I’ve held off saying anything the new feature in the SN that David Bruce Murray aptly described as “Roy Pauley vs. the World,” hoping that it would return this month and I could get a better sense of how it will play out. Alas, that was not to be. So I’ll have to go on one month’s installment.

In theory I like the idea a lot (and I should say that the SN continues to improve markedly each month). And it may well turn out to be successful, but aside from the problems that DBM identifies, the larger issue that the first back-and-forth between Pauley and Daywind VP Ed Leonard exposed last month is that Pauley does not so much make an argument that one can engage with. Rather he mistakes assertion for argumentation. Heavy on the “I thinks” and “I believes” and “it’s this ways” and “in my opinions,” and short on a claim that’s backed up by analysis of evidence (examples - i.e. George Younce is the greatest emcee in the history of the world - are not necessarily evidentiary). It’s hard to engage with assertions and declarations, and even harder when you’ve got to pretend, as poor Ed Leonard had to last month, that you’re dealing with a reasoned analysis and not another of Pauley’s jeremiads or celebrations of the 10 Greatest Something or Others.

For this feature to work, SN editors are perhaps going to have to help build the kind of dialogue the features imagines and be more prescriptive about the topics at first. For instance: politics and patriotism (see above) - what role should political statements and actions play in gospel music performance? Discuss. Or, What is southern gospel music? (a perennial favorite). The idea here is to pose the question in a way that makes it as difficult as possible for someone (Roy Pauley, for instance) to just start declaiming. Pauley will be Pauley, of course, and the column is “in my opinion,” and not “point counter point.” But if the SN can put Bill Gaither on the cover and start publishing letters to the editors with writers’ actual names, then may be Roy Pauley can be led to water and begin to back up his opinion with more than the force of his personality transplanted in print. This would not only be good for the SN. It’d be good for gospel music, which could really do with some positive models for intelligent discourse and the exchange of opposing ideas without people talking past each other.

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