I’ve always admired the talent of Vince Gill from the first time that I heard his voice. I think that was way back in the days of his work with “Pure Prairie League”. Like so many, he did his time in the trenches for so many years going rather unnoticed in a sea of performers. I really do not think that mattered to him much based on what I know of his character. I believe he was there because he thoroughly was hooked on music and performing whether or not it paid a dime. But like all of us, he hoped that it would make him a living I am sure. When his star did rise, we all found ourselves wondering where this guy had been not really knowing that he had been there all along but we had not noticed yet. It’s that old story that so many of us buy into believing that here again was another example of an “overnight success story”.
Vince Gill has a voice that God gave out to very few and it has served both him and the Lord well over the years. For all his fame, I think he has remained well-grounded both in terms of his thankfulness and humbleness regarding his talent. For all his success, he has always been just a “regular guy” who sings a bit and picks a few instruments…it seems that is the way he looks at it. Over that time, he has been a friend to many in the music industry and reached out to help them anytime they called. If they did well…Vince did well too over the long haul. It was not a competition but just another level of friendship in life’s journey. Normally, that would be a pretty good marker as to the character of a person like Vince Gill.
This past weekend, Vince Gill appeared in a concert venue to perform in the Kansas City area. Some of the folks who are members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church decided they would protest his show and set up shop outside the facility. It seems that the Westboro folks not only enjoy disrupting the funerals of servicemen killed in action but also like to pick and choose among entertainers like Gill as a target of their hatred. It seems that Gill’s sin, according to the Westboro folks originates in two areas and those sins made him a likely target of Westboro.
Vince Gill was once married to Janis Oliver. They had one child, a daughter, together before their marriage ended in divorce. This was a time when Gill was achieving a high level of popularity and his wife was also on the performing circuit as a member of the “Sweethearts of the Rodeo” vocal duo. Dual performance careers take a toll on a marriage and theirs like many others did not weather the pressures. The marriage ended in divorce in 1998.
Gill was remarried in the year 2000, again to another performer. This time, he married Christian musician/singer/songwriter, Amy Grant. That marriage has held strong and continues to this day with both of them very focused on the other in the relationship. Now, this is where the bone of contention arises for the Westboro Baptist Church crowd. As a result of his divorce and his eventual remarriage, Gill is labeled as an “adulterer” by that congregation. Adding to that situation, Amy Grant has a following in her Christian music audience that subscribes to the gay/lesbian lifestyle. Ms. Grant has acknowledged that fan base which has further inflamed the Westboro folks. Roll the two perspectives together and therein lies their reason to hold a hate-demonstration for Vince Gill.
Many entertainers would turn a blind eye to such behavior and just go on about their business. Such was not the case with Gill. As the group gathered outside his venue to demonstrate, Gill went outside and confronted the group head-on exchanging verbally with them over their behavior. When a member of the Westboro group questioned why Gill had come out to face them, he replied, “I came out to see what hatred really looked like in the face.” Gill then went on to share with them that they were very lucky that they were not displaying any signs which were derogatory toward his wife.
Something tells me there is a “scrappy side” to Mr. Gill that just might have been aroused if the wrong signs had been on display. As various members of the group shouted comments regarding adultery and referenced them to the Bible, Gill responded by pointing out that the Bible also contains much in terms of grace and forgiveness. The encounter ended with the verbal exchange and a choice word or two by Mr. Gill describing the intelligence level of some of the crowd.
So, today, I have another reason why I like Vince Gill. He does not send others to do the dirty work for him…he rolls up his sleeves and does it himself. He confronts the issue and the situation head-on and looks his accuser right in the eye while he is doing it. Gill’s dad was a lawyer and a judge. He was also a large and imposing physical figure who did not take a whole lot off of anyone. Vince claims to have learned three chords on the banjo from his dad…his gift to Vince’s musical development. Personally, I think he learned a lot more from him. I think he learned about character, courage, and knowing when to take a stand. That sounds like about three chords on life to me, and they are some fine, fine chords to know.
Vince Gill hardly needs any more recognition…he has had and still has plenty of it heaped upon him regularly. On the other hand, maybe the Westboro crowd has run out of funerals to disrupt and decided that finding sins among the celebrity crowd is a better platform. How you see that probably is a function of which side of that aisle you find yourself. One thing is for certain, Vince Gill could have ignored it but chose not to because he looked at their actions as a personal attack upon both him and his wife and that was a bridge too far.
We do live in a country which allows us the freedom to assemble and to outwardly communicate our positions on various issues. Our Constitution defines those rights and denies any man or government to attempt to take them. While respecting those rights for everyone is important in our society, we also must respect a person’s right to defend themselves and their position just as vigorously. Westboro Church can condemn Vince Gill and others and act out their hatred while being protected by our Constitution but, they can never fend off the humiliation which they have brought to themselves as a group while disrupting funerals and disrespecting the service our military veterans. Many of us know that but remain silent in that regard. I admire Mr. Vince Gill for having the concern, the courage, and the willingness to go out and confront them in his life. We should all have as much character as Mr. Gill…the world would be a better place.
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