Grady Smith wants modern country music artists to go to confession.
Raised on singers like Johnny Cash, who weren't afraid to express their salvation through God and their sinful slip-ups, he's had enough of contemporary songs that present Jesus as someone you only need to worry about on Sunday morning.
"Lately, mainstream country music's treatment of faith ignores any of the interesting tension of religious angst and replaces it with bland, self-assured, vaguely spiritual tokenism," wrote Smith, a country music columnist for The Guardian.
According to Smith, the country music genre no longer rewards singers for sharing authentic stories about their faith. It's now routine for the same song to contain lurid tales of drunken debauchery and casual references to prayer and church.
Other country fans are more forgiving, noting that the musical genre has had to adapt to an evolving fan base and industry. It's naive to think that country singers are going to shape their career around theologically sophisticated lyrics, so the impetus should be on listeners to find the music that will enrich their faith, they said.
"There was a seriousness about life, a gravitas in older country music that seems less apparent in the stuff on the radio today," said John Hayes, who studies Southern culture and religion. "But whether one style is more authentic than the other? That's a loaded question."
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