Walk that lonesome road
(Yes, I’m still taking some time off, but this morning I’m taking just a little time off from my time off.)
That’s because reader DE brought this Washington Post article to my attention about the effort to get right-leaning Christian music culture to look left, and I wanted to comment on it while it’s still freshish. The story includes some passages about southern gospel and Rick Hendrix, who has used his connections with gospel music to raise the profile of Democratic politics at gospel venues. Money quote:
But how does this cultural crusade go down with fans? If Hendrix’s experience is a barometer, it may be a mixed bag. He says he staged hundreds of Clinton events at concerts before she dropped out, including Young Harmony at Ole Country Church in McDonough, Ga., and the gospel group Heirline at Victory Baptist Church in Dallas. There were repercussions. Someone tried to run over a volunteer (yes, with a car) in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Coffee was thrown in Hendrix’s face in Raleigh, N.C. A few radio stations he worked with sent back his CDs, cracked.
“He could have possibly lost his business,” says Angie Hoskins, a “lifelong Democrat” who has won multiple awards with her gospel band, the Hoskins Family.
The scene for a Democratic performer is “tough. It. Is. Tough,” she says. “We have to be really careful how much we say, because in the industry we work in, it can pretty much kick you out if you’re not careful.”
Derek Webb, an award-winning contemporary Christian musician who considers himself politically independent, says many churches stopped inviting him to play after he came out in 2005 with “A King and a Kingdom,” which included these lyrics:
There are two great lies that I’ve heard:
“The day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class Republican.”
The whole thing is worth reading. Several things occur to me: One, gospel music may treat him like a hackish pariah (even as he continues to be hired by artists because he gets results), but this article makes me think Hendrix may be getting more attention and being taken more seriously in Democratic political circles than those of us who know him primarily as a music promoter have been willing to imagine or concede. I find it hard to believe he’s the “biggest evangelist for the Democratic party,” as the Post article puts it, but then I often find it hard to believe that radio stations run a lot of the crappy songs Hendrix promotes up the chart as high as they do. And as I’ve suggested before, unlikelier careers in politics have been from the political equivalent of Hendrix’s unique, erhm, gifts in promoting gospel music.
Second, as one of those left-leaning gospel-music fans, I guess I would have to say Rick Hendrix wasn’t my first choice for our standard-bearer, but to borrow a phrase and philosophy from our dear Republican friends: you campaign with the political evangelists you have, not the ones you want.
And finally, as anyone who’s spent any amount of time in the industry knows, there is a not insubstantial minority of industry insiders and other professional who think progressively and vote Democratic. But it’s uncommon for these people to broadcast this fact, not least of all for the reasons Hoskins describes in the article. So it’s fascinating to see the willingness of non-Republican people in the bidness to go public with their political affiliation. Unless the antipathy in southern gospel culture toward Democrats and other left-leaning types is overblown (and I’m not sure it is), might this mark the unofficial beginning of a trend, or will these folks be made an example of? Or alternatively: is it significant that the two sg types who openly avowed their status as Democrats are two people who don’t depend on booking dates in the heart of the heart of red state America for their bread and butter?Email this Post