Stand by Your Man
Karen Pansler Lam, J.D.
I love the country!
But I don’t love honky-tonk country music.
I don’t love honky-tonk’s devilish theology.
Stand by Your Man
In the late 1960s, country music legend George Jones bought a 1902 plantation-style mansion in my hometown – Lakeland, Florida – for a vacation spot. The mansion was on several acres in the country. After he wed Tammy Wynette in 1969, the couple made Lakeland their full-time home for a while.
In the early 1970s, my dad built our home about a mile from the Jones estate. The Jones’ would give outdoor concerts and we could hear them singing. But I was not interested in country music and never went to one of their concerts.
Their daughters were the saddest-looking girls I’ve ever seen. When I was in high school, two of their daughters rode the school bus. They never smiled and never laughed; they never talked to anyone and no one talked to them. Even though their parents were country music legends, I felt sorry for them.
Back then, I didn’t know anything about the Jones’, but now I know that the old country mansion was filled with drunkenness, heartache, and heartbreak. And Tammy Wynette and George Jones expressed their painful lives in the words, expressions, and emotions of their songs. And their daughters expressed their painful lives in silent sadness.
Tammy Wynette’s biggest hit was “Stand by Your Man” released as a single in 1968 – a year before she married Jones. It is one of the best-selling hit singles by a woman in the history of country music. The song encourages women to stand by their husbands and overlook their faults and shortcomings if they truly love him because “after all, he’s just a man.” This is honky-tonk theology; it is not Biblical.
How many women over the years have listened to this song and stood by a beating, lying, cheating, drinking man?
And I wonder how many of these women were professing Christians?
How many women have been influenced by devilish honky-tonk theology?
A honky-tonk is a cheap, noisy beer joint for drinking, dancing, and cheating. It’s a place to get drunk listening to honky-tonk songs. And it’s a place to dance and cozy up to a stranger that often leads to cheating. It’s no place for Christians.
Honky-tonk music is the style of music played in honky-tonks. Honky-tonk songs focus on lost love, loneliness, drunkenness, self-pity, fornication and adultery. Of course, honky-tonk songs are not written by true Christians; true Christians do not write beer-drinking songs. So, why would Christians listen to them? Why would Christians allow devilish honky-tonk theology to influence their thinking?
Honky-tonk theology is doctrines of devils sung and promoted by country music stars. For example, Loretta Lynn excuses her husband’s drunkenness and cheating as “nobody’s perfect.” And she ridicules Tammy Wynette because she sang “Stand by Your Man” yet had multiple divorces. But Loretta brags that she stood by her cheating, lying, and drinking man. Well, Loretta, you really didn’t stand by your man because you were on the road away from your husband and children most of the time. You excuse your rebellion against marital duties by saying you had to provide for your family. Let’s be honest, Loretta, you put fame and fortune before your husband and children. It’s no excuse for your husband’s drinking and cheating, but you weren’t a wife or mother. And maybe you were cheating, too.
Loretta Lynn praises herself for not holding her husband accountable for breaking their marriage vows: “Nobody’s perfect.” Excusing a drunken, cheating husband for breaking his marriage vows is not Biblical, it’s a devilish doctrine of honky-tonk theology. It mocks the sacred institution of marriage ordained by God.
therefore God hath joined together,
Thankfully, the marriage covenant is not a covenant of bondage. In other words, when one spouse breaks the marriage covenant, the innocent spouse is not commanded to stay with an unfaithful spouse. God divorced Israel because she was unfaithful to the Old Testament covenant. When Israel separated or divorced herself from God by committing idolatry or adultery, she broke the covenant. As a result, God was under no obligation to keep His promises. Israel broke the bond. God divorced her.
Loretta Lynn, considered a pre-feminist of the 1960s, praises herself for standing by a cheating drunk. Advocating faithfulness to a cheating drunk is degrading to women and marriage. And it is not Biblical.
