The Theology of Country Music

During my recent trip to visit my mom I decided to listen exclusively to country music on the radio. I have always been a fan of this music genre- especially the older stuff- but had not listened to it very much recently. I must say that I was impressed at the core values that most of the songs I heard expressed. As I took in these proclamations of faith and family- I must admit- the cynic in me was saying that it was all just a Nashville ploy to get folks like me to buy the CDs. But that cynicism gave way and I soon found myself getting lost in the touching lyrics and the sweet sounds of the steel guitar.

A good number of the songs focused on family and seemed to target the dad/daughter relationship. The current king of country music, George Strait, has a wonderful song out entitled I Saw God Today which celebrates the birth of a baby girl. Rodney Atkins in Come On In Boy sings about cleaning his gun as he talks to his daughter’s date. Ole Achy Breaky Billy Ray Cyrus and his mega-teen-star daughter, Miley, sing a very tender duet entitled Ready, Set, Don’t Go about the bittersweet leaving-the-nest period.  And Chuck Wicks song, Stealing Cinderella, made me go all mushy as I heard it for the first time. I could not help but think about my two precious little girls- Taylor and Jordan.

In that same vein, Trace Adkins sings about how You’re Gonna Miss This when special moments with family- even the challenging ones- are a part of your past and not your present. Like Charlene Darling, that one made me cry too.

I particularly enjoyed Alan Jackson’s latest- Small Town Southern Man.  Being a small-town southern man it connected. I have known and respected quite a few men who “bowed their head to Jesus and stood for Uncle Sam.”

Two songs in particular are still lingering in certain parts of my heart. 

Brooks and Dunn’s haunting God Must Be Busy visits the often problematic question of God’s presence in an destructive, violent world. It is definitely worth a listen.

And then there is the amazing vocal sound of Jennifer Nettles in Sugarland’s Stay. You can literally feel the pain and the empowerment of the woman on the wrong end of a love-affair with a married man as she comes to realize the hopelessness of her adulterous situation.

I did hear a few oldies and a couple of newer songs with the more traditional drinking, loving and leaving themes of country music but they were in the minority.

On this trip I discovered the theology of country music- and it was pretty solid.

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28 Responses to The Theology of Country Music

  1. Bobby says:

    Danny,

    I am starting to really love your blog — and this country music post pushes me over the top. (Smile.)

    I read where George Strait’s “I Saw God Today” entered the top 40 ranked higher than any George song to date. I have listened to it a few times and am not really “getting into” the song.

    But I am in love with “Stealing Cinderella” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.” In fact, i tried — unsuccessfully — to write my Christian Chronicle column as a take off of the Trace Adkins song (“You’re Gonna Miss This”) for the last issue. I never really could nail it, so I went a different direction.

    I laughed out loud the first time I heard “Come On In Boy.” As for the Billy Ray Cyrus song, i saw them write that on an episode of the “Hannah Montana” show, so i know the real story behind it. Ha.

    Anyway, I could ramble on all day about country music … although I find myself listening more and more to adult contemporary … so i can get my 80s pop fix.

    — Bobby

  2. dannydodd says:

    Hey Bobby, glad to know you are a country music fan!

  3. Jim says:

    I like (some) country. My favorite religious themed songs are: Believer by Brooks and Dunn, Saved and Live this Life (this is the best one) and baptized by Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney. The best “corny” songs are “Praise the Lord and Send Me the Money” and “Drop Kick Me Jesus (through the goal posts of life). And, of course, the lasting standard is “I saw the Light” by Hank. Now if you want a DEEP secular album….check out Audioslave’s self named 1st album!

  4. preacherman says:

    Danny,
    Great post.
    I always wondered about those who liked country music and what it was about that people like. 🙂
    I hope you have a great week.

  5. I usually listen to Harding University and Sycamore View CDs in my car but my favorite funny country music song is on youtube

  6. Trey Morgan says:

    Danny,

    I just can’t do country music, I’ve tried, I really have. It’s just too…. country. I did do a list the other day of country music songs I’d like to write…

    She Thinks My Preaching is Sexy
    If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I’d Blow Them All On You
    Honey, Don’t Let Your Negligee Turn Into a Flannel Nightgown
    Wake Me Up When There’s a Wreck (The NASCAR Ballad)
    If You Were a Booger, I’d Pick you First
    If You Leave, Please Don’t Take My NIV.
    Nobody is Look’n, So Scoot Over and Let’s Snuggle on the Church Pew
    I’ll Like Your NASCAR Driver When the Waffle House Decides to Close

  7. odgie says:

    I like the traditional stuff – Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, etc. I also like bluegrass and “alternative” country, such as Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, and pre-incarceration Steve Earle.

