fascinating, engaging, and contextualized deep dive into the sacramental gifts Cash gave us through his music, poetry, stories, and worldview, reminding us of the power of being seen and heard. Cash's legacy is one of deep theology, driven by a train-like rhythm, that points us toward redemption--and Beck has captured it perfectly." --Jayme R. Reaves, public theologian and coordinator for the Centre for Encountering the Bible, Sarum College, Salisbury, England

"Trains, Jesus, and Murder is a moving account of Johnny Cash, which simultaneously teaches us much about the cultural matrix we call Americana and the meaning of the gospel--one that encompasses our deep brokenness and the possibilities of a grace so beautiful that it could only be approached in lyric and song." --Lee C. Camp, host of Tokens Show ( and professor, Lipscomb University, Nashville

"Beck's voice is perfectly pitched throughout, rooted in his own ministry to the incarcerated, and refracted through his dual expertise as both a psychologist and a theologian, Bravo. What an extraordinary and wonderful book." --Eve Poole, author of Leadersmithing and Capitalism's Toxic Assumptions

"Not only does it hum with the heart and story of the Man in Black, it also clears the dust off of Johnny Cash's deeply held theology. This is a beautiful book." --David Benjamin Blower, musician, author of Sympathy for Jonah, host of the Nomad Podcast

"Richard Beck captures Johnny Cash in ways no one else might, exploring our universal struggles at the intersection of brokenness, healing, and faith. You don't have to love Johnny Cash to be captivated by him and, more importantly, by the Jesus who is reaching out to you the same way he did the Man in Black." --Sean Isaac Palmer, author of Unarmed Empire: In Search of Beloved Community, speaking coach, and teaching pastor, Ecclesia Houston