It’s the End of the World as Hank Williams Jr. Knows It

I grew up listening to a weird mix of music. Public Enemy, Stryper and Hank Williams Jr. to name a few. I’m still waiting on these three to go on tour together. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

There was this Hank Williams Jr. song that fascinated me. Country Boy Can Survive. To my knowledge, it was country music’s first apocalyptic song. Hank, it appears, was apocalyptic before apocalyptic was cool. Take that, Katniss!

The more I listened to the song and sang it in my head, the more I convinced myself that I was a country boy and that I could survive. Never mind the fact that I lived in the south Atlanta suburbs and struggled with opening a can of Beanie Weenies. Surely, just singing the words to the song would suffice. Surely.

I was in my mid 20s before I realized just how wrong I was.

In the song, Hank catalogs all of his country boy skills. Making homemade wine, spitting Beechnut in some dude’s eye and, as I understood it, running “a truck line.” I spent years wondering how being able to manage a fleet of 18-wheelers would prove beneficial in an apocalyptic scenario. But, I thought it best not to question Mr. Williams Jr. So I carried on singing about “skinning bucks” and “running truck lines.”

And then I was corrected by an authentic country boy.

“It’s trot line.”

“What?”

“Trot line. Not truck line.”

“Oh… Well what’s a trot line?”

I learned two very important lessons from that short conversation.

1. I was not, in fact, a country boy.

2. I would not be doing any surviving. Unless there would be someone with me who happened to be skilled at the fine art of opening Beanie Weenie cans.

If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves in the same situation on Sunday mornings. We may call our singing worship. It may even feel like worship. But in reality it is nothing of the sort. If we’re honest, we don’t even know what we’re singing. And even worse, we’re nowhere close to living it.

Jesus hates this kind of worship. He told us as much when he quoted Isaiah to the religious leaders.

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV)

The kind of worship that Jesus loves is the kind that overflows from a heart of gratitude towards him and love towards one another. Paul says to sing, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

It’s interesting that most disputes I hear about in churches have something to do with music. It’s either too loud, too old or too new. No matter how sincerely we subscribe to our views and particular form of worship, much of these arguments fly in the face of the kind of worship that Jesus is after.

He’s not as concerned with musical harmony as he is with harmony among his people.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14 (ESV)

Worship, just like being a country boy, is more than just singing a song. It’s living a life.

The singing is just the soundtrack.

Pickin’ On Obamacare

I’m not a fan of Brad Paisley’s or Carrie Underwood’s music. In my opinion, the best country music is made by artists who most people have never heard of, artists who are already dead and artists who should already be dead. Oh, and Dwight Yoakam too. So needless to say, on Wednesday night I didn’t watch the CMAs.

But a lot of people did. And right at the beginning of the show they were treated to a parody of Obamacare from the aforementioned Paisley and Underwood, the hosts of the show. As you can see below, the crowd went nuts. That is to say, there was a lot of laughing and cheering.

And as you might expect, the rest of the watching world went nuts too. That is to say, a lot of people didn’t like it. One Twitter user compared it to a lynch mob. Also, I’m guessing that within the next ten minutes the video will be yanked from YouTube and Paisley and Underwood will be sent to a reeducation camp hosted by the fine people from the Federal Organization Overseeing Lyrical Subjects (FOOLS).

A while back, country music quit being good because it lost it’s soul. Instead of making music for working families, artists started to write songs about mud and something that bordered on date rape. Instead of voicing concern over a particular issue, we got songs about some guy’s truck and Daisy Duke.

The same thing has happened to hip-hop. In the 80s and 90s, Public Enemy and X Clan stirred the pot by addressing what they were seeing in the world. Over time, that devolved into Drake complaining about how hard it is to be rich and Jay Z being buddies with the president and rapping about French art.

To a certain extent, musicians are supposed to make us dance. But the good ones have a way of also making us think, even if we don’t agree with their conclusion.

