The Great American Novel

Pure. Clean. And dreadful. That about sums up Patton Dodd's take on the Christian music he grew up with.

Now much Christian music is boring. It's "Safe for the whole family" or "Positive, Encouraging"--the catch phrases of the largest Christian music radio stations in the US put it.

A promo on the front page of KLOVE.com "Whenever I get a bit down, KLOVE puts a smile back on my face" sounds more like an ad for Prozak than anything else. "So you've lost your job or the war in Iraq's going bad? Listen to our station and put on a happy face for Jesus."

At times like this, I really miss Larry Norman. You won't be hearing Norman's protest song, "The Great American Novel" by Larry Norman. (There's an MP3 of it here) any time song, and that's a shame.

Originally released in 1972, it could have been writen yesterday. War, politics, race, starvation, economic inequities, religious hypocrisy, Norman tackled it all in about 4 minutes, with a catchy tune to boot.

Here's a few snippets:

You are far across the ocean
In a war that's not your own
And while you're winning theirs
You're gonna lose the one at home
Do you really think the only way
To bring about the peace
Is to sacrifice your children
And kill all your enemies?

The politicians all make speeches
While the newsmen all take note
And they exaggerate the issues
As they shove it down our throats
Is it really up to them
Whether this country sinks or floats
And i wonder who would lead us
If none of us would vote

Sound familiar. How about this bit, which sounds like he had the Patriot Act in mind.

Well my phone is tapped and my lips are chapped
From whispering through the fence
You know every move i make
Or is that just coincidence
Well you try to make my way of life
A little less like jail
If i promise to make tapes and slides
And send them through the mail

It's these two verses that always get me. The opening lines, and then one about nice, decent Christian people who happened to be segregationists.

I was born and raised an orphan
In a land that once was free
In a land that poured it's love out on the moon
And I grew up in the shadows
Of your silos filled with grain
But you never helped to fill my empty spoon

You kill a black man at midnight
Just for talking to your daughter
Then you make his wife your mistress
And you leave her without water
And the sheet you wear upon your face
Is the sheet your children sleep on
And every meal you say a prayer
You don't believe but still you keep on

I like Christian music (I play in a worship band, so I better.) And sometimes we all need a little pick me up.

These days, we need a little cold, hard, Gospel truth as well.


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