That Old Country Church

This song just came up on the prime-time Gospel Music show (must be CTS... though this is the first time I've heard CTS at my grandparents' house. Maybe they boosted their transmission output or something.)

I have nothing against "Gospel Music" as a genre, but this song just pisses me right well off.

Oh! I'd like to go back to that Old Country Church,
And to hear the songs of praise. (songs of praise)
How the people would sing, it would make the Heavens ring,
At that Old (at that Old) Country Church.
...
Then on Sunday to see all my friends so dear to me
At that Old Country Church. (Country Church)
When it came time for prayer, ev'rybody would be there
At that Old (at that Old) Country Church.


This song has nothing to do with the worship of God, praising God, sound theology, or even joyful Christian living.

First, it is a song of idolatry, worshipping at the altar of "the America that was." This is the kind of nostalgia that drives the fruitcake industry, the wicker-furniture industry, and a sizable segment of the Christian broadcasting industry.

Now don't get me wrong, y'all, I've nothing against old-fashioned values, or even nostalgia. (I'm a re-enactor, for cryin' out loud.) But I do have a problem with people who claim that this style of Gospel music is "grounded" on the "solid rock" of scripture, when in fact it's just as willy-nilly and flimsy as any of the most sappy power-ballads Chris Tomlin has come up with. My grandfather gets a great big smile on his face when he hears Gospel Music, but he has been sold the story that he is responding to "the stories of the bible" in those old songs. I wouldn't mind that if it were true, but it's not. (No, I don't have the fortitude to tell him so.)

Not only is this particular song devoid of any significant teaching or other theological content, it represents a kind of regressive nostalgia that is killing off more and more of our most valuable family members every year. Yes, I firmly believe that nostalgia kills them. Rather than learning to live in community with other generations, to apply the wisdom of their years to the novel problems of their progeny, they are encouraged to surround themselves with "memories of the good old days" and live out their last years in a kind of fantasy world. Remembering "the old country church" is fine; I like to think about "the good old days" myself. What's wrong is singing songs about it and wishing so desperately that we could go back there because our community has left us to drift on the iceflows.

Clint Eastwood's Grand Torino addresses this sort of thing... only with a slightly different point-of-view (one which my Grandfather probably wouldn't understand... though I'm tempted to try showing it to him.) Is there a similar story written about old farm hands whose entire world has been ripped up for suburban residential development?

4 comments:

Michael said...

Amen. Also, good writing! Your "This is the kind of nostalgia that drives the fruitcake industry, the wicker-furniture industry, and a sizable segment of the Christian broadcasting industry" cracked me up.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I happen to like fruitcake! And wicker furniture if it happens to be in the form of a very comfortable padded rocking chair my parents had eons ago. Only comfortable wicker though. And only homemade yummy fruitcake - I dislike most storebought ones :p

Anonymous said...

oops, forgot to sign off.

IB

Jack said...

That's what I'm saying, though--it's not the quality of the fruitcake that drives the industry, it's the nostalgia.
When you actually go to Superstore and buy the plastic-wrapped product, take it home and try to eat it, then you realize that *the cake is a lie.*