One last swing at the political stuff

Dearest reader JL wrote to “problematize” (as they say in the ivory tower) my two-parter on politics and the sg stage. Specifically, when she read the passage in which I discussed “the calculated assumptions” performers make “about an audience’s political homogeneity,” she wonders

if their point or their strategy was not merely to rouse the crowd, or to display a courageous stance, but to solidfy the doctrine, or recite the catechism, among the faithful? There is, I’m sure, a sociology of religion expert somewhere in the house who could explain this better than I can. But the artist who made the “Adam and Steve” statement, or the artist who claims endorsement from a political candidate - or who blatantly endorses one - is, it seems to me, doing much the same thing as some Catholic Bishops are doing - reinforcing the doctrine among the faithful, to pre-empt any “falling away,” any following of one’s own conscience outside the collective wisdom of the group at large … a wisdom that the preacher, the bishop, or the sg star claims to be articulating on everyone’s behalf. […] I’m guessing that to many fans, the NQC is more than an entertainment or even an inspirational event; it is an extension of Sunday morning, of a worship experience, a gathering of the faithful, and so it would be to a leader’s advantage to play to that mind set and use the opportunity to reinforce doctrine.

I think this gets it exactly right, which is what I was trying feebly and imperfectly to suggest with my shorthand about performers justifying their public political stances with the biblical exhortation to stand for Christ in public so that Christ will stand for them before God the Father. There is much more to be said about the fuzzy line between entertainment and ministry that fans and performers alike rely on to justify a whole range of responses to and feelings toward sg (but that’s another post all together). For now it’s worth noting that JL helpfully points us all toward this recent New York Times piece (free subscription required) on Catholic bishops’ efforts to shore up their conservative faith by tearing down the progressive presidential ticket. The similarities to sg are striking and, I think, worth keeping in mind. Activating the evangelical base (whether evangelical Catholics or Protestant evangelicals) by playing to the myth of the persecuted Christian majority has its costs, not least of all in terms of the pervasive cynicism and reflexive paranoia this tactic builds into the mindset of everyday Christians.

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