Tenille Townes released a rare and raw song in country music that deals with doubt. What led to the song was a tragic car accident of a mini van in New Brunswick, Canada that killed a life just starting. The song focuses on the why and of always asking questions. To an era of uncertainty by instability, school shootings, terrorist attacks and more it hits a nerve with many. Doubt is one of the most healthy of human emotions when it comes to faith. If you haven’t doubted my question is have you lived?
“Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it has been tested.”
September 11, 2001 National Memorial in New York City
Video of the Parkland School shooting in Florida
When I was driving back to the San Francisco Bay Area as my time in California was coming to a close I grabbed dinner at Casa de Fruta which is on Pacheco Pass. While there I was looking at souvenirs in a store and heard a song playing which grabbed my attention. It was one that was not familiar to me. I pulled out my Android and used the song identifier feature and it brought up Tenille Townes’ song called “Jersey on the Wall.”
Tenille Townes Song About Doubt and Suffering
On July 13, 2014 a freak car accident happened with a mini-van in Grand Manan, New Brunswick in Canada. A van went into a ditch and Danielle Park who was in the passenger seat died in the wreck. Danielle had a promising life ahead of her. She was the valedictorian of her community school and was its star basketball player. In a month she would start college. Four other teenagers were hurt in the car wreck but they were able to walk away. In Canada an up and coming country musician by the name of Tenille Townes was asked to speak about bullying once in Grand Manan. While there Tenille learned of a difficult summer that took place two years prior. Later on when Tenille went back to Grand Manan Community School and saw Danielle Park’s basketball jersey on display in the high school gym. Haunted by that she wrote a song and contacted Danielle’s parents and asked for permission to sing about her daughter. They gave her their permission. If my research is correct around the time all this occurred one of Tenille’s best friend’s younger brother died.
The song that Tenille wrote is quite raw and rare for country music. Its not a traditional song of all is going well and about having faith. Its not about the old rugged cross or something of a like minded nature. Instead its a song that deals with doubt and asking questions. Its a reflection on grief and how complicated it can be. Questions of why did you allow a car crash? What about those year books that remind one of loss? If God has such a plan then why would that include allowing a situation that results in people to stop going to church because God’s plan no longer makes sense any more? It also involves constantly asking questions and having a long list of questions that exist. In a Rolling Stone Magazine interview Tenille discussed the song and how it is different when it comes to asking questions. Its is also a song that resonates with those who have open ended questions and experiencing suffering. From school shootings, to other uncertainties that exist right now. When asked about how the song is different from regular country music Tenille said the following. “Truly, that’s what music is for me. To make us feel less alone in what we are going through. Writing songs from a witness perspective is what I feel drawn to, that’s the anchor of the mission for me. I have played this song through all the different radio touring and the part that sticks with me the most is when people at radio tell me stories of people they have loved and lost after.” You can read more in, “Tenille Townes Asks God ‘Why?’ in Probing New Song ‘Jersey on the Wall’”
Beware the Christian Who has All the Answers and Never Doubts
As someone who walks on the edge of evangelicalism figuring out where they are going or what they are not, this song hit a nerve with me. What attracts me to it is the open ending questioning and asking of “why?” Why, why and why? What should life be about? One of the concerns and main problems with evangelicalism from my perspective is that too many have all the answers. You are in a system that will not allow you to ask why and wrestle with difficult subjects. Maybe this is part of the reason why more and more people are rejecting prayer when tragedies happen. Quite simply it has lost its meaning. When a car wreck happens, or a terrorist attack occurs, or there is another school shooting saying things like, “I’ll pray for you” has lost meaning and become very cheep in the end. When prayer has become so flippant why is it even needed?
For myself I avoid people who have all the answers. For me that reveals that they often have not lived or experienced much pain and suffering. It is easy to say you have all the answers when your beliefs are not tested. Perhaps this is why many people pushed back from faith in their 30’s and 40’s. As life happens the simple and flowery answers fail miserably. Nothing of what I was taught prepared me for standing in a hospital room at 3:30 in the morning and watching my father struggling to breath before he died. The same holds true for my Mom. I’ve spoken with some people who I have gotten to know who were affected by September 11, 2001. Like the teenagers in the car wreck that inspried the song, there were so many on that Tuesday morning who were just at the wrong place or wrong time. Or, being late for work which your boss gives you a difficult time for actually paid off. Who would have known?
The world is complicated and more so than many Christians want to admit. What could add some element of humanity to it is if Christians embraced doubt. Doubt I think is one of the most healthy components of faith. If you have never doubted and been angry with God for much of what happens then I would ask are you in touch with your human nature? Are you connected to your emotions and have you lived? The world would be a healthier place if more people doubted. And that is my hope for those who read this, that you also wrestle with doubt and that you find yourself in the process. My life is surrounded by doubt due to the events that I have lived through. And doubt in many ways has become my friend. Doubt is what I lean upon in the dark nights when I want to ask why? Perhaps that is why I was moved by Tenille Townes song.