Safety is Dangerous, An Alt-Country Perspective

This morning I opened with an illustration drawn from all of the alt-country music I'd been listening to lately. (Drive-by Truckers, The Band, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, etc.) Here's my introductory remarks, along with a link to the song I quoted. Enjoy!

There are lots of interesting, strange, mysterious people in the Bible, but it seems God is the most peculiar. If you start reading the Bible from page one, you may start to think God really should have gotten a better editor! There are lots of "conflicting reports":

  • We see his unfathomable love depicted alongside unspeakable wrath. 
  • He often seems personal and near to those in the Bible, but then oh so far away when he is needed. 
  • The reader is called to draw underneath his wings as if he’s a mother hen, but at the same time, take care, because to see him or to touch him can be deadly!

I’ve been listening to almost nothing but the Drive-by Truckers at work lately - on the way, during, and on the drive home. (They're and alt-country band from great state of Alabama. Roll Tide!) 

Like most country music they talk about beer, cars, trains, women, dead-end jobs, and God. But, being from the South, they talked about God from sort of Christ-haunted / Flannery O’Connor / Southern Gothic point-of-view. 

Like O'Connor, they skewer religious hypocrisy in a twisted sort of way, and satirize the way that God and Country and Southern Culture get mashed up and confused. This baptizing of our cultural practices in God-language doesn’t happen only in the South but we have an unusual cleverness for it. 

Jason Isbell used to be with the Truckers, and wrote a song called 24 Frames. The title comes from the speed of film, telling the story of someone who has run into the real God:

You thought God was an architect, now you know,
He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow,
And everything you built that’s all for show, goes up in flames.
In 24 frames.
— Jason Isbell, 24 Frames

God is deadly to the illusion of control. He’s a pipe bomb to all the ways we use him as architect to draw up plans for a safe and predictable life - especially if this life is underwritten in God’s name, at the expense of others.