And Tammy Wynette's honky-tonk doctrine to stand by your man because “after all, he’s just a man” is a devilish lie. No woman deserves to be bound to a life-long hellish marriage.
Many years ago, I was married to a drunk and pervert…
Betrayed: This Is My Story
I thought about suicide. As I sat in my car outside our church, I actually thought about killing myself. What cast me so far down into the depths of despair that I actually wanted to die? Believe it or not, I just left my pastor’s office. My husband deserted me and I was searching for comfort and wisdom. Why did this happen to me? Who could best answer one of the mysteries of life? Your pastor. Right?
Well, that’s what I thought. My husband and I both attended church regularly. Tom paid large tithes to the church. He went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and often on Wednesday nights. However, he was not a true Christian. He was a hypocrite. After our wedding in 1986, much to my horror, I discovered he was a drunk and a pervert. He had betrayed me. He deserted me only after a few months of marriage. So, I turned to our pastor for Biblical counsel.
As I sat in our pastor’s office, I felt humiliated, devastated, and heartbroken as I told him that my husband deserted me. Our pastor graduated a well-known seminary and was a successful minister for years. He was working on a doctorate in divinity. He was middle-aged. In other words, he should have some insight into the harsh experiences of life and could pour words of comfort on my broken and bleeding heart. Right? Wrong! This revered man in our community told me that God caused my husband to desert me. Just as God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Moses and the Israelites, God caused Tom to harden his heart against me. Why? Because I had sinned and God was punishing me! "What sin?" I asked myself. I was not aware of any gross sin in my life that would cause God to harden my husband’s heart against me. I was even more devastated! Not only did my husband reject me, but God rejected me, too? What was the use of living if both my husband and God deserted me?
I left our pastor’s office in tears and without hope. I sat sobbing in my car and wanted to die. But God spoke to my heart: “Karen, you know that what he said is not true. His words are not My words.” A peace swept over me. Yes, I knew the Bible well enough to know that God never turns our spouse against us.
Tom was a religious churchgoer. In fact, my parents thought he was too religious for me! On the outside, he looked like a saint. However, his soul was filled with evil passions. In the privacy of his own house, he allowed his dark side free reign. He was imprisoned by booze, pornography, and other filthy passions. The one time he agreed to meet after he deserted me, Tom told me the following experience: “One Sunday morning in church, during the altar call, God spoke to me. He said, ‘Tom, if you will go to the altar this morning, I will deliver you from all your evil desires.’ But I didn’t want delivered, so I didn’t go.”
you think about that? Christ the Deliverer was reaching out to deliver
Tom from all his sinful, filthy habits. But he refused liberty! Picture
it this way: For years, a miserable, tormented young man is locked in a
dark, foul prison surrounded by the stench of booze, pornography, and
other filth. Christ comes and knocks at the prison door. The Deliverer
offers to cleanse and heal the prisoner’s soul. He mercifully offers to
set the prisoner free! Does the wretched prisoner accept the offer of
deliverance with a heartfelt sigh of relief? No! He
scornfully tells the Deliverer, “Go away!” He refuses to open his
Even though I made attempts to reconcile, my husband divorced me because I disapproved of his drunkenness and perversion. Some people tried to persuade me that “alcoholism” (politically-correct word for drunkenness) is a disease and I should not hold Tom accountable. But the Word of God condemns it as a sin.
And many country music stars are drunkards but claim to be Christians, and often excuse it as a “disease.” But if you wholeheartedly love the Lord God, you will hate sin! You will not excuse sin!
There is no such person as a Christian drunkard just as there is no such person as a Christian adulterer, a Christian thief, a Christian murderer, a Christian pervert, and so forth.
The truth is if we humble ourselves in true repentance and wholly give our hearts and minds and souls and strength to the Lord – He reigns in our lives! The Spirit gives us victory over sin! We may be tempted to sin, but we are not forced to sin. The Spirit gives us the power to be overcomers! We are no longer slaves of sin; we are servants of righteousness.
then made free from sin,
And Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11...
