the pistol is the devil’s right hand

Sunday I sang Steve Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand”. I like this song because it tells an interesting story and makes its point in a subtle way. The point, as I see it, is that “to a kid with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Or, more relevant to current events, “to someone with a pistol, everything looks like a target”. It’s a warning not to let mere possession of technology override your moral judgement.

I chose this song before that murder trial in Florida began, but we ended up doing it for a worship service the day after the jury acquitted George Zimmerman of killing an unarmed teenager. Apparently, not much was said from UU pulpits about the situation, but singing Earle’s song the morning after made a powerful comment on the verdict. Sometimes, things just work out that way.

Earle’s articulation is terrible, so here are the lyrics, if you’re interested, followed by a video of the song.

About the time that Daddy left to fight the big war
I saw my first pistol in the general store
In the general store, when I was thirteen
I thought it was the finest thing I ever had seen

So l asked if I could have one someday when I grew up
Mama dropped a dozen eggs, she really blew up
She really blew up, and I didn’t understand
Mama said the pistol is the devil’s right hand

The devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand
Mama says the pistol is the devil’s right hand

Me very first pistol was a cap and ball Colt
Shoots as fast as lightnin’ but it loads a mite slow
It loads a mite slow, and soon I found out
It’ll get you into trouble but it can’t get you out

So then I went and bought myself a Colt 45
Called a Peacemaker but I never knew why
I never knew why, I didn’t understand
Mama says the pistol is the devil’s right hand

The devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand
Mama says the pistol is the devil’s right hand

Got into a card game in a company town
I caught a miner cheating, I shot the dog down
I shot the dog down, I watched the man fall
He never touched his holster, never had a chance to draw

The trial was in the morning and they drug me out of bed
Asked me how I pleaded, not guilty I said
Not guilty I said, you’ve got the wrong man
Nothing touched the trigger but the devil’s right hand

The devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand
Mama says the pistol is the devil’s right hand

The devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand
Mama says the pistol is the devil’s right hand

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About liberalreligiongetsloud

Contemporary Music and Worship Director (retired), First Unitarian, Albuquerque NM
This entry was posted in contemporary worship. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to the pistol is the devil’s right hand

  1. Jean Siegfried says:

    To hear something from the pulpit of a UU Church, check the web site of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando for a podcast of Rev. Kathy Schmitz’ sermon of July 14. It was amazingly powerful!

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