I just heard that George Jones passed away. To say that he was an icon in my life was an understatement. His music was so much a part of the backdrop of my childhood that I don't even know how to explain it but I’m going to go with some meager attempt to put this into words.
I was raised on a steady diet of music, and adopted a surprising amount of my parent’s musical tastes. I enjoyed Elvis Presley's music as much or more as anything that was put out by my generation. Not being raised in the rural South, my wife doesn’t have this problem, but I assure you that my extended family will be as sad over the passing of George Jones as my mom was when Elvis died. He’s part of our culture, like it or not. But Elvis and George Jones are really good examples of the strange disconnect I’ve seen in music and musicians in the last 18 years.
You see, when I got saved, my entire life changed, not overnight though. For quite a while after I got saved, I continued to listen to the music I grew up on. But the songs about drinking and cheating and fighting and fornicating didn’t appeal to the new man as much as they did (and still do) to the old man, so God delivered me from my music. I can honestly say that it has been probably over 12 years since I have, on purpose, listened to secular music. I had to, for the sake of my own spiritual growth, walk away from music that part of me had a deep emotional attachment to.
I do still suffer though, from my exposure to the world’s music in that I have a really hard time remembering Bible verses, but I can tell you every word from Bananrama’s ‘Cruel Summer’. It takes less than 4 or 5 notes of a song from my past over a department store PA to plant the song in my head for the rest of the day. I can tell you who sang it, when it came out, and sometimes what record company. I can usually tell you where I was and who I was with the first time I heard it. These are usually memories I don’t want, or don’t need, but there they are, burned forever into the grooves of my mind.
What I’ve never been able to understand in my own mind how somebody could know the same Jesus I do ( as Elvis claimed to) and experience the same salvation I experienced (which Jones claimed to) and still get up night after night and sing about ungodliness. If it grieved me to listen to it, how can it not grieve them to sing it and promote it and do interviews about it and sign autographs over it?
A few years back my grandmother, who straddled the fence on this issue like most Southerners do until the day she died, told me that Alan Jackson had just put out a gospel album. She had to tell me this because I was making a concerted efforts to be ignorant of what was going on in the secular music world. I asked her “Does he still sing ‘Pop a top again, I think I’ll have another round’?” The fact that a singer growing up in the post-biblical South can sing about Jesus on one side of the record and drinking on the other is proof of how apostate Christianity is in the American South. The fact that such incongruous sentiments can exist in the heart and lives of so many people leave me scratching my head and saying ‘Am I the only one bothered by this?’.
I’ve got tons of examples in my head. There was a song out once talking about the ‘old dirt road’ and one of the lines is something like ‘it’s where I drank my first beer, it’s where I first found Jesus’. That puts it out there that one of those would never prevent the other and those events are both equally noteworthy, when in really one is an enslaving affront to God’s holiness and the other is the best thing to ever happen to a man.
I hope George Jones was saved. He claimed to have been and even gave Jesus the credit for delivering him from his self-destructive behavior, even as he sold records containing songs which glorified self-destructive behavior. One thing is for certain, if he wasn’t before, he’s a Bible believer now.