An Inconvenient Inevitability

An acquaintance of mine and I were discussing Country music artists, the messages of their lyrics, and the images portrayed in their art: cover art for their packaged music, fashion, and music videos. He complains that Country music artists portray a certain ideology that seems not only far-fetched but purely theoretical -- a point of reference that hearkens back to a simpler time, perhaps the 1950s, but one that actually betrays the values, religious and social (or other: e.g., American) values, of the same.

The topic of consistency aside, there is an inconvenient inevitability inherent in this discussion, and we must embrace it as fact and reality: all artists promote their own respective worldview, whether we consider the field of music, poetry, acting, directing, narrative writing, or painting. For, not only is perspective king of all reality, but everything is also rhetoric. From the clothes we wear, to the style of our hair, every notion we live out daily "speaks" to our character and personality and preferences.

I view American culture, varied as it is, through my own specialized lens: my worldview includes ideas informed from my views on Scripture, LGBTQ rights and equality, egalitarianism, theology (Arminian), ecclesiology (Anglican), social justice and ethics within an Episcopal paradigm, a moderate Democrat socio-politico niche, with an eschatological Kingdom-oriented view of living out the teachings of Jesus in Matthew, chapters 5-7, and chapter 25; and I can in no sense whatsoever escape this framework. I live in a small town, that is politically conservative, drive a truck and listen to Country music; but I am also educated, gay, and a regenerate Christian. I am a tapestry of so many elements that make me unique; and they all contribute to form my perspective.

But each person alive also operates within his or her own particular frame of reference. We think and form and express our views, which may alter in time, in various ways every day. From what we choose to read, what type of music we listen to, what news sources we trust, what type of food we enjoy, what car we drive or don't drive, what restaurants we eat or do not eat at, what church we attend or do not attend, where we shop and refuse to shop -- every aspect of our lives inevitably shapes us.

I will restrain myself at this point from getting preachy about by what or by whom we allow ourselves to be molded. What I want is for us all to be aware that we, each one of us, consequently promote our own worldview in a myriad of ways every day. We, then, cannot complain about Country music artists perpetuating a particular worldview in their music and videos in a way that the rest of us do not: every aspect of our lives is rhetoric and perspective is king. These twin truths have been inevitable from the beginning.

I think the primary complaint here, regarding Country music artists and their expressed worldview, is one of preference: there are some who oppose Southern thinking and, thus, indict the artist for propagating a worldview via the form of art. In essence, then, the complaint is actually one of preference: the one alleging the charge is expressing his or her preferential discontent with the propagation of the values of that worldview and seeks correction and reform. But could not the Country artist turn the tables in his favor?

In response, all the Country artist need insist is that the worldview(s) of the one complaining is also not preferred, and that artist could seek correction and reform of the opponent's views. In practicality, then, if an LGBTQ individual wants the freedom to "love and let live," then the individual will have to afford the Country artist the same freedom. We can use, by way of example, a Classical music lover who complains about the propagation of the worldview(s) of the majority of Rap music artists.

What is the usual formulae for a successful Rap music song on the radio or the club? Money, the man (attributed to oppressive white business men or white nationalists), cops, women (bitches), partying (the club), gangsta (guns), "shakin' that ass," alcohol, and sex all attribute not only to a cultural acceptance but also to a worldview. I think this worldview is deplorable, and harmful, and I would like to seek for correction. No doubt many people of color would also like to see reform: for many of these expressions represent the living conditions in which they live their lives daily. But change lingers.

If lyric-writers are, to a large degree, merely expressing life-experiences in songs, in whatever musical genre we consider, then I find impossible complaining about that particular genre artist propagating his or her worldview -- even if I cannot identify with or particularly appreciate the worldview. But what I can acknowledge, and embrace as base reality, is that every artist is capable of perpetuating and expressing his or her worldview and not the worldview of anyone else. Obviously each of us prefers our own worldview. But may we think properly about the worldview of others.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.