June 8, 2018

Dolly Parton: A Saint over Standardized Christianity

Dolly Parton: A Saint over Standardized Christianity 1

The Perceived Fault

Everyone has detractors including Ms. Dolly Parton. As much as she’s loved by many, several nitpick over her wardrobe choices, opinions on politics and her undergoing cosmetic surgery. This goes for both the conservatives and the liberal thinkers. Even within their circles, there were opposing views on what to do with the likes of Dolly Parton who profess faith, yet not subjecting herself to religious morals and ethics.

Men being equal and in the name of fairness, we’re all free to state our thoughts on various issues. However, this post could not even come close as an attempt to defend Ms. Dolly Parton on her religious and political stance. Surely, she appreciates her admirers’ efforts in speaking for her defense (to which I’m one), but the reality is, there’s no need for it. She can speak for herself and does a great job at it.

Masquerading as Christian?

Natural to a public figure, everything about Dolly Parton is subject to scrutiny. As an entertainer, she’d be left alone by religious purists. But as someone who speaks for Christianity, her words and life would be picked apart. Collectively, attacks toward her were on the account of the following:

Multi-Cultural and Religious Theme-Park

In an interview with Newsweek back in August 2018, Dolly openly talked about her ‘JUDGE NOT, LEST YE BE JUDGED’ philosophy. This was concerning her Dollywood Park attracting all kinds of people. The park was religious in theme and rather than filtering visitors, it welcomes everybody. Dolly believes in openness and acceptance. Her point was that in any religion that preaches righteousness, kindness should be the prevailing attitude. Hence, she does not discriminate on gays and lesbians visiting her park.

“So many of my businesspeople and my best friends are different faiths, and I work with them, live with them, love them. The gays and lesbians, they come to our parks. I think people just know I’m a very open and accepting person.”

Well isn’t that what churches should be about? That they are hospitals for the broken and sinful souls? Dollywood is just one among others that sets a good example. This is what a Christian community should be like.

Immodest Glamour?

Through the years, she has also personally heard criticisms over her ‘flashy’ appearance.

I’ve had, many times through the years, even in my early days, people would say, ‘Dolly, you’d be taken a lot more seriously as a singer/songwriter if you didn’t look like a whore, or if you didn’t dress up and look like a prostitute.”

To which she would patiently reply,

“Well, you know what, the way I look comes from a very serious place. It comes from a girl’s idea of glamour, and I figure: If people are so shallow they can’t see beyond that, that’s fine.”

Automatically, there were backlashes on her justifications. Preachers with blogs made an issue of Dolly’s glamourous attires. They brand them as lascivious and sensual. With proof-text verses, they detailed how all of Dolly’s claims pertaining to the Christian faith have become null due to what they deem as “public indecency” To them, a person who does not fit their idea of modesty is just as wicked as the devil. All their philanthropic and charitable endeavors won’t even count.

Every religion differs in their standards of modesty. While it’s best to be respectful on one’s conviction over what’s acceptable or not, will it be nonsensical to point out that Dolly Parton’s apparel is not the yardstick of her salvation?

On her Universal Statements

Here’s one of her direct quotes.

“We’re all God’s children. No matter how we try to get to heaven, we all wanna go there. We just have our own routes to take, and that’s how I look at it.”

Stating that all are God’s children and that everyone has their own route to take did not escape scrutiny. To the critics’ minds, that statement of Dolly Parton is misleading. It makes less of Jesus’ sacrifice and his claim that he’s the only way to the Father.

Without the full context in which the quoted speech was lifted, she’ accused of spreading heresy.  But the crux is, she’s merely walking her talk of loving people. It is not heresy or compromise that she’s promoting. Rather, she exemplified maximum tolerance just as God has been extremely patient with us.

It’s not hard to condemn and make every sinner feel that he’s doomed to hell. But, that will be unlike Jesus. He said that he did not come to condemn but to save the world.

While I understand the sentiments of these religious folks, it won’t hurt to give Ms. Parton the benefit of the doubt. We should always consider that each sect and denomination has its own set of doctrines and creeds. Everyone processes and phrases spirituality based on his/her finite understanding. Added to that is our cultural and social background affecting our worldviews.

