The other night, I was turning the radio dial (actually now pushing the button) trying to find something worth listening to and I was drawn to some electronically-enhanced Vegas-style country singer telling a familiar tale —
I’m a long-gone Waylon song on vinyl,I’m a back row sinner at a tent revival,But she believes in me like she believes her Bible,And loves me like Jesus does.I’m a left-foot-leaning on a souped-up Chevy,I’m a good old boy, drinking whiskey and rye on the levee,But she carries me when my sins make me heavy,And loves me like Jesus does.All the crazy in my dreams, Both my broken wings,Every single piece of everything I am, Yeah, she knows the man I ain’t,She forgives me when I can’t,The devil, man, no, he don’t stand a chance,‘Cause she loves me like Jesus does.I always thought she’d give up on me one day,Wash her hands of me, leave me staring down some runway,But I thank God each night, and twice on Sunday,That she loves me like Jesus does. (from “Like Jesus Does” by Eric Church)
What is the “good news” here? And is it really “Good News”?
First, it is good that the singer acknowledges himself to be a sinner. He is humble, it seems. But has he been redeemed? He says, “he is a long-gone Waylon song on vinyl”. It seems he is lost in sin. So where does he turn? To Jesus? Nope. To the love of a good woman. On the one hand, you have to admire that she loves him “like Jesus does”, but you also have to wonder what this means, if she believes in him [her man] “like she believes her Bible”.
The woman’s faith is somehow strong enough to balance allegiance to God with loyalty to her “good old boy, drinking whiskey and rye on the levee.” Her faith is strong enough even to carry him and the weight of his sins. She believes, so he doesn’t have to. Is this loving like Jesus does?
Again, he admits his “craziness” and “brokenness” – essentially his need for forgiveness. But who forgives him? God? Nope. His little woman, of course, whose redemptive love is so powerful that even the devil himself doesn’t stand a chance. All he can do is be grateful to God for her (perhaps saying a prayer on his way to the levee for more whiskey and rye).
I must admit as much as I love classic country music, this theme of a hard-living outlaw saved by the love of a good woman is an archetype celebrated in song and even revered in life. Take Johnny Cash and June Carter, for instance. Until June came along, Johnny was on a sure road to destruction. Even with her help, he lived on the outlaw edge, but with her by his side, it was if he were made complete, redeemed by her love.
This false theology does an injustice both to God and humanity. When we strip the story of Christ’s sacrificial love on the cross and hang it around the necks of even the best women, we commit idolatry.
For the women, we are setting them up for abusive relationships where men can destroy themselves and those around them while the women are left behind to pray (and, of course, stand by his side).
Men, then, are freed from the responsibility of faithful living and grow up never really growing up.
Good news? What do you think?
(photo above “Eric Church – Having a Beer On…” from tncountryfan)