By John D. Pierce

Sometimes country music gets a bad rap (pun intended). And like any musical genre, some of that is well deserved.

However, there are prophetic, progressive messages — even among country classics — if one listens intently enough.

Henson Cargill’s Skip a Rope, for example, addresses domestic abuse and other social and moral issues (including racism) often concealed or ignored. It was released in 1967.

My ears perk up each time I hear Johnny Cash’s single What Is Truth released in 1970 — that defended youthful criticism of a misguided war and calls out prejudices based on appearances.

Yeah, the ones that you’re calling wild
Are going to be the leaders in a little while
This old world’s wakin’ to a new born day
And I solemnly swear that it’ll be their way
You better help the voice of youth find
What is truth

Of course the elder critics of ’70s youth are mostly underground now — and many of those former “wild” youth have become the latest mind-braked curmudgeons romanticizing the past and criticizing social shifts, even important advances, today.

Jesus, who revealed God most fully to humanity, is affirmed by many of us as “the way, the truth and the life.” Yet many who claim to follow Jesus actually choose ideological “truths” not reflected in the life and teachings of Jesus.

They simply put the Christian label on a preferred religious/political ideology of self-interest and self-preservation.

In other words, what is claimed as truth is not always truth — and what is claimed as “Christian” doesn’t always look and sound like Jesus.

In every era we need those who dare to ask, “What is truth?”

In the same era Cash’s booming baritone was questioning society’s rendering of truth, many church youth choirs were sounding out the biblically-soaked words my friend Ragan Courtney penned in the musical Celebrate Life: “You shall know the truth and love is the proof, and the truth will make you free.”

It is the costly, selfless love-drenched truth revealed by Jesus and reflected by us — if we dare — that sets others and ourselves free.

We need prophets, old and new, who keep challenging us with the re-evaluating question, “What is truth?”

And then for us to honestly test such claims against the life and teachings of the one who is the way, the truth and the life.

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