Last week Jason Aldean released the video for his song “Try That in a Small Town,” which has been out since May. The video intersperses footage of various crimes, Black Lives protests, and Aldean singing the song outside the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. Aldean’s song is a paean to small-town vigilante justice, promising that petty criminals who escape punishment in the big city would run into “good ol’ boys, raised up right.”
The outcry over the video broke out immediately, and CMT pulled the song from its rotation. Criticism of the song focused on a couple of issues. In 1927, 18-year-old Henry Choate stood accused of attacking a white girl in Maury County. Despite the pleas of the girl’s mother, who wanted the young man to be tried by a jury, a mob hanged Choate from the courthouse’s balcony. Columbia was also the site of a racially charged incident in 1946 that led to the attempted lynching of future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.
The Conservative response to another instance of “cancel culture” was swift, heated, and predictable. President Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. posted messages supporting Aldean. The singer’s fans called for a boycott, threatening to give CMT the “Bud Light treatment.” Conservatives in all corners of social media rallied to Aldean’s defense, denying the song has racial overtones, supporting the song’s message, and pointing out the hypocrisy of liberals for not protesting hip-hop lyrics.
Now that you’re caught up on this week’s controversy du jour, I want to convince you that it doesn’t matter. When this controversy dies down, there will be another, and another, and another. The cycle never ends and never accomplishes anything.
First, since Christians are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, we need to have the discernment to see when we are being played. Who is benefitting from the kerfuffle about Jason Aldean’s song? Jason Aldean benefits because more people are watching the video on YouTube, adding to his $80 million fortune. The media outlets who drone on and on about this issue benefit because they are able to raise more ad revenue based on your attention. Social media influencers love a controversy like this. It adds to their likes, retweets, shares, and subscriptions. Do you know who doesn’t benefit from this controversy? You.
In a week or two, the Jason Aldean controversy will die down. Then another will rise up in its place. People will choose the same sides. We’ll hear that it’s part of the war on American values. People get heated, furiously commenting, sharing, and retweeting thoughts on the controversy. The people who profited from the last controversy will go to the bank off of this one. Then, we’ll all move on and repeat the process over and over.
Also, as followers of Jesus, we have to think about the value of our time and the effectiveness of our witness when we engage in these types of controversies. Paul admonished the Christians in Ephesus, telling them to make “the best use of time, because the days are evil.” Do we really have time to devote to silly little controversies like a fight over a country song when the souls of men and women around us are perishing? And don’t give me the bit about how we are at a unique time in history that makes these battles important.
Our Gospel witness also matters in these controversies. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to go into the world to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey his commandments. This is our mandate. I cannot think of any way in which an argument over a country song furthers that mission. In fact, when we obsess over the controversy of the week and always take the party line, our unbelieving friends will see Christianity through a political and social lens. They won’t hear us talk about Jesus because they assume they will have to line up with us on political issues if they become Christians.
There is also a boy who cried “wolf” element to the fights over Jason Aldean, Target, Bud Light, Starbucks, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, or Colin Kaepernick. It blinds our ability to discern when there is an issue that is truly important. If all of these arguments are important, then none of them are important. However, if we have a sense of proportion about these things, we will know when we need to speak up because the issue is that serious.
You can’t have an opinion about everything, and you don’t need to share your thoughts on every subject. When you recognize this, you steward your voice so that people will listen when you speak. If you spend all of your time shouting into the void, no one is going to listen when the stakes are high.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Fizkes
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”