Chuck Armstrong is a pastor and writer in New York City. Originally from a town of about 150 people in northeast Kansas, he lives in Hell’s Kitchen with his family.

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Drive-By Truckers Await the Resurrection of Moral Christianity

by Chuck Armstrong 06-25-2020
“If I were a devout Christian, I would be devoutly offended.”

The Drive-By Truckers / Danny Clinch

IN 1996, PATTERSON Hood and Mike Cooley co-founded Drive-By Truckers, an alternative-country rock band based in Athens, Ga., that has always celebrated speaking truth to power while making unforgettable music. Over the years, Hood and Cooley have remained the chief songwriters in the band, and one thing has been constant since day one: They speak their minds. That has never been truer than on their latest record, The Unraveling.

“It’s a heavy record, it’s really heavy,” says Hood. “It was painful to write.”

Much of that heaviness revolves around Hood and Cooley plunging themselves into the hypocrisy of the evangelical movement that has come to a vivid crescendo since the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“I’m not going to put up any pretense that I’m religious, but there’s a lot of Christianity in my background,” Hood admits. “I have very, very close family members who, until fairly recently, considered themselves part of the Christian Right.” He watched as those family members experienced a political turnaround, partly due to how they saw politicians co-opting their faith in ways that went against their interpretation of the teachings of Jesus.

“They’re particularly offended by the whole ‘thoughts and prayers’ thing being bandied about as an excuse to do nothing, as an excuse for inaction,” he says. Because of that, he put pen to paper and wrote the aptly titled “Thoughts and Prayers,” a hauntingly beautiful song that forces listeners to confront the senseless gun violence for which America has become known.