That time of the month

The April 2005* SN arrived yesterday, so here we go:

  • What a bunch of misinformed nonsense from Andrew Ishee, in his anti-tax screed on p16. Nevermind the deadend suggestion that paying taxes is or ever was somehow linked to the church-state debate or that taxation somehow inherently reduces freedom. Huh? The main problem is that Ishee’s facts are bad. Contra Andrew, tax rates have not “shown constant growth” since their inception. In fact, in 2002, before even the latest round of Bushes tax-cut-and-spend recklessness, the overall federal tax burden for middle-income families was at its lowest in two-decades.
  • Hmmm .. so much for that new Garry Sheppard website. Seems it’s still under construction (p18). Too bad. I’d be eager to see it.
  • Remember back when Danny Jones was pretending to be shocked (shocked I tell you) that anyone would think the SN has any kind of special relationship with NQC? Well, this week the “reporter” for the “news” story about the NQC (that is, the monthly plug for the NQC that parades as news) is … wait for it … Clarke Beasley. “Our man on the scene” takes on a whole new meaning. P38.
  • Smart, if also a bit opportunistic, marketing from the Hoppers, who have a “Jerusalem” video out at the same time Gaither is hawking his “Jerusalem” Homecoming. P45
  • Ok, that empty chair in the Singing Echoes ad (p49) is just creepy. Like a ghost or dead group member ought to be sitting there or something.
  • I’m not so much disagreeing with Jerry Kirksey’s very reductive history of religious music (p58), so much as amplifying it a bit, specifically the section about hymnody in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in New England. Kirksey’s fly-over historical sketch leaves the impression that settlers and colonists were singing stuff akin to “Nothing but the Blood” and “When we all get to Heaven.” But they weren’t. This excerpt, from a biography of the great eighteenth-century theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards suggests some of the more humorous aspects the “pandemonium” of puritan and colonial “psalm singing” (from pp143-44 of George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life).
  • Among the most noticeable changes marking the sometimes subtle transformation from Puritanism to Calvinistic evangelicalism .. was the reform of singing in worship. New England congregational singing had become chaotic and dissonant [by the 1730s]. Seventeenth-century Puritans had strictly followed the anti-Anglican principle that nothing should be part of public worship except what was commanded in Scripture. Like others of the Reformed, they would sing only literally translated biblical psalms. Although many Puritans owned musical instruments, they would not think of using them in the meetinghouse. As though to underscore the point that music was incidental to words, they published the metric psalms without musical notes. Congregations sang to any one of a number of familiar psalm tunes. A precentor, or leading singer, would “set the tune” by singing at least the first line, and the congregation would join in. Over the years the collective memory of the tunes evolved or devolved. Further, members of the congregation sang variations on the original notes as it pleased them. Whereas today this might be regarded as a wonderful folk tradition, by the early eighteenth century the near chaos seemed appalling to those attuned to the refined musical standards of the day.

    Judge Samuel Sewall was the precentor at Old South Church [in Boston] from 1694 to 1718. In 1713 he reported in his diary that he started the psalm tune “Windsor” in a key much too high and ended up unintentionally moving into the tune “High Dutch.” Twice in 1718, not long before giving up the job, he reported that he was unable to keep the “gallery” from forcing their way “irresistibly” into “St. David’s” despite his setting the tune of “York.” One early proponent of reform wrote in 1721 that “the tunes are now miserably tortured and twisted and quavered … it sounds in the ear of a good judge like five hundred different tunes roared out at the same time with perpetual interferings with one another.” The irreverent James Franklin satirized in the New England Courant that he was “credibly informed that a certain gentlewoman miscarried at the ungrateful and yelling noise of a deacon” whom he suggested might be employed as a “procurer for abortions.”

  • The CutNPaste Files: Notice how the p9 ad for the Suwannee River Jubilee has different dates and line-ups than the SN’s news story about the same event on p61? That’s because the SN used the exact same article from April 2004 about last year’s event but forgot to change any of the old information. Go back and look. It’s the same article, with the exception of a few words at the beginning of the article. Oh my.
  • Wow. The Crabbs signed a management agreement Creative Trust (P64). Have you heard? Oh wait … that happened almost two months ago.
  • So let me get this right (or maybe it’s left): Liberal academics are, according to Ken Kirskey’s Bookshelf entry (p74) cosseted away from “the real world” at their insular universities and so don’t know how vital religion still is and will remain in western life and culture. Yet the book that Kirksey says proves this fact persuasively is full of essays by … yup … “respected academics” who are, one must imagine, cosseted away in their insular universities. So which is it? Cosseted and disconnected from reality or respected and in touch? Cause if you’re gonna start from boilerplate ideological assumptions (about things like “the liberal intelligensia”), you might want to be consistent with your inaccurate and loaded generalizations. *Not, as I originally wrote, 2004. This kinda thing invariably happens when someone like me starts throwing stones from inside my glass house … which only means you have to learn to live with broken glass here and there.
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