Harshing, Part II

It’s a harshing twofer! BF writes:

Dear Ask Avery-

I have this sore on my…..

Just kidding. Just kidding.

I’m curious to know if the undercurrent of anger that so often comes alive through the comments posted by your constituency is a phenomenon peculiar just to Avery Fine Line or is it embedded in SG culture. (too churchy, not churchy enough, no to matching pastel suits, yet no to modern warehouse chic, amateur groups are killing the genre, yet professionals in their big blingy bus thingies are not much better, too traditional, too modern).

It’s been a hoot over the last several months to follow along. Good work.

With the caveat that I don’t look at message boards and haven’t for several years now unless someone points my attention to something, I would say in general – and this is the short answer – yes and no. There probably is more angry shouting here than in a lot of other sg discussions, but then I allow it.

Longer answer: It’s often my intention to push people out of their comfort zones and purposively propose alternative perspectives that a lot of my readers find unchristian, unkind, or otherwise unacceptable. So I guess it ought to naturally follow that the hating, harshing, and other undercurrents of anger that so often surface here are above average in sg culture, where most people try to build consensus around orthodox viewpoints.

But I also think the quality of the public discourse in and about southern gospel is pretty crummy in the main, mainly because a lot of people are unable or unwilling to instigate thoughtful, honest dialog without self-censoring or resorting to off-the-shelf truisms and other stock-phrases (including the use of scripture as a conversation stopper) that are often used as substitutes for original thought.

Having grown up in fundamentalist and conservative Christian cultures, I don’t find this terribly surprising. Absolutism still predominates in southern gospel, and absolutist worldviews by necessity tend to treat competing ideas or unorthodox claims as a threat to their own legitimacy. Thus the volume goes up pretty quickly around here, since a lot of different ideas kicked batted around.

When that happens in a room full of people where absolutism and fundamentalism is in the majority, the object of most of these conversations, debates, or discussions for many of the people involved is not engagement, inquiry, discovery, or the reciprocal process of refining one’s thought, but elimination of the other, the enemy. Plus, the ignorant whitenoise from all corners doesn’t help (honestly, I’ve stopped counting how many times Harry Peters has tried to post comments with “queertet” in them … how utterly boring). But what kind of pluralist would I be if I shut all this down? (Answer: a selective one, since I’ve started deleting Harry Peters comments and other similar insipidity that wouldn’t serve any marginally intelligent purpose.)

What does surprise me (pleasantly, I might add), and why I stay involved with avfl, immersed in a world and worldview that often frustrates me in its self-imposed limitedness, is that there are a lot more right thinkers out there than, to be honest, I tend by default to give sg culture credit for (some of my good friends and most interesting correspondents are people I’ve met through avfl).

So in addition to being a lot of fun and sharpening my thinking and writing (I hope), avfl also exerts a regularly corrective force on my own smugness or presumptuousness and requires me to do what I try to encourage others to do: shout, polemicize, and monochromatize less; and instead think, write, and live on an evener keel. … assuming you can hear yourself think above the din.

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  1. Leebob wrote:

    I personally don’t mind the insipidity on here because this helps me to redefine where I stand. The engaging communication that usually follows makes me laugh, think, and re-think positions on which I am usually certain about. If nothing else it will help me better understand who I am and how I come to be this guy. And it is entertaining and I didn’t have to spend $25 to watch a chorus line do gospel. Sorry, I just could not resist that with all the EHSS talk.

  2. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    It not limited to just the southern gospel music community.

    Check this out!

  3. Bubba wrote:

    avery said….”Absolutism still predominates in southern gospel, and absolutist worldviews by necessity tend to treat competing ideas or unorthodox claims as a threat to their own legitimacy.”

    That may be your perception, my concern is not my own legitimacy but the legitimacy of the Word of God and it’s veracity…..I could quote several verses right here but I don’t want to kill the conversation or be considered unoriginal. LOL

    avery also said….”discussions for many of the people involved is not engagement, inquiry, discovery, or the reciprocal process of refining one’s thought”

    That right there is a prime example of some Post Modern male bovine excrement if I ever herad it. For me, engagement, inquiry, discovery, or reciprocity with the average theologically shallow SGM fan/singer is not the way to enlightenment. The Cannon of Truth has been in place for more than a few hundred years and one of the most comforting of God’s attributes is immutabillity. Guilty as charged! No arrogance intended, sorry if it sounds that way. However, that will be the accusation, from the post modernista’s. Confidence in absolutes is often percieved as arrogance.

