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February 5, 2009 / beidson

Conway Twitty Vs. P. Diddy: Biblical Manhood In the Balance

Though Conway Twitty may remind us more of Mr. Rogers than Freddie Mercury today, therepdiddy1conwaytwitty2 was a time when he was doubtless considered an envelope-pusher and a devilish-gentleman of sorts.  In fact, though he may be further up the stream than today’s lyrical rebels, you can be sure his music helped create the torrents of the lyrical rapids that became today’s edgy music.  He was definitely not Mr. Rogers.

However, in Conway Twitty’s music we are able to at least recognize a picture of biblical manhood, even if only dimly.  Sure, there are better places to look to see the reality of biblical masculinity and femininity, but it is interesting to see how even this icon differed in terms of masculinity from the icons of today, such as P. Diddy (Sean “Puffy” Combs turned “Puff Daddy” turned “P. Diddy” now turned”Diddy”).  Though both may be seen as “lady’s men” with respect to their unique nitches and cultural contexts, it is quite obvious which one is a lady’s man in the most biblical sense, and I’m not talking about P. Diddy.

Just a cursory glance at song titles gives us tremendous insight into their worldviews.  For instance, compare Conway Twitty’s “I’d Just Love to Lay You Down” with P. Diddy’s “Bump, Bump, Bump” or Conway’s “Hello, Darlin” with Diddy’s “Nasty Girl” or “Slow Hand” with “Shake Ya Tailfeather.”  As you can see from the titles alone, Conway Twitty had a far better understanding of what it meant to be a man.

Though “I’d Just Love to Lay You Down” is about exactly the thing you think it is about, it isn’t necessarily a “sexy” song.  First of all, you may assume the song is about monogamy, and the words are spoken between a husband and wife.  He sings about whispering pretty love words in his wife’s ear, and telling her all the things a woman loves to hear.  He tells her how much he loves to have her around, and how her sweet love made their house into a home.  He speaks about her beauty, even in a faded cotton gown, with her hair “all up in curls.”  And as he finishes the song, he promises to still love his wife even when “a whole lot of Decembers” are showing on her face, and her auburn hair turns to silver.  Even then, he says, he’d still love to lay her down.  Now we may laugh at the thought of two old lovers being together, but there is a glory here that Conway is rightly displaying: the glory of an enduring one-flesh union between husband and wife, which reflects the greater glory of Christ’s enduring love for his bride, the Church.

As for P. Diddy, his music isn’t worth the effort, morally speaking.  Contrary to Conway, P. Diddy severely distorts biblical manhood and womanhood, exalting men to the status of pimp and reducing women to occassions for pleasure.  Rather than whisper pretty love words in an old woman’s ear, P. Diddy’s debauchery inclines him to slap women around and find young lovers all over the world, especially “nasty girls.”  In this regard, P. Diddy is a bum and a predator, and is like a foolish child who lacks restraint, self-control and love for his neighbor.

And we are all tempted to pursue P. Diddy’s dream of pleasure and fame.  P. Diddy isn’t the only bum in the neighborhood.  Though they may not be as aggressive in their predation, many of our own friends and family and co-workers are equally as scandalous in their pursuit of the good life.  And there are many ways that even the most faithful father may diminish the role of husband and father when he seeks satisfaction outside biblical boundaries.  We have all been guilty of P. Diddy’s crime, even Conway Twitty.

Though neither man is idealy the epitome of biblical manhood, at the very least Conway Twitty is closer to imaging Christ than is P. Diddy.  They are only tiny threads in the larger cultural fabric, to be sure, and yet they are not isignificant.  They represent a reality larger than their music and fanbase.  Their iconic influence is, in fact, weaving together the larger cultural fabric, and there are ways in which we ought to long to return to the days of “Slow Hand” and escape the deviancy of “Shake Ya Tailfeather.”  Not that nostalgia will save us from destruction, but the ideals we recognize in nostalgia, if embraced, could bring about a change for the better.

If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet Mr. Twitty could put Mr. Diddy on the ground any old day in a fist fight.  And if I had to pick which man I’d rather run into in a dark alley, I’d have to say P. Diddy, because he’s not as much of a man as I am, and for that reason I think I could take him.  On the other hand, if I had to pick which man I’d rather have as my partner in a dark alley, I’d have to pick Conway Twitty, because he represents, to a degree, the kind of man I’d like to be.

The ever-shifting meaning of manhood has taken us from men like Conway Twitty, the devilish-gentleman, to men like P. Diddy, the devil himself, and I’m speaking here in a general sense (I’m aware that all Conway’s righteousness is as filthy rags, and that he stands condemned before God apart from Christ).  Men have went from singing about the marvels of monogamy to the sensations of sadism.  This is both a cause and symptom of our further descent into depravity.  We could compare Conway Twitty with someone who preceded him by twenty years and make him look a lot like P. Diddy.  But my point still remains: there is a sense in which we are losing any semblance of normal manhood and womanhood in our culture.  There are still faithful figures to whom we may look, but they are getting fewer by the day.

This is not the fault of the government or MTV.  The blame should rightly rest on the shoulders of average fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters.  If we are willing to tune out Conway and tune into P. Diddy, or someone similar, then we are guilty of praising that which is not praiseworthy, and putting to death that which ought to be embodied.  And for that matter, if we are willing to tune out the Word of Christ for the lyrics of Conway, we are  most certainly part of the problem.

Conway Twitty was married three times.  We do not want to be like him in this regard (as far as I can tell, he was divorced).  Our manliness is shown to us in the words proclaimed on the pages of Scripture, not the lyrics sung on the stages of Nashville.  But we may agree with Conway that there is a proper way for a man to treat a lady, and it says a lot about what it means to be a man.  In this respect, P. Diddy has a lot to learn from Conway Twitty.

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