Absolutism vs Pluralism
Reader JM writes:
Having monitored and occasionally contributed to the various discussions on this blog since mid-2007, I find myself mystified by the constant split represented by most of the posters. My wonderment specifically pertains to the honesty vs. righteousness battle.Seemingly, if my understanding is accurate, the blog master (Doug) has decided that this blog should reflect true, honest and accurate news and opinions regarding SGM and its culture. Seems straight forward to me. However, there are two distinct problems with trying to achieve the stated goal. One, both blog master and posters are pressed into the role of deciding exactly what content or story is indeed true, honest and accurate. Many different people with various backgrounds and sensibilities come to this site; therefore their interpretation of what is true and accurate and honest will be measured from their own point of understanding and vision. Secondly, all of the various threads and discussions which take place are wrapped up in a protective coating of spirituality and the mores of Christian conduct. Some posters to this site seem to demonstrate little regard for generally-agreed-to Christian charity. Others, would like to have this site stricken from the Web for its inability to conform to their specific interpretation of Christian behavior and communications. Perhaps the reality is that honesty and perspective are not valued virtues within the SGM community. If you talk about dress hem-lengths of female artists, some will support you, some won’t and some will be “turned on.” If you speak of singers with tarnished halos, some will accept it as an opportunity to pile on or drag out a story about how they didn’t get a solicited autograph from some SGM artist in 1972, while some will quote a favored Bible passage and warn us all against judgment. I guess my overall observation is this: the success and stimulating nature of the discussions which occur on this blog should not be taken for granted. This is NOT a site where the blog master kisses the posteriors of favorite artists to gain favor or free tickets or CD’s. Neither does he attempt to vilify any specific group or person to curry favor with their detractors. Because we all come from different places and lives and backgrounds, we are bound to view various topics and discussions from different perspectives. This should be a strength, not a weakness. The value of this blog is the diversity of the people who post.
When I started this blog one of my main goals (besides finding a way to remain actively involved in a form of music I grew up with and still am deeply fond of) was to encourage and maybe begin to sustain a conversation from a multiplicity of perspectives about southern gospel music and culture. At first it was pretty tough going (some of you may remember the Avery and Unthank wars of yore) and even now it ain’t always pretty. But I’m (mostly) proud of the way a certain sector of gospel music has responded to what I’m trying to do here (hits have now topped 10,000 a day on average). And yes, my thanks go out to those who come here just to see how much they disagree with me on any given day. Sure there will always be comments trolls and sockpuppets and SCREAMERS and the like. But that’s not unlike most public conversations (hello, talk radio?), I’m afraid. As George Saunders puts it, we live in the age of the Braindead Megaphone.
One response to JM’s point about the trouble with sustaining a plurality of viewpoints in a conservative Christian culture still dominated by absolutists: The trouble, I think, has to do with the confusion so many people make between having an opinion and making an argument (shorter version: assertion vs argumentation). Declaring what you think, feel, or believe about something is not the same thing as asserting your thoughts on a subject and then supporting that assertion with a claim that uses evidence and analysis to back up raw opinion.
The Bloggers roundtable at NQC mostly broke down along these lines: those who simply believed as a matter of religious principle that gospel artists shouldn’t be critiqued in ways that they perceive to be negative, and those of us who thought public art is strengthened and invigorated by a thoroughgoing discussion of artists and their works, good, bad, and everything in between.
That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the other side of things. For religious people who build a great deal of their identity taking Really Big Things on faith, argumentation can be anathema. The kind of dissection, analysis, and commentary that goes on around here strikes a lot of sg fan as an affront to faith. Submit the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen, as the apostle put it, to the rigors of argumentation and analysis, and stuff starts to break down pretty quickly. And that is, it seems to me, what’s happening when conversations break down here or end up in people shouting at one another over the insuperable divide of irreconcilable world views. I don’t think it necessarily has to be this way. And at its best, which is not always or maybe even often, conversations around here model the way that absolutist and pluralist viewpoints can civilly and productively co-exist. And those are the moments I guess I’m proudest of.Email this Post