9 Know ye
not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
The early Corinthian Christians were overcomers: “such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified”!
Does Paul say, “such are some of you”? No! He says, “such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified”! Because of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, they are no longer enslaved to sin! They are no longer drunkards! Christ has set them free!
Don't be deceived! Those who profess to be Christians, but are drunkards, are not Christians. In other words, they blame the Holy Spirit for their drunkenness for not washing and sanctifying their wicked hearts. Simply put, they deny the power of the Holy Spirit to set them free from being enslaved to drunkenness. This is blasphemy!
Now back to my story…
As I said, some people tried to persuade me that drunkenness is a disease and I should not hold Tom accountable. Even my father – an Assemblies of God minister – argued that in order to save my marriage I should give Tom permission to get drunk once a month! A drunk person is disgusting! I adamantly refused to give Tom permission to degrade our marriage by overlooking a monthly drinking spree. Of course, you know he would’ve demanded more. So, after only a few months of marriage, he deserted and divorced me. It was humiliating, especially since we were professing Christians.
Many Christians frown on divorce. Deep down in their hearts they feel you must not be a true Christian if your spouse divorces you. They wrongly believe the myth that it takes two spouses to destroy the marriage: “There are two sides to every story in a divorce.” Well, that’s not always true and I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Recently, I heard an Adrian Rogers sermon and he preached it takes two to break up a marriage. He used the illustration “There are two sides to every pancake.” What does that mean? It’s the same stupid illustration Dr. Phil uses.
I have known many God-fearing men and women who have been deserted by their spouses for a younger woman, to be free of family responsibilities, and other unbiblical reasons. If you’re the innocent victim in a divorce, you’re sick of people either openly accusing you or implying you must have done something unpardonable.
Christians may not stone us, but they throw cruel words and hard looks at us that cause more pain than if we were stoned. Instead of embracing the deserted and divorced with love and compassion, many hint that we must have done something unforgivable to drive away our spouse, or that we are living out of God’s will. We’re judged, sentenced, and punished by their pharisaic minds. They secretly feel we must be hiding some deep, dark secrets. They treat us as if we're the guilty spouse – we committed adultery or some other serious sin. Rarely do we hear words of wisdom, words of comfort, and words of encouragement.
In the midst of despair, some Christians turn away from God and His Word. Instead, they turn to honky-tonk tunes that sing of loneliness, adultery, self-pity, betrayal, and other tragic themes. They want to hear songs that are expressing their own personal tragedy. So, they go to dark honky-tonks and drown their despair in beer and honky-tonk music. Or they sit at home in the dark and listen to honky-tonk tunes of misery.
What a broken heart needs is a song of hope – a song in the darkness.
A Song in the Darkness
Christians who have been betrayed want a song that expresses their heartache and deep religious feelings. We express our joy by singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving. So, if we are going through a dark and lonely time we need a song in the darkness that gives us hope.
The Book of Psalms records many of David’s sacred songs or hymns that reflect some period of his life. A psalm is a poem to be sung to a stringed instrument. David was the great poet and musician of Israel, and he often poured out his broken heart to God in a cry for deliverance when he suffered betrayal, slander, and other wrongdoings. He poured out his deepest emotions in song, reflecting his hardships and struggles. But the songs always point toward the conquest of hopelessness and despair by having faith in the living God.
The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry explains:
There is no one book of scripture that is more helpful to the devotion of saints than this, and it has been so in all ages of the church, ever since it was written and the several parts of it were delivered to the chief musician for the service of the church…whatever devout affection is working in us, holy desire or hope, sorrow or joy, we may there find apt words to clothe it, sound speech which cannot be condemned.
As Matthew Henry explains, several of the songs were delivered to the chief musician to be sung in the Temple as indicated by the heading “to the chief Musician.” Some are songs of praise and thanksgiving, but a few are songs of sorrow. For example, Psalm 13...
Psalm 13. To the chief Musician. A psalm of David.
