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Dixie Chicks new album reveals intense longing for home
June 26, 2006
By Russell D. Moore, Senior V.P. for Academic Administration, Southern Seminary

The controversy over the Dixie Chicks' political statements about the war is still fiery as country music radio stations decide whether or not (usually not) to play the group's new album, "Taking the Long Way."

I bought a CD here in my hometown of Biloxi, Miss., and hid it under a Times-Picayune newspaper in the checkout line, so that I wouldn't face the disapproving looks of my kinsmen.

The most interesting aspect of the Dixie Chicks' music, this album no less than those in the past, has nothing to do with politics. Listening to the lyrics of these young women, one can hear something sad and pitiful and spiritually searching: an intense longing for home.

In the opening song of the new album, the Chicks sing about their high school friends who "married their high school boyfriends" and "moved into houses in the same zip code where the parents live." The band sings that they "couldn't follow" that kind of life and instead "took the long way around." They sing about their gypsy-like existence, wandering far away from home, wondering about whether, someday, they'll ever come back to settle down.

The metaphor of leaving home includes an ambiguity about spiritual matters as well. In the song "Lubbock or Leave It," the Chicks sing the following:

"Dust bowl, Bible belt. Got more churches than trees. Raise me, praise me, couldn't save me. Couldn't keep me on my knees. Oh, boy, rave on down loop 289. That'll be the day you see me back in this fool's paradise. Temptation's strong (salvation's gone), I'm on my way to hell's half acre. How will I ever, how will I ever, get to heaven now?"

The Dixie Chicks are not the first to tie leaving home to spiritual exile. In His parable of the prodigal son, Jesus tells of a son who "took his journey to a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living" (Luke 15:13 KJV). In this parable, Jesus compares regeneration to one who comes home, to a household, to an inheritance, to a family farm.

I wonder if the Gospel seems so irrelevant to contemporary Americans precisely because so many of us have forgotten what it means to come home, or even to have a home. Could it be that the rootlessness of twenty-first century Americans isolates us even more from the truth of Christian redemption? Could it be that the more cosmopolitan we are the less we understand the cosmic kingdom of Christ?

Could it be that we can sense something of what it means to come home to the Father by loving what it means to go home to one's father? Could it be that learning to be a citizen of the kingdom may mean learning what it means to be an Arkansan or an Ohioan or a New Yorker?

I can understand the controversy about the Dixie Chicks. If I were a local radio programmer, I probably wouldn't play their songs either. But, let's remember, the issue of controversy among the fans wasn't all that much about the group's stance on George Bush's war policies. The controversy was about what they said, and where they said it. Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, after all, didn't just denounce the president. She told a concert crowd in England that she was ashamed to be from Texas, the state of George W. Bush. As one protesting listener put it on a radio call-in show, it would not have been so big a deal had the Chicks denounced the war in Dallas.

The offense wasn't just a poorly worded political protest. The offense was that the Dixie Chicks were ashamed of, well, Dixie. As the Chicks themselves seem to know, that kind of wandering brings a loneliness that's hard to describe, and even harder to live with.

In the scheme of things, the Dixie Chicks controversy is not all that important. It's just another topic of discussion for the talking heads on Fox News. But let's hear the Dixie Chicks' anguished isolation, from home and from God. Let's preach like Jesus did, to people who don't even know that working in pig pens for prostitute money isn't success.

And let's pray for the salvation of a world that tells us the best place to come from is nowhere and the best place to be is where the action is. Let's have compassion on sheep without a shepherd, on those who are a long time gone.

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