Joyce Mancinelli
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Religion in Modern Music.  by Ian McDonald

Since I was about 14 years old music has been a place of refuge and imagination.  So, I thought it would be fun to explore some of my favourite songs from my library of about 5,000 songs in seven different language which I find curious, inspirational, or explore God and religion in a way that is not a hymn.  If you are curious to hear the song, a quick search on You Tube will play it for you.  Story songs are by far my favourite and I would like to start with one of the first country songs I ever heard, Three Wooden Crosses by Randy Travis.

A Farmer, a Teacher, a Hooker and a Preacher are all on a late night bus to Mexico.  One travels on vacation, one for higher education and two are looking for lost souls.  (Here’s the part I don’t like) The bus driver doesn’t see a stop sign and there is a terrible collision with an 18-wheeler.  The end result are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway for the passengers, but why not four crosses, “Heaven only knows”, says the song.  The chorus also reminds us that it not what we take when we leave this world behind us, but what we leave behind when we go.

At this point the song becomes a memorial to the deceased and tells us what the dead have left behind.  The Farmer leaves a harvest, his farm and a love for growing things in his son’s heart.  The Teacher leaves her wisdom in the minds of lots of children and a good start in life.  The Preacher whispers to the Hooker, “Can’t you see the promised land” and puts his bible in her hands.  But still there are only three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway, and we don’t know why.  Heaven only knows.

As we come to the end of the song, the twist in the tale appears.  The songs slips into the first person and the singer reveals that this is the story that his Preacher told last Sunday and he held his blood stained bible up for the congregation to see.  Then the Preacher says, “Bless the Farmer, and the Teacher and the Preacher, who gave this bible to my Mama, who read it to Me.”

The final chorus tell us that now we know why there were only three crosses and the main theme of the song, “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it’s what you leave behind you when you go”.