Dolly Parton: Icon of Neutrality or Misguided Faith?


Fifty years after her initial rise to fame, Dolly Parton has released her highest-charting album and is more cherished than ever. Initially celebrated for her songwriting and beauty, Parton has now become a “secular American saint.”

In a world often divided, she attracts fans across the political spectrum by refusing to criticize anyone, often declaring, “I love everybody,” when questioned about her approach.

This response is often perceived as a gesture of support towards the LGBT community during interviews focused on this group.

Similar to universally adored figures like “The Rock” and the late Betty White, Parton generally avoids controversy. She wouldn’t, for instance, disparage those who disagree with her view on LGBT acceptance.

All of this neutrality might be acceptable, if she didn’t consistently cite her faith as the foundation for her “love is love” stance.

When questioned about her diverse fan base, Parton invariably mentions Christianity, stating she strives “not to judge” but rather “to love” for that reason.

However, Parton’s version of love, which includes condoning certain behaviors (“be who you are,” she has said), doesn’t align with God’s plan for humanity. Like many spiritual leaders who have secularized their beliefs, Parton equates love with agreement, but the two are not the same. Love doesn’t require us to accept sinful behavior as good to avoid offending people.

It’s a reminder to be cautious when looking to cultural Christians for guidance. For example, we admire Stephen Colbert’s story of following Christ, but when he criticizes the overturn of Roe v. Wade, it’s clear he’s off track.

Similarly, in the same week Parton mentioned her church upbringing, The Advocate dubbed her an “LGBTQ+ icon.” Her flashy outfits, big hair, and well-known figure have inspired many drag queens. That’s beyond her control, but she does seem to embrace it.

“You say things … in a way that includes everybody else,” Drew Barrymore told Parton on her talk show.

These terms — inclusion, acceptance, love — often mean something specific to leftists. But Dolly is one of the rare individuals who extends that meaning to others too, including conservatives.

When recently urged to denounce former President Trump, she refused, stating, “I have a lot of fans out there, and I don’t want to offend anybody.”

Parton often cites humility as her reason for avoiding politics and partisanship.

“I’m not a good enough person or a good enough Christian to judge and criticize other people,” she told Barrymore.

This serves as her “get out of jail free” card. Who’s going to argue with that? This tactic of avoidance is not unique to her. Christians often use the “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” Scripture to evade addressing sin directly. Parton employs the same strategy.

Even Christian singer Lauren Daigle has fallen into this trap, saying, “I’m not God,” when asked if homosexual behavior was sinful.

Granted, the culture is always on the lookout for those who would label homosexuality as sinful. While I understand the desire to avoid backlash, naming sin isn’t judgment; it’s following Scripture.

Parton had no issue identifying another sin, saying, “Judging [others] is just as bad as any other sin.” Apparently, she’s “good enough” to call that one out.

Furthermore, avoiding taking a stand because of human imperfection is illogical. If that were the case, nothing could be deemed wrong.

Like many, I too admire Parton. She’s entertaining, confident, beautiful, and still energetic at 78. I respect her refusal to condemn conservatives, unlike many Hollywood Democrats, but according to Scripture, she’s mistaken on the issue of homosexuality.

She’s correct that everyone should be treated with love and kindness, but failing to label sin as such does more harm than good.

The gospel of Dolly Parton is well-loved, but don’t stake your eternity on it.

Ericka Andersen
Ericka Andersen
Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and the author of Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women. She is a columnist for World magazine and a reporter for Christianity Today.

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