LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #14 – “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC
I originally had no intention of offering commentary on “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. For many, the song perfectly captures the sentiment of true southern rock. For others, the ambiguity of certain lyrics such as, “In Birminngham they love the governor” carry blatantly racist overtones. According to the band, the song was actually written in response to songs be Neil Young and could be seen as a proud, conservative, southern reaction to a judgmental, northern, liberalism that stereotyped all southerners together, regardless of their actual beliefs.
One of the contested lyrics in the song sing, “Sweet home Alabama, oh, sweet home baby, Where the skies are so blue and the governor’s true,” a reference to Alabama governor George Wallace who, in the 60’s, supported racial segregation. The idea that Wallace was “true,” for this very reason, is consistent with a darker history of Christianity, where slave owners would cite Colossians 3:22, which reads, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” The prospect of using this passage to endorse slavery in any way, shape, or form, however, is completely inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for [all] us to redeem [all of] us from all wickedness,” (Titus 2:14). This is why John, in his revelation, saw, “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” Segregation, for any reason, whether based on race or any other division, has absolutely no place in the Kingdom of Heaven and is irreconcilable with a savior whose arms spread wide on the cross only further demonstrated his open embrace of all people.
Loving Savior, despite our best intentions, the history of our church is filled with failed attempts to model your love for all humankind. Despite progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done. Give us the strength, courage, and power to tear down the walls that divide your people and prevent the body of Christ from truly being the united people you desire. Amen.