Country Music, Women & God

I’m proud of my roots. I am a native of the North Carolina mountains and have many fond memories of my childhood. I particularly loved the only radio station we could always get – no matter what cove or valley we drove through – an AM station that played a lot of country, some rock n’roll, and even the occasional disco item. Country music in particular was the background noise of my childhood. Some of the songs were hysterical and cheesy – think “Convoy” – but many were always filled with a variety of life situations and a range of characters. There was also the standard fare – tough lives, drinking, rural living, and God.

In recent years, country music seems to be dominated by boys (and I use the word intentionally) who write about trucks, hot young women in tiny outfits, and drinking. “Bro- country” is the term that has been coined by music critics, and I am certainly not alone in my disdain for the one note that is filling the country airwaves. Young country phenom Kacey Musgraves famously spoke about this last summer when she said singing about trucks should be outlawed. The interesting thing about country music, and particularly bro-country, is that it still pays homage to the Christian faith, which is inconsistent with the themes of the preponderance of these songs.

My favorite country music song of late is “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae. These two young newcomers provide great insight into the way women have by and large been relegated to sex objects in the world of country music today. Women in these songs are passive observers, simply there to be desired by the male protagonist. There are exceptions to this overbearing dominance in country music today – Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, The Band Perry, Zach Brown Band, and a smattering of others. I’m by no means the first one to be irritated (to say the least) by this disturbing trend the past decade. However, one of the things I find most troubling is country music’s belief that it is intricately connected to Christianity. At the heart of Christianity is the belief that each and every person – no matter what gender, race, culture or orientation – is a child of God and should be treated with respect, honor and love. And how is that possible when women are seen only as objects, relegated to the lower status of “girls,” and celebrated for wearing skimpy outfits while putting up with bad-boys? Would any Christian parent (or any decent parent of whatever faith tradition) truly want their daughters to aspire to such things?

I certainly understand that a certain number of songs (in any genre) will be written about a physical attraction and desire, but when this is the overwhelming theme played on today’s country stations, there is a problem. Someone who truly purports to be of the Christian faith will recognize that each person (male and female) is created in God’s image, and is thus worthy of respect. Let’s hope Kacey Musgraves, Maddie & Tae, and others will continue to speak and be heard in their quest for better quality country music that truly reflects an egalitarian and respectful society, for people of whatever faith background.

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The Other Mother

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My lovely daughter recently celebrated her 17th birthday. On each birthday, I awake with one thought in my head, “Dear God, please help her other mother know that she is healthy, happy, safe and well-loved.” We adopted Ava from China when she was 9 months old, so a different woman gave her birth. A different woman nourished my daughter in her womb for several months. A different woman then made certain she would be taken care of at an orphanage, until a new family could give her a home. We will never know why she couldn’t keep her little girl. It was probably due to financial reasons – there is a heavy tax on families who have more than one child. Yet, there could have been health concerns or other causes that led this Chinese woman to give up this beautiful baby girl.

Ava’s orphanage was a nice, clean facility in southern China. It was more than obvious she had been well loved during her few months there. A number of elderly who had no family to care for them also lived at the orphanage. During the few days we toted Ava around China, she lunged for just about every gray-haired woman she saw, so we imagined they gave her a great deal of attention as well. (Wouldn’t it be great if we could combine child care and retirement communities in our country? Think of all the great benefits to everyone involved!) Over the years, we have sent pictures and letters back to the orphanage. I know they post them on a board, and it is my hope that Ava’s other mother has been able to come by and see how her little girl is doing.

It might seem strange to start my child’s birthday each year with a prayer for her other mother, but I can never forget this stranger. Without her, and this incredible gift of life she gave us, I wouldn’t have my daughter. And I certainly can’t imagine life without her. One of my favorite passages from the Bible is found in Psalms 139:13 – “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” While Ava was being formed in her other mother’s womb, God had a plan for her. Our family planned and prepared for her arrival, well before we even knew who she was. Six months before we brought Ava home (and certainly long before we know who our daughter would be), our 3 year old son offered this prayer at Thanksgiving Dinner, “God, please bless my little sister and help her have strong, healthy bones.” The entire extended family was too choked up to offer much thanks beyond that ourselves. On different sides of the globe, various people prepared and waited for the arrival of this tiny babe, and then cared for her until she could be brought to her permanent home.

Studies show that many adoptive children are very curious about birth parents, some even to the extent that they search out information or have difficulty coming to terms with it. I imagine I would have been this way if I were in those shoes. Yet, Ava – for all her curiosity – seems perfectly content in our family. A little over a year ago, I was in a café with her and two of her friends who were also adopted. The other girls were talking about not always getting along with their mom. Ava said, “My mom and I get along great. We don’t argue. We’re really close because we’re so much alike.”

I didn’t cry in front of them, but I wanted to. For so many years, I had focused on the difference – between a petite Asian girl and a big blond Amazon, between a well-rounded athlete and a serious scholar, between a rather chill teen girl and a dramatic one – we had seemed so different in my eyes. I always thought perhaps she was more in the mold of the other mother.

Yet, perhaps she is also in the mold of her mom, or Ma Mere, as she sometimes calls me.