In the early 1970s Neil Young’s Southern Man critiqued what he saw as a southern culture where Civil War era racism still lingered. Not everyone agreed with his conclusions but the message was from the heart. The band Lynyrd Skynyrd were among those who disagreed so they wrote a classic response to Mr. Young’s song. Even Neil Young liked their Sweet Home Alabama, saying, “They play it like they mean it” and, “I’m proud to have my name in a song like theirs.”

During the Bush administration The Dixie Chicks made headlines when they expressed their opposition to the war in Iraq, even going so far as to say, “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

The world erupted. Some folks agreed and some did not. There were boycotts, record burnings and, no doubt, awkwardly long conversations at dinner tables about whether or not those three ladies have any right expressing an opinion about a sitting president during a time of war.

But for the last several years, there has been none of that. No rap songs telling us to fight the power. No modern day Rage Against the Machine screaming against the injustices that come from high places. No albums like Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief.

And that should concern us. Not because mainstream music is losing its soul, which it is. We should be concerned for more important reasons. Reasons that run to the very core of what our nation was founded on.

If artists no longer question their government, whether it be through parody or music, it’s likely because fear has trumped freedom and comfort has replaced awareness.

So you may not agree with what Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood did Wednesday night. Or maybe you hated what the Dixie Chicks said all of those years ago. That’s fine. But you should still want them to publicly say those things.

Because when artists no longer question their government it results in something a whole lot worse than bad music.

The Craziest Person on the Planet or How to Get Out of Jury Duty

I knew what it was as soon as I pulled it out of my mailbox.  The envelope had a government address on it but even without that, I could tell what it was.  I was being selected for jury duty again.

But this time it was different.

This time it was for a federal case.  There was no invitation inside.  Just a scan-tron test.  You know, the number 2 pencil kind that you had to take in the 11th grade.  It turns out that the feds want you to take one of these before they invite you to serve as a juror.  If you come across as normal enough, you get the invite.

And therein lies the secret to getting out of jury duty.  You have to make them think that you’re the craziest person on the planet.  If they think that you’re just like everyone else, go ahead and plan on being in court for a few days next month.  You have to make them think that you’re unique, that you are nobody’s peer.  So here’s what I plan to write out on a separate sheet of paper and staple to my scan-tron test.  Just to prove that I am insane and thus unfit to serve as a juror.

Dear Jury Selector, 

Due to my personal bouts with insanity, I don’t think that I would be a good fit for jury duty.  If you don’t believe me, here’s the proof.  

1.  I have no idea how to place an order at Starbucks.  Also, due to my failure to properly navigate my way through the self check out line, I’m not allowed in four different grocery store chains.  If it wasn’t for the good people at Crazy Al’s Sack -N- Save I would have to live off of the land.  

2.  I don’t watch daytime television.

3.  For next year’s Super Bowl, I think that the NFL should go with dogs catching frisbees.  A dog catching a frisbee is much more entertaining than 98% of the potential halftime show performers.  

4.  I hate television singing contests and I think that reality TV is faker than professional wrestling.

5.  I like to listen to Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Public Enemy.  

6.  My kids are four and six.  Their favorite TV shows are Fat Albert and The Brady Bunch.  It’s 2013 but they are becoming products of 1972.  I had to put my foot down when they asked if they could put up a poster of Farrah Fawcett.  The other night my four-year-old asked me if we could watch The Andy Griffith Show together.  I’ve never been more proud.  

7.  Cornbread with sugar in it is a lot like heroin.  It might make you feel good but it’s just not right.

8.  I’m a 37-year-old man and it happened two decades ago but if you were to show me the video of Sid Bream coming around third base to score the winning run against the Pirates in the NLCS and send the Braves to the World Series, I would cheer like it’s happening live.  And when it’s over, I might even cry.  And give you a high five.

9.  I think that people who use the phrases, “It is what it is,”One game at a time,” and “Just saying” should be forced to serve as jurors at least twice a month. 

10.  I also think that people who use the phrase, “From Wall Street to Main Street” should have to stand trial before the jurors listed above. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The Craziest Person on the Planet

That should do the trick and keep me from being invited to jury duty.

But it just might get me invited to Guantanamo Bay.

Say a prayer for me.