    Avery, if you want to thank me for making/confirming your point……well you have my email address…. ROFLOL

  4. CVH wrote:

    There are a number of thoughtful contributors to this site whose writing I find interesting and informative; there are others whose collective IQ would only rival that of a doorknob. Or maybe a Swingline stapler. But even though we have to wade through a lot of downmarket comments to get to the good ones, the overall tenor of conversation here is more than worthwhile.

    I think in general southern gospel music and its fans are stereotyped as an undereducated, lower socio-economic group. As our esteemed host has pointed out, and given the history of southern gospel music’s roots, there is reason to believe that stereotype is at least partially correct. There certainly is a strong strain of conservativism and fundamentalism associated with the genre. But there have always been other fans, perhaps in the minority, with different mindsets, cultural backgrounds and broader religious convictions. They may not share the same social, political or cultural norms as the ‘traditional SG fan’ but they’re just as passionate about the music itself.

    One positive note on avfl, I see more posts on threads here than on many other blogs, music-related or otherwise. The range of topics covered and the value I find in many of the contributors comments make avfl something I read every day.

    Now has anyone heard the new lead singer for The Harry Butts Trio?

  5. NonSGfan wrote:

    I don’t believe that the harshness is REALLY intended to be harmful or hurtful. I think people have a natural tendency to argue, not for the sake of causing hurt, but simply becauase sharp sarcasm can keep an interesting conversation going longer than blunt positivity. It COULD however, be that people are innately negative and angry and too lily livered to express anger any other way but through rapidly moving fingers.

  6. Alan wrote:

    Interesting essay. I guess it will always be a function of this site that “absolutism” and “fundamentalism” will be near-dirty words. As you stated, Leebob, reading the kind of stuff that comes here at times, with a slight leaning towards relativism and an ongoing bent towards the liberal, has helped me to redefine what I believe as well. What I find encouraging is that it appears to result in the same with many others as well. The disagreements can be fun, but I’m encouraged to find so many Christians reading a blog site which concerns a tiny slice of Christian music who are fairly serious and convinced in their beliefs. When it’s good here, it’s really good. But….

  7. Robert wrote:

    No nonsense topics, no sugar-coating, just tell it like it is blogging is what brings people to Avery and what makes the comments seem to have an angry undercurrent. People want the truth. People want to talk about the truth.
    SG needs this.

  8. Bubba wrote:

    My bad!
    postmodern, one word

  9. not a grammarian wrote:

    Canon - just ask Phil Wickham

  10. Bubba wrote:

    You would think I didn’t know what I was talking about, what with all the grammatical mistakes and all.

    Thanks grammy!

    I blew it again!

  11. not a grammarian wrote:

    The funny thing is, I agree with your points, I just got this picture of a Civil War cannon shooting out Bibles across a battlefield, kinda like the “Gospel Blimp” back in the 70’s.
    Canonicity is a very interesting study and one that would prove enlightening to many if they could just open their minds a tad. Of course there is also the opposite danger, those with minds so open that all of their logic and reasoning have fallen out, but that is a comment for another thread.
    I’m probably one of those who could be labeled “fundamentalist” and “absolutist”, but I reject (Of course, what else does a fundamentalist do?) Doug’s contention that it is because I see it as a threat to my own legitimacy. As unpopular as it is in today’s world, there ARE absolutes and immutable truths and I would not be a genuine follower of my Savior if I don’t point them out.
    My challenge is to do it in a loving manner,admittedly something I’ve not always been successful with in the past.

  12. Bubba wrote:

    I’ve heard John MacArthur give the example of having an open mind as akin to leaving the from door of your house open. Most wouldn’t think of it and are particular on who and what they allow to enter. We need to be careful what we allow in.

    On the loving manner…….I’ve struggled with that one myself. Even when you in a loving manner confront sin, it is often seen or taken as judgemental and arrogance on your part. I think, when you confront a true believer with sin,(think Nathan and David) the reaction of the one confronted speaks volumns about their relationship to God. Speaking the truth in love kind of thing, though most would consider it anything but loving.

    I’m afraid the natural tendency of fundalmentalism is toward legalism and likewise the reformed is toward skepticism (are you sufficiently orthodox). Both can be regarded as unloving so the need to constantly check our motivation in our interaction with both believers and unbelievers is primary.

  13. Bubba wrote:

    To finish the thought…natural tendencies do not neccesarily destroy the validity of the tenets of fundamentalism or the reformers. Legalism and skepticism are to be avoided and guarded against. Let’s not write the whole system off because of abuses by a visible few. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

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