Dolly Parton Talks About Her 'Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged' Philosophy

Dolly Parton discusses the Christmas movie she's producing for the 2015 holiday season. Jonathan Alcorn/ Reuters

Dollywood turns 30 this year. I visited the Dolly Parton–owned and –themed amusement park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, earlier this summer, in part to learn about how the award-winning singer-songwriter-actress's park has remained alluring after three decades—so much so that Parton just opened new luxury accommodations called Dollywood's DreamMore Resort.

In addition to Dollywood, Parton spoke to me about faith and naysayers, among other topics. She chatted from California, where she is producing a Christmas movie.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, Parton explains that she derives confidence from her Christian faith—and uses it to insulate her business plans against naysayers. Religious belief bolsters her confidence in bold business moves, such as the planned $300 million expansion.

"If I burn with a passion, I just feel like that's God saying, 'Go for it, continue with it,'" she says, adding: "I don't listen to people as much as I listen to myself and God."

Related: Why Do People Still Go to Dollywood?

I was also curious to know how Parton has maintained, if not gained, momentum over the past several decades while many stars disappear after one or two hits. She again credits God, as well as hard work and family.

"I'd sum it up by saying, 'God's been good to me!' You never can really say why or what," she says. "I think you had a key word in there called 'momentum.' I never lost momentum. I never quit working—I work all the time as if I'm just starting out."

She adds: "I never thought of my life, and my work, and my art in terms of money. I figured: If I did great, the money would come, and it has. I just have a lot of life and energy and I've had a good husband, and good family, and good support system."

Parton, whose Imagination Library project mails free books to children enrolled in the program, also says the familial air created by her projects and park are part of God's plan.

"Unfortunately, I never had children—I would have loved to, but I guess God knows what he's doing. And I think especially after I started my Imagination Library—I didn't have kids, so it was meant for me, for everybody's kids to be mine."

During my visit to Dollywood, one thing that stuck out was that the park, which is overtly Christian (down to having a chapel on its grounds), attracts an incredibly diverse crowd. And not just diverse for the South—it truly seemed like one of the most diverse venues in the U.S. But how can this be if the park is religious?

"We don't try to shove anything down anybody's throat. We are very open," says Parton, who is well known for her support of the LGBT community. "So many of my businesspeople and my best friends are different faiths, and I work with them, live with them, love them. The gays and lesbians, they come to our parks. I think people just know I'm a very open and accepting person.

"And in any religion we're supposed to be that—we're supposed to be kind...we're not supposed to pass judgment. Our Bible says, 'Judge not, lest ye be judged,' and I believe in all those kinds of things."

She adds: "We're all God's children. No matter how we try to get to heaven, we all wanna go there. We just have our own routes to take, and that's how I look at it."

This discussion of judgment made me think about some of the criticism Parton has faced throughout the years due to her intentionally flashy appearance. So what does she make of that?

"I've had, many times through the years, even in my early days, people would say, 'Dolly, you'd be taken a lot more seriously as a singer/songwriter if you didn't look like a whore, or if you didn't dress up and look like a prostitute,'" she recalls. "I said, 'Well, you know what, the way I look comes from a very serious place. It comes from a girl's idea of glamour, and I figure: If people are so shallow they can't see beyond that, that's fine.'"

She adds, "If I have magic, some of it is kind of that I look one way and I'm totally another. I'm as real and as comfortable as an old country shoe inside, and I think people relate to that. And I think others just accept the way I look, or they think, 'Oh my God, that's just Dolly.' And I'm more concerned about how I feel about myself and how God sees me."