1 How long wilt
thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
Listen to the singing of Psalm 13...
In this song, David is reduced almost to utter despair. He has undergone lengthened persecution and it seems to him that God has altogether forgotten him. He is in extreme perplexity and distress and raises the cry – so often raised by sufferers – “How long?” – which is repeated four times in the first two verses. He asks God to “lighten mine eyes.” In other words, Lord, revive me; scatter the cloud of despair and bring sunshine back into my soul! At the end of David’s song, light suddenly breaks out of darkness. Have his troubles ceased? No. In the very act of writing this prayerful song, his faith is rekindled. He knows in his heart that God is faithful. He will deliver him. He feels peace in his heart. The song starts in despair and ends in faith and joy. It starts in darkness and ends in rejoicing in the sunshine of God’s love and faithfulness. He has found peace by trusting in God.
Can’t we identify with David? When troubles long oppress us, aren’t we tempted to feel “God has forgotten me”? Don’t we feel our prayers are unanswered? Don’t we feel we are in total darkness? So, when we are in despair, it is not unbiblical to cry to God in prayer and song.
Clearly, there is nothing wrong with pouring out your heart to God in song. When trouble is near and you cannot turn to anyone for true comfort, you turn to the Lord. In a state of loneliness and despair, our only friend is God.
So, why don’t Christians write sorrowful songs that always point toward the conquest of hopelessness and despair by having faith in the living God?
For example, in keeping with the subject of this article – broken marriages and broken hearts – in this simple song an abandoned woman cries to the Lord to heal her broken heart. There is an argument going on in her distraught mind as to whether she still misses her unfaithful husband. In the first line of each verse, she tries to argue down the feeling of missing him, but then breaks forth in cries to the Lord for help, and then once again argues she doesn’t miss her husband.
I’m Not Missing You Today
I’m not missing you today…
I’m not missing you today…
I’m not missing you today…
Look at the last verse. It does not end in despair and hopelessness. It ends in trust in the Lord to heal her broken heart and take her tears away.
Is there any reason this simple song can’t be a mournful Christian country music song? Remember that some of David’s songs were songs of betrayal. Of course, this cannot be compared to David’s songs because they were divinely inspired and were to be sung in the Temple. “I’m Not Missing You Today” would be inappropriate in a church service, but it could be sung in the privacy of one’s home. Singing to the Lord seems to help our broken heart and broken spirit.
When we are drowning in the depths of despair, we need a song in the darkness that offers hope. And that’s the difference between honky-tonk music and true Christian music. Sad honky-tonk music will make you miserable and keep you miserable. The songs are filled with self-pity and self-destruction. But true Christian music offers hope: God will heal my broken heart. God will protect me. So, I will continue to walk the path of righteousness and trust in the Lord.
Christians who have been betrayed or deserted need songs that express their heartache and deep religious feelings.
Christians who are going through a sad and lonely time need a song – a song in the darkness that gives them hope.
Stand by Your Man: Till Death Do Us Part?
Should women stand by their wicked man “till death do us part”?
Standing by a drinking, lying, cheating husband because “nobody’s perfect” is not Biblical. It’s honky-tonk theology promoted by Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and other country music singers. By the way, even though she sang “Stand by Your Man” a year before she married George Jones, they were divorced in 1975 because of his drunkenness and violence.
God intends that marriage should be regarded as very sacred. Husband and wife are to be one flesh. It is intended to be a lifelong commitment; but like every other truth the Lord gave, people pervert its true meaning and make marriage bondage. But God longs to free us from the oppressive bondage of manmade traditions that force us to suffer abuse, betrayal, and other forms of unfaithfulness for the sake of the marriage.
Don’t listen to Loretta Lynn.
Don’t listen to Tammy Wynette.
Don’t listen to honky-tonk theology.
Also see my messages:
Till Death Do Us Part? Pt.1
Till Death Do Us Part? Pt.2
The Unbiblical Doctrine of
Deliver Us! The Cries of the