Your Momma Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll

The reasons why mainline denominations don’t
produce compelling media.

There will be no more steel guitars and fiddles, if the people don?t know what they?re worth. It?s the last country tune beneath the last country moon for the last country people on earth. Tom T. Hall, Hallnote Music, BMI/Acuff-Rose Music

I was teaching a course on popular culture and the media at a United Methodist seminary in which we examined country music as a means to understand the concerns of working class people. I contend that this music, like most other music, illuminates audience concerns. The audience wouldn?t listen to it if this weren?t true.

In this seminary class a staff member responsible for mission programs from a national denomination expressed in clear, sharp language how she would not participate in a discussion of country music.

?It?s the music of the foot soldiers (blue collar, working folks who listen to the music on the radio) of the neo-Nazis. I will not waste my time with this,? she said.

She stood and made a dramatic departure.

The Last Country Song written in 1979 by Tom T. Hall, captured a haunting sense of decline among people who define themselves as ?country.?

It?s a powerful message concurrent with the decline of basic industries in the U.S., the rapid move from small towns to cities, and the decline of rural life, which is to say the loss of a whole culture and the de-valuing of those formed within it. To hear these lyrics is to hear of a people feeling forgotten, left out, and left behind.The tragedy he captures is their sense of loss of self-worth.

For a more contemporary version of these themes listen to (Happiness) Can?t Buy You Money, or Get Drunk and Be Somebody by Toby Keith on his newest release, White Trash With Money.

I?ve heard this audience characterized as Joe Six-pack and I?ve heard all the criticism of this music; some of it is misogynist, some chauvinist, some glorifies drunkenness, and a bunch of other negative themes. Not all of it, of course, but the music gets measured by its worst attributes and this makes it a difficult sell to suburbanized mainline folks.

The question is: who is best positioned to interact with this audience, provide useful information and understand the concerns that motivate them, one who is producing programming to reach them, or one who won?t even listen? How will we understand what?s beneath these behaviors, fears, frustrations and self-destruction?

My concern is that too many mainline leaders have considered the mass audiences the ?great unwashed.? I?ve heard this diminishing term used many times by folks who would gnash their teeth at racial or ethnic epithets. Joe Six-pack is a catch-all phrase that characterizes predominantly working class and blue collar folks.

For years, I fear, the mainline has sent a message, perhaps unintentionally, that it was not concerned about these folks, and worse, they ought not to rock and roll the way they do.

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