On Her Album, Halos, and Horns

It’s Dolly Parton’s manifesto of her inner struggles. Songs in the album speak of her raw emotions and heartaches. She sings about the difficulty of living right (Halos and Horns) and in making sense of the injustices in the world (Hello God). Of course the “Raven Dove” is Dolly’s version of the often contradictory nature of Christians, sort of like the “sinner and saint” description.

This album, basically, is a feast to Dolly’s fans. The inclusion, however, of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” inspired fear to some. One televangelist allegedly spread the news that some lyrics were masked but were in fact, an allusion to Satan’s power. Hence, portraying Led Zeppelin as a Satan worshipper. So to the fearful religious, Dolly’s endorsement of “Stairway to Heaven” is alarming.

The band Led Zeppelin was heavily influenced by Celtic and American folk music. Owing to that, many of their songs were heavily steeped in metaphor. Since that’s the case, people’s interpretations will vary. That televangelist may have his own basis on his claim, but other Christians may think otherwise. Even I, can form my own interpretation of the song but coming from an optimistic angle. By the way, there are many other songs that have become global hits. Is there really a need to demonize them?

The Bottom line: Just because a fellow Christian does not look, sound, or believe like you do, does not mean she loves God less. Taking it further, Dolly Parton has not fallen from God’s grace and the following song befits her. Soaring high, she could not be bothered by people’s opinions. She knows before whom she stands and no unkind word against her could embitter her sweet spirit.

Eagle When She Flies

Lifting Spirits through Her Songs

Countless people would be more than willing to volunteer and give their stories on how Dolly’s songs have shaped them. That’s a given fact and we opted not to make a list. Suffice to say that Dolly has become God’s musical ambassador.

But this is the real Dolly Parton. She always has God in mind in everything she does. Acknowledging her musical talent as a gift from God, she wrote songs that were more than inspiring. They were meaningful and bound to direct hearts to see God’s invisible hands in all circumstances.

I pray every day that God will let me do something to uplift mankind and to glorify Him. Those are my prayers in the mornings. I get up, I do my little spiritual work. I read my little Jesus Calling book. It means a lot to me. .”

“I’ve noticed so many times, that I myself have had things going on, and I was just wondering about the answer. Then I read, and it just makes it clear. So God does work through people and He does work in strange and mysterious ways.”

In her Children album, “I Believe in You,” she recognized the power of music in making children feel loved. Aware of the dark sides of life, she aimed to be a voice of hope and positivity for these young souls.

It started with her 4-year-old niece, Hannah Dennison, who had chemo. Dolly wrote, played, and recorded songs in a cassette tape for her. Now she’s in her twenties. The song titled “Chemo Hero” became a testament to Hannah surviving cancer in her childhood.

In her country albums, Dolly’s been including faith-themed songs. Read the back stories in the following songs of Dolly by clicking each title.

 He’s Alive/ The Seeker / Coat of Many Colors / Hello God / God’s Coloring Book/ Letter to Heaven / Jesus and Gravity/ Travelin’ thru

Her Acts of Giving
Dolly Parton: A Saint over Standardized Christianity 2

More than maintaining a screen presence, Dolly’s been on her boots with the array of humanitarian causes she’s been involved in. Here are some of the highlights.

The Imagination Library is no doubt a meaningful passion project of Dolly. Globally, it has helped in the promotion of literacy in places where children education were a luxury. What started as a local program for the kids in her Sevierville County grew into a worldwide phenomenon.

It made her father proud as he knew how limiting it is to not know how to read or write. Regardless, he was street-smart and Dolly could not help but wonder the things he could have accomplished had he been educated.

Besides proving scholarship, Dollywood Foundation founded in 1988 also continues to support non-profit organizations.

In response to that catastrophic Smoky Mountain wildfire back in November 2016, Dolly rallied her companies resulting to the My People Fund. The idea was for each family to receive a thousand dollars monthly for six months. Dolly’s concerned about their welfare. She could not bear the thought of leaving them to fend for themselves after losing their homes from fire. Thanks to Dolly’s initiative, about nine hundred families were helped.

