Follow Your Arrow?
“Follow Your Arrow,” the catchy tune by singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves, has found a home on country music radio and is getting love from those who embrace its message: be who you are, live for the moment, stop caring what people think. Like many of today’s chart-toppers, it tends to clash with my beliefs. But that melody, those sweet-as-honey vocals make it hard to change the station. So I sing along, critiquing the worldview as I go. Here, let me give you an example. We’ll call it “Follow Your Arrow: The Extended Version,” with the original lyrics in bold. But first, enjoy the video. She’s a doll!
(Verse 1) If you save yourself for marriage you’re a bore, according to a culture that idolizes sex. If you don’t save yourself for marriage you’re a horrible person in the sight of religious folks who haven’t grasped the role of forgiveness, grace, and love in the Christian life. So in reality, you’re as “horrible” as the rest of us, yet there’s as much hope for you as anyone else. If you won’t have a drink then you’re a prude, says the judgmental friend who, funny enough, hates to be judged. But they’ll call you a drunk as soon as you down the first one if they don’t have a biblical view of alcohol from both the Old Testament and New Testament.
(Verse 2) If you can’t lose the weight then you’re just fat. Well, that’s just mean. But if you lose too much then you’re on crack. Let’s face it: each person’s body is different. We’re called to take care of our “temple”—however it’s built—because that’s where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19). You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, so you might as well just do whatever you want, as long as you understand that people’s judgment of you isn’t your biggest problem. What’s worse is doing only what you want, because it results in hurting yourself, other people, and most importantly, a holy and loving God who cares for you. The people who encourage you to refrain from certain things may, in fact, have your best interest in mind. So yeah, maybe don’t do whatever you want.
(Chorus) So make lots of noise, especially if you’re outdoors and not indoors where there are curfews, noise ordinances, and neighbors to consider. Remember the Golden Rule. Kiss lots of boys, unless you’re also a boy, like me, who is (kinda sorta yeah not really) gay and trying to uphold a biblical sexual ethic amid mounting pressure not to. Or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into, which I’m not, so that won’t be a problem. When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight… then it’s probably due to my own self-imposed rules or the culture’s impossibly high standards for Christians and not to Jesus, who says his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Roll up a joint (or don’t). (I won’t.) Just follow your arrow wherever it points, unless it points toward a pit of hungry lions (or the spiritual equivalent thereof), in which case, run the opposite direction. Yeah, follow your arrow wherever it points. Once again, no.
(Verse 3) If you don’t go to church you’ll go to hell, says the backwoods fundamentalist preacher who cares more about church attendance and keeping his congregants safe from the world than he does about the risky business of preaching the gospel to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). If you’re the first one on the front row you’re a self-righteous son of a… preacher man! (That’s probably what she was gonna say.) Or maybe you sit on the front row because it’s easier to focus on the sermon. Which has nothing to do with righteousness, it’s just practical. (That’s me, the front-row Baptist, talking.) Can’t win for losing, you’ll just disappoint ’em. Just cuz you can’t beat ’em don’t mean you should join ’em. These are filler lyrics that I don’t have a problem singing as I transition into the chorus.
(Bridge) Say what you think, unless you think, “You’re a horrible person” or “You’re a prude” or “You’re just fat,” which we’ve condemned in verses one and two. Then it’s OK to not speak at all. The Bible actually gives us permission to shut up (Proverbs 21:23). Love who you love unless you’re in love with a minor or your cousin. But if we’re talking about something other than eros, then by all means, “love who you love.” Just make sure it’s a biblical love that also loves those who are hard to love, like your enemies (Matthew 5:44). And always love God most (Matthew 22:36-40). Cuz you just get so many trips round the sun. Right. So instead of living with reckless abandon, I want to live more intentionally, with more purpose. Yeah, you only live once. We don’t want people to be content with living once, but instead, to consider the fact that we can live forever. Eternal life with God and the saints makes YOLO sound über-depressing (on top of being über-lame).
Voilà: a little added commentary turns a song like “Follow Your Arrow” into a not-so-guilty pleasure that I can put on my playlist with a clear conscience. Sure, it’s more work. But isn’t art supposed to be interactive, thoughtful, challenging, and not just something we mindlessly consume? And before you leave a comment, yes, I see the ridiculousness of dissecting a song by an artist who doesn’t claim to share my worldview and whose lyrics actually urge me to think less.
But hey, I’m just following my arrow. Right, Kacey?
Bryan can be reached at The Happy Alternative