Sarah Condon at Mockingbird writes an appreciative article about Dolly Parton, her advocacy for the marginalized, and how her music has witnessed to the struggle of women to overcome inequality and mistreatment, while, ironically, she has been criticized for being “non-political.”
In it — and here’s a set of words I never thought I’d write — she tells about how Parton made self-deprecating joke about her breasts that instructs us in how to preach in a more Christ-like manner.
The essence of Condon’s observation is that, in a divisive moment, Parton sacrificed herself and put herself in the middle of a conflict that drew fire from both sides. When two other celebrities made partisan remarks that were red meat to their own tribe and made the other side see red, “…there stood Dolly, in the middle of it all, making a boob joke at her own expense, in the context of a movie about feminism. I mean, my word. She was unwilling to be the one who divided people, so she simply divided herself on behalf of everyone there.”
Preachers have gone so long telling people what to do and stirring up us to take a stand against them, that we have forgotten the way of Jesus. Jesus constantly puts himself in the position where people take a stand against him because he identifies with us all and then gently, often indirectly, uncovers our humanity and brokenness.
Sarah Condon says it well…
We insist that our religious leaders be prescriptive. We do it in the name of knowing what is right and what is wrong. But really, we do it because we want our preachers to tell us that we are right and that the people out there are wrong. The best preachers I know absolutely refuse to hand out these modern day indulgences.
… they sing the Gospel and trust God to do the naming.
The best preachers I know are descriptive. They tell stories of the other knowing that everyone in the room has felt like the other at some point in time. …they remember that everyone has felt pain and struggle. And …they use compassion as the gateway to the heart.
P.S. Listen to Dolly’s song at the top. It’ll do you good.