Other than the aforementioned three, Dolly also supports the following charities and foundations:

Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes / Boot Campaign / Cancer Research UK / Dogs Deserve Better  /Operation Once in a Lifetime /Save the Music Foundation /The Stars Foundation

Though she obviously spent money on herself, she did not forget who she was. Raised in a poor family, she knew how crippling poverty is. And as a Christian, she does not give mere love platitudes and best-wishes to the poor. She looks at what she has in her hands then start giving them away.

Her motivation in her selfless giving? Faith in God. Haters and gadflies may pass malicious judgments on her acts of giving, but they’re not enough to stop Dolly in her causes. She’s not trying to look good. She truly is a good person in her core. On that note, here’s another song from our remarkable lady. Like Dolly, let’s better get to livin’ by being the hands and feet of Jesus for people in need.

Better Get To Livin’

Faith-Based Movies

Having her own platform, Dolly creatively sends her message of love and of keeping the faith through film-making.

Coat of Many Colors (2015) Dolly Parton: A Saint over Standardized Christianity 3

It’s Dolly Parton’s song in a picture book.

Unapologetically, Dolly believes in prayers and miracles. Coupled with hard work, she lifted her family from poverty. But, more than an encouragement to not see poverty as a hindrance to your dreams, the film promotes gratitude. No amount of accumulated wealth could match the richness of a loving family.

Dolly Parton: A Saint over Standardized Christianity 4Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love

The Circle of Love pertains to the family. The first part portrayed the time when Dolly’s dad and her siblings bought a wedding ring for her mama. The second was about how they survived a snowstorm through the incessant praying of her mama.

Though it featured accounts in Dolly’s childhood, it really was about remembering Jesus as the reason for Christmas. Dolly also aims for families to be closer through this movie.

Good for Dolly. She shares about Jesus through a re-telling of her life stories. And isn’t this a better and more realistic method of showing the world the love of God than ‘fire and brimstones’ preaching? Besides, God only asked us to talk about what Jesus has done to as many people as we can. He did not tell us to proselytize through underhanded means like giving a ‘hell-scare’ type of message.

Fasting to Strengthen her Spiritual Stamina

Other than the cleansing of the body from toxins, fasting can raise one’s sensitivity to sense God’s spirit. Dolly Parton learned that truth and so she puts it to work. She would purposely go to her Smoky Mountain home to fast and pray for two-three weeks.  It is within those times that she’s able to write songs that were more than hits. They also touched souls.

In her 1998 Hungry Again CD, Jay Leno asked Dolly of that practice. Dolly admitted it wasn’t easy and she had to deal with headaches and hunger pangs. Still, it was rewarding for she’s able to write about 30 songs, but cut it to 12 for the album.

Calling out Graceless Acts in the Name of Christianity

While Dolly just shrugs off and even laughs at slanders hurled at her, she’s no bystander in rebuking un-Christlike attitude. She stood with her LGBT fans by choosing not to be among those who pass judgments. True to being loving, she embraced gays and lesbians as fans and reprimanded Christians who verbally malign them. She made a point that we’re not to play “judges” over souls and to leave that to God. Consequently, she was misunderstood and all sorts of rumors circulated against her.

“I still believe that’s what we need more than anything now is love—a little bit more acceptance, understanding, forgiveness, listening instead of just talking. I mean, we’re not hard of hearing, we’re just hard of listening. So I think we need to try a little harder to get inside the hearts and minds of other people and not just dwell on our own worked-up sense of things.”

Well, perhaps we’ve read several blogs regarding this issue. Again, they have their own reasons and convictions. It’s pointless to try refuting each one. Still, Dolly’s not the one straying from faith with this one. She only did what Jesus could have done had he been present at that time. And if we’re reading our bibles, remember the types of people he had shown compassion with as opposed to the bunch he had always upbraided.

Wrapping Up

So Dolly’s not the prim-and-proper church woman most would want her to be. Still, she’s a saint in her own unique way. Again, she does what she does not to look good. She’s just good. The love that she preaches is evident in both her walk and talk. Hence, I would not be surprised if God declares in heaven that Dolly Parton has led more souls to Christ than self-righteous church men put together.

For similar readings, click one of the tags below.


Christianity, Dolly Parton, faith, Imagination Library

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