    I think my favorite spiritually-themed songs are “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis and “When I Get Where I’m Going” by Brad Paisley.

  8. J D says:

    As you know, I’m a country fan from way back. There is something about country music that can touch the heart … I think country music is more about the story than any other genre. If you can listen to Martina McBride singing God’s Will without tears, you’re a statue. Sometimes I listen to the country genre mix on my iPod and enjoy it … although mostly I’m into contemporary Christian music. There is, of course, some country music that is just not fit to listen to … and some themes that are far from Christian. However even when George Jones sings If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me Your Memory Will, there’s a tremor of pain in that voice that just reaches beyond the corniness of the lyric.Loretta Lynn’s plain and unashamed vocals are genuine and she wasn’t afraid to be controversial in her day (“The Pill”, for example). Coal Miner’s Daughter remains one of my favorite movies. I actually haven’t heard any of the songs you listed above, although I have heard of the singers. I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention the fantastic Dolly Parton. If we can look beyond the boob jokes, she is an extrordinary song writer, entertaining performer, and an altruistic mega star who turned her backwoods home town into a tourist metroplex, thus assisting them out of the poverty of her childhood.

  9. dannydodd says:

    JD, you have put into good words how I feel about country music. There is just something in the songs- the way they are sung- the inflection in voices, etc that reach me- even the honky tonk songs- and I have never even been to a honky tonk. Must be something about growing up in the Mississippi Delta.

    Odgie, I love bluegrass too. Those fiddle and banjo sounds are incredible! Anyone for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs?

    Trey, country music is not for everyone, that is for sure. I think it takes a little redneck in us to enjoy it. I have long acknowledged the redneck in me. But those song titles you mentioned…. lol.

    Follow Tammie’s link and you can hear one of them.

    Preacherman, now you know who likes country and why. Thanks for your comment.

    And Jim mentioned some classic country music theology! Hank Sr singing I Saw the Light is an all-time classic.

  10. TCS says:

    I’ll just have to take your word for it.

  11. TCS says:

    now I meant to say before that submitted was I can take the old stuff. Like Hank Sr.

  12. Jim says:

    What most people don’t know is that “I saw the light” was not written about faith but about Hank seeing the spotlight at Dannelly Field (the airport in Montgomery) and knowing that he was close to home.

  13. Donna says:

    whatever…
    I can’t get into either….and Trey and I both like Nascar..how redneck can you get???

  14. bobbyvalentine says:

    Don’t know much about country music … except Shania Twain, 😉

    Bobby V

  15. Jim says:

    similar topic….are you familiar with Cowboy Church?

  16. dannydodd says:

    Jim, the graphic at the top of this post is the logo for the Cowboy church. And are you sure about which light Hank was referring to in this song? What does an airport light have to do with once being aimlessly lost in sin before letting the dear savior in?

    Donna, I used to call Nascar- Neckcar! lol But how can’t you not like country music? 😉

    Bobby, Shania is a good one to know. I went to one of her concerts and it was all energy all the time. Well worth the money.

  17. Teresa Jurczak says:

    I am also a big fan of country music. For those of you who don’t listen to “today’s country” you might be surprised ‘it is not your Grandpa’s country’ There are a lot of young singers that also crossover to pop music. As Danny pointed out, there are so many good songs that reference faith,and family. Another good one is I’ve been watching you. Jennifer also likes country so it is a bonding time in the car to share some of the lyrics together.

  18. Danny says:

    Glad to see you got home in good fashion.Hope your trip up this way has been great. I agree on your choice of music. Our daughter was married four years ago… I thought about sending a cd of “Stealing Cinderella” to my son-in-law. Maybe he’ll think its funny… I know my girl will like it.
    Danny Holman

  19. dannydodd says:

    Danny, it was great meeting you! Folks at South Main are excited about your ministry there.

    Teresa, I did not know that Jennifer was a country fan. Cool!

  20. Wow, Billy Ray seems to have made a comeback. And I thought he was a 1 hit wonder. I don’t miss the mullet though. 🙂

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