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Single Serving
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT
Artist: Johnny Cash
(original artists: Depeche Mode)
Song: Personal Jesus

Phantom Tollbooth visitors: To check out Dr. BLTís re-make of Depeche Modeís Personal Jesus, hit this link:

Personal Jesus
Words and music by Dr BLT © 2007

Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there
Sounds rather intimate, doesnít it?  Think again.  The sentiments expressed in the song always had me wondering about the true intent of the songwriter.  Of course one can never read the mind of a songwriter, but after doing a little research on Depeche Mode, the original artists, I my original hypothesis concerning the intent of the writer and the meaning of the song seemed to become strengthened.  I was left with the distinct impression that the band was mocking the idea of a personal Lord and Savior, that idea embraced by evangelical Christianity.  

Johnny Cash, a known born-again, Bible-believing Christian recorded the song, recorded the song shortly before his death and it appears on 100 Highways, the posthumous CD released by American Recordings in 2006.  He took the rather impersonal feel of the original version (likely deliberately created by Depeche Mode to underscore the irony of the song, and the cynical nature of the inherent sentiment), and made it deeply personal.  His scaled down, acoustic edition, haunted by his weakened, yet distinct voice stands in stark contrast to the original.  Hereís to the late, Johnny Cash, hereís to his version of Personal Jesus and...

Hereís to 100 Highways
(as aired on Randall Cousins' Brave New Frontiers progressive country radio show)
Words and music by Dr BLT © 2007

When Christians take what the world hands us and transform it into something that points the way to the true, living savior, we are taking a lemon and making lemonade out of it.  Not that there was anything aesthetically wrong with the original.  In fact, if the original song were merely a means of shining a dark light on the hypocrisy of some who claim to know Jesus, but only use his name to promote a self-serving agenda, and who project a conspicuous spirit of self-righteousness, then it would also be aesthetic in the service of a moral purpose.  But Depeche Mode lyrics such as as those in Blasphemous Rumors, suggest that the band has an even darker shade of cynicism in their corner, and likely a very dim view of Christ, Christians and Christianity:  

Lyrics to Blasphemous Rumors by Depeche Mode

Feeling unknown
And you're all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I'll make you a believer

Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess
I will deliver
You know I'm a forgiver

These lines seem to portray a brand of Christianity marked by coercion, mind control, and crass commercialism---a cheapened, ersatz, conspicuously artificial brand of Christianity.   Thank God that this stereotype of evangelical Christianity is just that, a stereotype.  It seems Depeche Mode wanted to make ďstereo hypeĒ out of this stereotype.  Johnny Cash wouldnít have it.  He reclaimed Jesus as his own personal Jesus, not the characiture portrayed by the original artists.  
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith
In order to touch, and not mock faith, one has to have at least a mustard seedís worth of the stuff.  Every day society is increasingly impacted by a phenomenon Iíve consistently referred to as the cyanide of cynicism.  A healthy questioning of authority has turned into the anarchy-based notion that nothing is sacred.  

Johnny Cash took a mocked savior and drew that personal savior close to his heart.  What Iím doing with my rendition, is suggesting that not only is Jesus a personal Jesus, but that his death, his atonement for our sins, and resurrection is cause for dancing.  Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.  As you and I face tomorrow, letís not face it alone.  Letís bring our personal Jesus everywhere we go and shine his light on the world plagued with doubt.  

Reach out, touch faith



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