“The Federalist” Finds Out It’s Never Smart to Come for Dolly Parton

It’s never smart to come for Dolly Parton, especially when you have a weak, eepish, mealy-mouthed, and non-constructive argument that’s easy to refute or cast off, and that will only be counter-productive to your cause. Right wing political/cultural outlet The Federalist is finding this out the hard way, though undoubtedly the Streisand Effect is also resulting in ample attention and revenue for the publication.

Over the last few years, we’ve become accustomed to seeing rebukes of Dolly Parton’s universal appeal from left wing perspectives, criticizing her for her “whiteness” or not taking strong enough stances on certain political/culture war issues. Well apparently she is not immune from some on the right also wanting to get in on the action.

In an article published on June 6th titled “There’s Nothing Loving About Dolly Parton’s False Gospel,” writer Ericka Andersen basically asserts that since Dolly Parton is unwilling to condemn or rebuke LGBT people, she is going against Christian doctrine, and should not be celebrated by people for her Christian faith.

“Parton equates love with agreement, but the two are not reciprocal. Love doesn’t mean we must accept sinfulness as good to avoid hurting someone’s feelings,” Ericka Andersen asserts.

But this is not what Dolly Parton has ever said, nor does it describe her stance at all. Dolly has never said she “agrees” with anyone’s behavior or “accepts it as good,” and this can’t be assumed just because she is accepting of all people. Has anyone heard the phrase “Hate the sin, love the sinner?”

Also, Parton’s universal acceptance of everyone is not tied to not wanting to “hurt someone’s feelings” necessarily, but a philosophical approach Parton has taken to life specifically inspired by her Christian beliefs and the teachings of Jesus Christ to not judge others.

You cannot selectively cite or interpret scripture to fit your argument, and act like the rest of it doesn’t exist or is meaningless. But this is exactly what The Federalist article does.

“I’m not a good enough person or a good enough Christian to judge and criticize other people,” [Dolly Parton] told [Drew] Barrymore.

This, however, is her “get out of jail free” card. Who’s going to argue with it? She’s not alone in this avoidance tactic. Christians often use the “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” Scripture verse to sidestep addressing sin directly. Parton does exactly the same thing here. 

Even Christian singer Lauren Daigle has gotten caught in the trap, saying, “I’m not God,” when asked if homosexual behavior was a sin. 

But this isn’t a “sidestep” or an “avoidance tactic.” It is literally citing scripture as a way to respond to a question, no different than quoting Matthew 7:1-6, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

Perhaps The Federalist piece could have delved more into the conflicted nature of Christian teachings on love, acceptance, LGBT people, and on Dolly Parton’s stances specifically. Perhaps another interesting angle (however cynical) would have been how as a savvy businesswoman, Dolly Parton knows how to avoid controversy and appeal to everyone, and leverages her Christian faith in that service.

But instead the article seems to insist upon a stern litmus test where Parton and others must actively call out homosexuals, even though it is in direct disobedience with many of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, their actions are not enough and they should be rebuked as false Christians. This feels very similar to the insistence that music artists must bend a knee and say “Black Lives Matter” that we saw from a few years ago, and that landed Dolly Parton on an “Accountability Spreadsheet.”

It’s important to clarify that The Federalist article wasn’t an effort to “cancel” Dolly Parton, and it wasn’t especially severe. The article was more an attempt to tell readers to take a cautionary approach to adopting or celebrating Dolly Parton as a “cultural Christian” since her faith is supposedly so shallow. The article also strangely makes a counter-argument in Dolly’s favor by pointing out that she also refuses to rebuke Trump supporters, saying, “I have a lot of fans out there, and I don’t want to offend anybody,” as if taking the correct political stance according to The Federalist somehow softens the blow of her bad Christianity.

But honestly, the biggest question is, why any of this even matters and who exactly cares, especially since it’s an argument that boils down almost entirely to semantics? So often on the political right we hear people say of musicians, “shut up and sing.” Now The Federalist is attempting to goad Dolly Parton toward entering the divisive cultural and political fray simply because she’s apparently not Christian enough, even though she is constantly in the public eye espousing her faith at a time when people are abandoning Christianity and formal religion in record numbers because of the very kind of moral preening and haranguing found in in this Federalist article.

Searching on social media, you can see reams upon reams of comments talking about how “conservatives,” “Christians,” “right-wingers,” “MAGA,” and even “Fox News” are coming for Dolly Parton. But this is not the case at all. Most of these folks love Dolly Parton too, and think an article like the one in The Federalist is silly and superfluous. But this is the collateral damage that accrues when the Cliff Notes version of an article gets shared, a.k.a. “Right wing attacks Dolly Parton.”

It’s unclear if the article even represents the average reader of The Federalist. The only person it represents for sure is the writer Erika Anderson, who has a right to share that opinion, but also has a right to be universally repudiated by the public for it, which she currently is. Even if you think all gay people should be banished to an island, this still was a bad, counter-productive moment for your cause. So why take it? Why overtly attempt to politicize a extremely popular and nearly universally-beloved music legend?

Even if you agree 100% with the argument being made by The Federalist, it’s important to recognize that Dolly Parton is not the problem here. By going after her, you’re only going to draw undue criticism to your outlet and your cause because so many people love Dolly. Unfair or not, any time many people see an article from The Federalist from now on, they’re going to remember it as the publication that went after Dolly Parton.

And none of this mentions the immense amount of charity work Dolly Parton has done over the decades, and all the other things she has done to prove her value as a human and a Christian. Of course Dolly Parton isn’t perfect either. She says this herself, and specifically cites this as the reason she refuses to pass judgement on others.

The truth is that some find anyone or anything that can be universally agreed upon as problematic because they benefit from the public being divided and warring amongst each other, especially in the political space and specifically in political media. This is why people on both the right and left have attempted to weaponize and discredit Dolly Parton, and why the public never stands for it.

Jesus broke bread with sinners, and so has Dolly Parton. There are many things people can learn by studying the lives of both of these people, even if they don’t consider themselves Christians, or Dolly Parton fans. Clearly, writer Ericka Andersen hasn’t learned from either.

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