In 1980s Arkansas, one concern trumped all others: Satan. He whispered backwards on our rock albums. He possessed otherwise good people's bodies and brought them to sin. His worshippers — it was honestly believed and confidently proclaimed — lived among us.
So when my stepmother opened our town's first bookstore I was amazed by one book in particular: an infernal red and black volume called The Satanic Verses.
In country music, Ashley Monroe is still a new kid on the block — but the 27-year-old artist has already worked with the likes of Wanda Jackson, Jack White and Miranda Lambert, and has also found success writing for other artists, including Carrie Underwood. The singer says her tastes are eclectic, but country has always had an especially tight hold on her.
Steve Lickteig's life as he knew it was a lie. Lickteig thought he was the adopted son of a former World War II vet and his wife. Life was simple: They ran a farm in Kansas, went to mass at the local Catholic church and raised Steve and their eight biological children.
Lickteig wondered who his real parents were and thought he'd set out to find them someday. Then, when he turned 18, two of his best friends told him the truth: His adopted parents were actually his biological grandparents. The woman who he knew as his older sister was actually his mother.
With mainline religious congregations dwindling across America, a scattering of churches is trying to attract new members by creating a different sort of Christian community. They are gathering around craft beer.
Some church groups are brewing it themselves, while others are bring the Holy Mysteries to a taproom. The result is not sloshed congregants; rather, it's an exploratory approach to do church differently.
Leah Stanfield stands at a microphone across the room from the beer taps and reads this evening's gospel message.
In the last few years, Ashley Monroe has cobbled together an impressive country-music pedigree by working alongside both upstarts (Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) and longtime Nashville veterans (Vince Gill produced Monroe's solo album Like a Rose), and even collaborating with Jack White every now