Avery made me do it
It was interesting watching the response to my post a few weeks ago about trolling and flaming, wherein I wondered about some of the origins of the vitriol and venom that dominates so many comments threads. Especially illuminating was the “Avery made me do it” argument that more or less blamed my unorthodox views about gospel music and its culture for inciting fits of rage and other leave-takings of the senses that so many discussions seem to devolve into.
[T]here is a decidedly harsher tone that has surfaced of late. But perhaps consider this as possible reasons why this is happening. Its recent increase came when you posted about Joel Hemphill denying the deity of Christ. I’d have to assume that the majority of your readers are Christians, and when a cardinal truth of the church is attacked, strong feelings surfaced.
Bottom line, I guess, is that if the comments have denigrated - and they have - it’s at the very least partially due to what has been posted [by Avery].
Another commenter put it slightly more concisely:
[Y]ou are surprised that a red cloth is waved at bull and the bull charges? That is crazy and that’s no bull.
I’ve never made any bones about the fact that one of my goals is to approach gospel music and culture from an unorthodox perspective (indeed, CVH has my number), and I can hold my own with the charging bulls on my right flank. But isn’t the underlying assumption in the Avery-made-me-do-it argument that evangelical fundamentalists, biblical literalists, and other conservative Christians who flame all ideological opponents need to be graded on curve when it comes to judging the quality of their public conversations, that their powers of argumentation and intellection are so fragile or rigid, their skins so thin, that they simply can’t be held to the same standards of adult discourse that the rest of civil society abides by, can’t be held accountable for what they might do if someone, say, suggested that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get bent out of shape about a book of fringe theology from an armchair theologian whose 15 minutes of fame as a songwriter were over two or three decades ago? In case it doesn’t go without saying, this is madness, and self-evidently so. Just go back and look at some of the fine layers of dissent and thoughtful disagreement that build up beneath many of my original posts (and often from some of the some of the same people claiming the Avery defense of their occasional fits of hysteria). Clearly evangelical doesn’t necessarily have to = anti-intellectual.
Look, I know for a lot of people it’s important to believe that everyone enjoys gospel music for the same reasons and that anyone who disrupts the appearance of consensus has to be flamed for the good of Christ’s kingdom. But I think most reasonable people can agree that the notion of a single-minded fan culture in gospel music has never been more than a useful fiction.
Scratch that apparently homogeneous surface, and in addition to the mainstream brands of evangelicalism and other affective Protestant religions that dominate (and they do dominate, which makes the hysteria from the dominant orthodox commenters over alternative POVs all the more inexplicable), you’ll find more than a few heretics and the odd renegade spiritualist who get deep and genuine, if also unorthodox (or maybe more accurately heterodox) satisfactions in close harmony and the sound of the soul’s lament for salvation and struggle for grace that gospel music gives voice to. There’s a pretty rich and fascinating discussion to be had about how to interpret that fact, but yelling really loudly that you’re right and everyone else is wrong won’t make the fact itself go away.
It’s never been immediately clear to me why it’s so disturbing to so many that gospel music supports a variety of religious and spiritual experiences. But then, I’m used to being in the minority on these matters, so maybe it’s just what you get used to. In any event, yelling and hyperventilating are not the only ways to believe strongly or argue passionately. You just have to get used to using other mental muscles.Email this Post