Monday, February 24
Rough-Riding Cowboys in the Holy Ghost Corral
Terence Blacker,, February 24, 2003

For someone who did not exactly treat his body like a temple and who spent quite a lot of his adult life behind bars, the country singer Johnny Paycheck had a fine sense of timing. Just as his version of David Allan Coe's great blue-collar anthem "Take This Job and Shove It" caught the mood of industrial rebellion in the mid-1970s, so his death last week provided a tiny, distant echo to the great moral debate thundering across the world from Washington to Rome and London --concerning whether God and moral virtue are on the side of the hawks or the peaceniks. [...]

Right now, it is particularly relevant to bear in mind that not only are we and the Americans divided by a common language but also by a common religion.

Whereas our version of Christianity is cerebral and anxious, the sort of gently anguished world-view that might be articulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury or Prince Charles,
--theirs is full of action and aggression.
It's a tale of the frontier in which Jesus is a Clint Eastwood character – a good guy but one who knows that sometimes you have to kick some serious ass along the path of righteousness.
In America, as a recent polls confirmed, the Son of God is not only among the top 10 personal heroes, but he is only a few places above John Wayne and Michael Jordan.

It should be no surprise that, when President Bush was asked his favorite philosopher, his unhesitating reply was "Jesus Christ".

After all, his biography comes straight out of the country singer's lifestyle manual, from the problems with alcohol, the confusion of his youth, to the fervent, aggressive born-again religious belief cut with an affection for hard-line politics and capital punishment – indeed, Paycheck's song "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone To Kill" could have been the theme tune to Bush's tenure as governor of Texas.

So, as the Pope, the archbishops, the Prime Minister and the President jostle their way to the high moral ground over the coming weeks, the ghostly voice of Johnny Paycheck, singing about nobody wanting to play rhythm guitar behind Jesus, provides the perfect soundtrack:
"It's hard to get a beat on what's divine/ When everybody's pushing to the head of the line/ I don't think it's working out at all the way He planned."
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