Why southern gospel music matters
No, I’m not still on spring break. In fact, it feels like spring break created more work than before I left. But whether it did or not, the upshot is it’ll be a bit longer before I can return con mucho gusto, as Mrs. Rayfield would have said in Spanish class.
Until then, I’ll share an article (.pdf) I recently published in The Journal of Religion and American Culture about southern gospel and evangelical religious experience. It’s an academic article in an academic journal, so reader beware. The professional expectations for these sorts of publications require a certain approach, method, and style that can seem offputting and a bit obtuse to the uninitiated.
The thrust of my argument is this:
As southern gospel comes into clearer scholarly view, evangelicalism and the function of evangelical artistic culture emerge in their true relation to one another. Music transforms words and ordinary speech into a form of vernacular poetry, a melodic lyricisim that makes the experience of insufficiency and powerlessness, of psychospiritual neediness, acceptable to express in an absolutist religious culture that has very few meaningful ways of dealing with negative feelings in the lives of the redeemed. Unlike so much of evangelical discourse and artistic culture, which denies the authenticity of negative feelings by describing them as manifestations of sin or evidence of the forces of darkness, southern gospel makes the uneven contours of spiritual life a necessary precondition for the unfolding of divine power.
There’s more; much more.
One of the reasons I’m posting the article (in addition to buying myself some more time away from regular posting) is to say thanks to all the loyal readers who’ve responded to the many first drafts of my thoughts on southern gospel here, at avfl (regular readers will be able to see several places where I’ve repurposed various blog posts into passages for the article, including part of that passage above). Even, and especially, at your most antagonist, you help sharpen my thinking, and I’m grateful for your giving me an audience and sharing your thoughts. I’ve said all this in the footnote credits of the article. But it bears repeating again. So … enjoy it or not, or ignore it. I trust you’ll not be, as you never are, bashful to say one way or the other.Email this Post