Earl Wilson once said that “one way to get high blood pressure is to go mountain climbing over molehills”. If the following story were Jeopardy categories it would go something like this…
“Let’s go with ridiculous church and state objections for $50, Alex.”
And then you would follow up with this category.
“I’ll take spectacular over reactions for $100, Alex.”
Ding – ding – ding. It’s the DAILY DOUBLE!
In preparation for a guest appearance at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta this year, a marching band at C.D. Hylton High School in Prince William County decided to prepare a Georgia themed show. One of the fun songs they chose was ’The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ by the Charlie Daniels Band. Alert readers are probably already rolling their eyes in anticipation of where this is going.
You got it. A local newspaper published a letter by a Woodbridge resident who wondered how a song about the devil could be played at school events because of the separation of church and state. You probably know the song. Satan challenges a young man named Johnny to a high stakes duel. If he loses the devil gets his soul and if Johnny wins he gets a fiddle made of gold. Robert McLean argued that the song’s depiction might constitute an endorsement of Christianity. May we review the lyrics?
The devil opened up his case and he said, ‘I’ll start this show.’ And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow. And he pulled the bow across the strings and it made an evil hiss. Then a band of demons joined in and it sounded somethin’ like this:
When the devil finished, Johnny said, ‘Well, you’re pretty good, old son, but sit down in that chair right there and let me show you how it’s done.’
Fire on the mountain. Run, boys, run. The devil’s in the House of the Rising Sun. Chicken in the bread pan pickin’ out dough. Granny, does your dog bite? No, child, no.
The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat. And he laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet. Johnny said, ‘Devil, just come on back if you ever want to try again. ‘Cause I told you once, you son of a gun, I’m the best that’s ever been.’
Now I see the clear connection to Christianity. Boy am I embarrassed! All of these years we could have been playing ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ instead of ‘Just as I Am’ at the end of sermons. Picture the choir singing in beautiful harmony…
Chicken in the bread pan pickin’ out dough. Granny, does your dog bite? No, child, no.
Dozens of sinners stream to the altar because they are moved by the theological implications of the lyric. Perhaps the metaphor of the chicken in the bread pan relates to how man does not live by bread alone. But more likely it is a meaningless lyric about a chicken in the bread pan.
Fearing bad public reaction the school’s band director, Dennis Brown, pulled the song from the playlist because of this one letter to the local paper.
‘I was just being protective of my students. I didn’t want any negative publicity for C.D. Hylton High School,’ Brown said. The band has been practicing the song for months and one student even purchased an electric violin for the routine. According to Brown the band played the song during the pre-game show of the state football championship in 2003 and no one complained. Perhaps only people with normal thought processes were in attendance at that game but that is just one man’s theory.
And the piece de resistance? The children of the man who started the furor are home schooled. In his words his letter was meant to start a “philosophical debate”, not to wreck any student’s marching band experience. He further defends his position by added that he loves the song. ‘It was one of the first 45s I had as a kid,’ he said.” I’m surprised he is not a missionary after hearing that clear endorsement of Christianity over and over and over.
My kingdom for some common sense. But I am afraid this will only get worse. I guess the question is how do we respond to such ridiculous logic? Certainly we should stand up for our rights as citizens of this country. But we must be prepared to communicate the hope we have with clarity, grace, and caring. I am so tired of strident Christians who don’t have well thought out or graceful reasoning. Paul faced a very hostile culture in Athens. The city was full of idols and that distressed him. But notice his response was not to lash out at them for their pagan worship of idols.
And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who happened along. He got to know some of the Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with sarcasm: “What an airhead!” But others, listening to him go on about Jesus and the resurrection, were intrigued: “That’s a new slant on the gods. Tell us more.” These people got together and asked him to make a public presentation over at the Areopagus, where things were a little quieter. They said, “This is a new one on us. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. Where did you come up with this anyway? Explain it so we can understand.” Downtown Athens was a great place for gossip. There were always people hanging around, natives and tourists alike, waiting for the latest tidbit on most anything.
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with. Acts 17 The Message
And the results of Paul’s level headed and patient approach?
Some laughed at him and walked off making jokes; others said, “Let’s do this again. We want to hear more.” But that was it for the day, and Paul left. There were still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck with Paul.
There it is folks. Some will laugh at me and walk away making jokes. Some will want to hear more. Some will accept the message of the gospel. Pray for the grace to communicate the hope of Jesus patiently.
And while you are at it…could you pray for an outpouring of common sense on this land?