The country singer Gram Parsons (1946-73) has in the last decade been increasingly cited as a seminal influence upon the development of contemporary alt.country and the roots/americana revivial. This article critiques Parsons and his music within the realm of contextual theology, using him as a bridge to examine the wider issue of what a theology of country music might entail. Both Parsons and Country Music in general are strongly religious in language, ethos and culture, yet the theology articulated both explicitly and implicitly is not evangelical as those outside the genre and culture might assume. Rather, the theology of country music involves a gospel of liminality, a theology of redemptive transgression that is expressed in ‘white spirituals’ where the song is a locus of grace. The article asks if Parsons was a locus of grace; are his songs those of liminal presence; does country music employ a theology of redemptive transgression?
Worship can be understood in this context as the church community (or communitas or koinonia) enter into liminal space corporately. Religious symbols and music may aid in this process described as a pilgrimage by way of prayer, song, or liturgical acts. The congregation is transformed in the liminal space and as they exit, are sent out back into the world to serve.