All I Need to Know I Learned from Hank Williams | Sojourners

All I Need to Know I Learned from Hank Williams

Cheatin’ songs. That’s real poor man music. Rich guys don’t even understand somebody like Hank Williams. A rich man hardly needs a woman at all. If she runs away, who cares? He’ll go get another one. But when you’ve got nothing and not much to look forward to, then if your woman runs off and you lose the one good thing in your life, man, that just about kills you....We oughta get out of gospel and into cheatin’ songs....

—Fictional gospel singer Wendell Shepherd in Garrison Keillor’s WLT: A Radio Romance

That country music can teach us about Christian ethics may seem an odd claim. After all, country is the music of ignorance and racial bigotry, isn’t it? If I listen to country music, someone might think I’m a redneck! Yet, as Garrison Keillor’s fictional character notes, country is a music of the poor. The first lesson we can learn, then, regards stereotypes. Working-class whites (especially Southerners) are one group that can still be fashionably insulted in an era of political correctness. As the self-expression of a marginal group with whom academic ethicists and progressive Christian activists generally have little contact, country music offers a valuable perspective.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2000
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