Sg and the end times apostasy … oh my

I’m going to have to give far-flunger PM a raise or something because he keeps feeding me great stuff that I’d have no time or reason to otherwise find (this, btw, is a feature of web logs and internet forums that I don’t think the Drezner paper covers fully enough: how web logs benefit dramatically from the lateral, loose networks of digital correspondents whose discrete research activities can be centralized by a blogger, essentially creating a defacto, pro-bono research department out of average readers, significantly lowering the cost and time of research - though of course, the blogger still has to verify and truth-test the research he’s being fed). Anyway, PM sent me a link to this two-parter from the Way of Life Fundamental Baptist Information Service about sg, or as the writer comes to conclude, a form of gospel music that panders to “large numbers of people who are not faithful to the house of God and who do not live faithfully for God in their daily lives.” Uhm, ok. I could go on and on about this kinda stuff, but I don’t want to give it too much space or time, both of which would only legitimate this troglodytic nonsense. But, aside from summing up perfectly the default attitude toward sg that I recall growing up with in Southern Baptist circles, the article is a good example of several tendencies within evangelical fundamentalism that makes reasonability and honest disagreement about complex issues like sg music nearly impossible. First, there’s the agenda that was obviously fixed and settled long before the writer ever even started researching the topic (and the piece is decently, though not necessarily thoroughly, researched). The fact that this article can be found in the “End Times Apostasy” database really tells you all you need to know about how genuinely interested the author was in discovering any kind of reality or accurately discussing the way things actually are in sg. Second, there’s the silly habit of resorting to superficials to prove a point about deeply spiritual fidelity and Christian constancy (”boogey woogy” style piano playing, Big Chief’s leg swings, money making, “flashy” and “flamboyant” clothes - usually code for calling into question someone’s sexuality or at the very least a an imputation of loose morals - and so on). The article tacitly assumes that dressing well or expensively (which isn’t the same thing always), classing up your act, trying to improve your sound (”loud” is the equivalent of “unsaved” in this article), working to remain solvent, attempting to incorporate smarter musical arrangements and vocal designs, or otherwise behaving in any kind of professional or stylized manner is prima facie bad, which is to say sinful (I mean, the article actually accuses the Florida Boys of being “contemporary” and doctrinally watered down … THE FLORIDA BOYS). The author’s vision of “good” southern gospel is, it seems, a quiet, retiring, untalented family of unmusical folks in floor-length dresses and three-piece suits whose sets would simultaneously put you on edge and bore the hair off you, if you could hear them at all. Finally, and most interestingly for me, is the way the article gets its energy and purpose from a manufactured sense of Christianity in crisis, of Providential authority under attack, of infidels at the gate and lurking among us (as I’ve mentioned before). I’ve noticed this trend in other fundamentalist circles: some prominent non-denominationalists, for instance, equally interested in portraying themselves as beset all sides, are currently reviving the work of a 300-year-old Puritan divine, Jonathan Edwards, as a way of appealing to what they see as an unsullied spiritual ancestor whose purity can stave off a crisis of authority and authenticity in everyday Protestantism, a crisis that is almost entirely a work of fiction from within. The writer here does something similar, reaching back to James D. Vaughn as the keeper of sg’s true, faithful, uncorrupted roots. But of course it’s never that simple. James Vaughn and Jonathan Edwards are easy figures to lionize now because they’re dead. And I bet 100 years from now some fundamentalist will be writing about how the sg performers of our time (that is, now) were the real keepers of sg’s true faith … I mean, artists today, they’ll say in that future time, don’t even sell cassette tapes. How unchristian is that?

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