Beware of Country Music Christianity
by Jason Wisdom
You’re not supposed to say
The word cancer in a song
And tellin’ folks that Jesus is the answer
Can rub ’em wrong…
But this is country music, and we do.
Brad Paisley is right. Telling people that Jesus is the only way to heaven (though Paisely’s lyric is not quite that specific. “Jesus is the answer” has become a sort of catch-all Christian cliche’) is something that is increasingly frowned upon in America today . Yet even in the year 2014, country artists don’t seem to have a problem making reference to Jesus. The most famous example in recent years has to be Carrie Underwood’s 2005 hit “Jesus Take the Wheel.” To a certain extent, it is almost expected that a country artist will make some mention of Jesus, God, faith, prayer, going to church on Sundays, and/or heaven. It is somewhat obligatory. Why is that? I would argue that it is isn’t because most country music artists are dedicated followers of Christ. Nor do I believe it is because the majority of people who listen to country radio are regenerate believers. Rather, I think it because Jesus and Christianity carry a
great deal of cultural nostalgia for fans of country music. They remind people of “the good old days.” It’s a little bit like when you go to Cracker Barrel and appreciate all of the antique memorabilia on the walls. You can sit in a rocking chair, and play checkers by the fire. It just feels good. But in reality, Cracker Barrel is not a real old-timey restaurant, any more than Olive Garden is authentic Italian, or Outback Steakhouse is genuine Australian cuisine.
Don’t get me wrong, I love their food. But these are multi-million dollar a year super-businesses, not mom-n-pop, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. My point is simply that those restaurants are popular because they create the atmosphere that people desire without any of the risk or messiness that often comes with local places. Instead, they already have the elements you are looking for–they have the right lighting, and the right decorations on the wall (and the food is pretty good too). I think the same dynamic is at work in what I call country music. Throw in few sprinkles of Jesus here, a mention of God there, a verse about prayer, and it starts to feel warm and cozy. No need for the real thing. That can get uncomfortable, messy, and it takes me too far out of the way. Some of have called this phenomenon “cultural Christianity,” or “almost Christianity.” I prefer to call it “country music Christianity.” Here are just a few reasons why…
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