Obviously, I love music. Specifically, I love music well-done. It doesn’t matter the genre of what I’m listening to…I just know that I like and appreciate those who craft music well.
I don’t like rap. Check that…I don’t like rap that is vile, course, and filled with language reserved for conversational cripples. I do appreciate rap that is used to glorify God. Check out Shai Linne. He’s East Coast rap (as if I know what I’m talking about…I’m just repeating what I’ve been told) with a message.
But, I digress.
If you check out the presets on my radio, or my iPod, you’ll find everything from Gregorian Chant to Rock to Jazz to Motown to Country…and everything in between.
One thing that has me concerned, though, is the relationship between country music and Christianity. You’ve heard it said that, in our churches, we learn much of our theology from our songs. If that is the case with country music, we’re in trouble.
Here are a few country songs that take us directly to the subject of God and Jesus. They all pretty much have in common several themes: 1) heaven, 2) works theology, 3) repentance, and 4) someone’s death. There are more, but those are the main ones that pervade the country lyric.
That’s what I love about Sunday:
Sing along as the choir sways;
Every verse of Amazin’ Grace,
An’ then we shake the Preacher’s hand.
Go home, into your blue jeans;
Have some chicken an’ some baked beans.
Pick a back yard football team,
Not do much of anything:
That’s what I love about Sunday.
2. “When I Get Where I’m Going” by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton. Yep…it’s about heaven, but other than the obligatory reference to “spread my wings and fly”, it’s not bad. I especially love the verse that says,
I’m gonna walk with my grandaddy,
and he’ll match me step for step,
and I’ll tell him how I missed him,
every minute since he left.
Then I’ll hug his neck.
The second line speaks of the promise of resurrection bodies that are perfect…not wracked with pain or cancer. The chorus states,
Yeah when I get where I’m going,
there’ll be only happy tears.
I will shed the sins and struggles,
I have carried all these years.
And I’ll leave my heart wide open,
I will love and have no fear.
Yeah when I get where I’m going,
Don’t cry for me down here.
3. “Me and God” by Josh Turner. Here’s a song that seems to imply that we’re sold out to working with God as “a team.” Well…I don’t know about you, but there are times when I’m not on God’s team. Quite the opposite, in fact. Several other things are bothersome, too.
Me and God
You could say where like two peas in a pod.
Two peas in a pod? Really?
He’s the one I lean on
When life gets hard.
How about let’s trust God all the time, not just when we can’t make it work on our own.
He’s my Father
He’s my friend
And the end
He rules the world
With a staff and rod
We’re a team
Me and God
Some valid theology here. But, “we’re a team” implies God needs me to get things done. That’s not the case.
4. “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner. This song implores us to stay off of the “long black train.” That train? It’s sin, and “that devil’s drivin’ that long black train.” The chorus is a good one.
‘Cause there’s victory in the Lord, I say,
Victory in the Lord!
Cling to the Father and His Holy name,
And don’t go ridin’ on that long black train.
5. “Great Speckled Bird” by Roy Acuff. I heard my dad sing this one when I was a child. Didn’t have a clue what the “speckled bird” referred to, but I knew it was a country song that talked about my name being recorded “on the pages of God’s Holy Word.” It’s an old hymn, written in the 1920’s, and the great bird is a reference to Jeremiah 12:9 (KJV). In the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the 1920’s and ’30’s, the Fundamentalists sang this song and proclaimed they were the true church. Here’s a video of Roy crooning these fundamentalist truths. Here are 3 of many verses:
What a beautiful thought I am thinking
Concerning a great speckled bird
Remember her name is recorded
On the pages of God’s Holy Word.
All the other birds are flocking ’round her
And she is despised by the squad
But the great speckled bird in the Bible
Is one with the great church of God.
All the other churches are against her
They envy her glory and fame
They hate her because she is chosen
And has not denied Jesus’ name.
6. “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. It’s been a long, hard year. It’s Christmas Eve, snowing, the roads are icy and a single mom and her baby are headed home “to see her Mama and Daddy.” A near accident and now we’re confessing, crying and pleading for Jesus to help. The only thing that would have made this song better is to spend 90 minutes in heaven. This one’s typical…we’ve tried to do things on our own, ignoring God, and now things are a mess and God is the only one to turn to.
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I’m on
Jesus take the wheel
7. “The Heaven I’m Headed To” by Dierks Bentley. This one gives us a universal feel for inclusion into paradise. Heaven isn’t “for the precious few”, although the Bible clearly states that not everyone will enter there. But, according to Dierks, there’s “no telling who on earth He might include.” Yet, Dierks seems pretty certain he has a place in heaven. I’m just glad he threw in “preachers.”
‘Cause in the heaven I’m headed to
There’s a place for preachers, thieves and prostitutes
Saints and soldiers, beggers, kings and renegades
For any soul that ever found amazing grace
Ain’t no tellin’ who on earth He might include
In the heaven I’m headed to.
8. “Unanswered Prayer” by Garth Brooks. Just the title alone gets us on the wrong track. Before I ever hear the song, I’m thinking God doesn’t care about my prayer, nor that he has a providential plan for my life. I think the better title would have been “Thank God He’s not a Genie and Doesn’t Grant Wishes.” Gotta trust God in all things.
And, finally, the two worst songs I know that combine country music and theology.
9. “Hole in the Floor of Heaven” by Steve Wariner. While Rob Bell said there’s no hell, Steve stops just short of saying there’s no heaven. Or, at least, heaven is not the place described in Scripture.
‘Cause there’s holes in the floor of Heaven
and her tears are pourin’ down
that’s how you know she’s watchin’
wishin’ she could be here now
And sometimes if you’re lonely
just remember she can see
there’s holes in the floor of Heaven
and she’s watchin’ over you and me.
Grandma has died, but you can take solace in knowing that, whenever it rains, her tears are falling through the hole in the floor of heaven. Why? Because she wants to be back in this sinful, awful world instead of in the presence of Jesus. But, alas, not to worry. She’s giving Jesus a break and watching over you and me so He doesn’t have to. Yeesh…speaking of crying.
10. “God Must Be Busy” by Brooks and Dunn. Bad things happen in this world because of the sinful nature of us all. In the classic “shift the blame” fashion, we don’t take the blame…we place it on God, who, we rationalize, must be busy doing something else or he would stop these bad things from happening. Maybe if Grandma hadn’t replaced God in watching over you and me, crying through the holes in the floor of heaven, God would be paying attention and stop these atrocities.
And I know in the big picture
I’m just a speck of sand
And God’s got better things to do
Than look out for one man
I know He’s heard my prayers
‘Cause He hears everything
He just ain’t answered back or He’d bring you back to me
God must be busy
But, let’s not leave the blame just on country music. There are some Christians songs and hymns we sing that are as bad. Those will be coming soon!