Welcome, Thought & Action readers

The latest edition of Thought & Action, the scholarly journal of the National Education Association, includes an essay of mine on blogging, academics, and professional identity. An excerpt:

I started my blog AVERYFINELINE: Criticism and Commentary on Southern Gospel Music and Culture (www.averyfineline.com) in August 2004. If I confess that this was almost exactly the same time I started my dissertation fellowship, you would be entitled to question the soundness of my judgment, both as a blogger and a young academic. I would like to say that I started blogging about southern gospel music and culture as an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating diversion from the rigors of the dissertation. I would also like to say I started blogging to uncover the reasons why I have remained interested in, and engaged with, a form of music from a world and a way of life that, in most other respects, I left behind half a lifetime ago. These things have all turned out to be true, incidentally, but this has mostly been dumb luck.


As far as I can tell, the common denominator for this culturally and intellectually diverse group of readers is a fascination with my blog’s way of relating to, writing about, and trying to understand southern gospel music as something other than strictly the soundtrack for mainline fundamentalist theology. Attempting to calibrate one’s bloggerly voice to such a diverse audience is, I like to imagine, akin to the paradoxical experience at the heart of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puritan spiritual diaries. Copious journals about the perfidious souls of early America were made vastly more interesting for the impossibility of the authors’ knowing if they were hitting the mark set by an invisible audience. Fortunately, the eternal condition of my everlasting soul is not at stake (though some of my more orthodox blog readers would disagree). But the incommensurable backgrounds of my readers have thrown me back on my own instincts much of the time, forcing me to articulate to myself as I write for others why what I have to say about gospel music matters.

I hope to post a .pdf of the article soon, but in the meantime, please be kind to the newcomers.

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  1. Norm wrote:

    “…a world and a way of life that, in most other respects, I left behind half a lifetime ago.”

    So, Avery, enlighten your readers. Exactly what do you mean by this? Perhaps you won’t answer this because you are afraid of your reader numbers dropping…?

  2. judi wrote:

    Congratulations on the publication. Looking forward to reading the whole thing!

  3. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    We welcome the newcomers. We trust they’re wise enough to realize we aren’t all the ignorant narrow minded religious nut jobs Doug makes us out to be at times!

    (DBM runs ducking for cover!)

  4. Kyle wrote:

    This should be interesting to watch….

    [grabs popcorn, settles into seat]

  5. K. Allen wrote:

    I’m looking forward to finishing the essay. Although the underlying tones of most of the comments to your thoughts may be mixed, the exposure of this culture to others could be a very positive thing. Congratulations.

    Welcome Newbies…

  6. pr wrote:

    Congratulations on being published. I would think even your most acerbic critics would realize the value of your writings in “exposing” music’s best-kept secret, Southern Gospel, to an audience far beyond even the biggest outdoor singing or the grandest church sanctuary.

  7. JM wrote:

    Doug, Fellow Posters & Potential Posters,

    I’m often stymied in understanding the intent of the written word. I’m not sure if I, as one of this site’s occassional respondents and SGM fan, should feel like a valued, if somewhat outdated toy from the recesses of your memory or if I should feel like a unaware laboratory animal that is being put on display for the approval or disapproval of your academic compatriots.

    If the intent was to permit a viewing of SGM fans in their natural habitat, your disclosure has startled the grazing SGM beasts and beauties and has compromised your stelthy approach. From this point on, you will only see a strained and stilted version of the SGM fan, as we ape and perform for our newly arrived guests. Unfortunately, we are often poorly behaved and exceedingly predictable. Let the wild rumpus begin!

  8. quartet-man wrote:

    Doug has made no secret in leaving behind aspects of his upbringing and Conservative ideas. Just how much is hard to tell. Pass some of that popcorn, Kyle.

  9. KDM wrote:

    Don’t worry, JM. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful examples of SGM’ers in their natural habitat in the Avery archives.

    Save me some popcorn, too.

  10. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Worry about the numbers dropping?
    Too late for that thought process.
    No matter which side of the fence you are sitting, the serious damage has already been done.


  11. SG Obzerver wrote:

    Oh no he di’ int!!

    “If you look to the left of the tramcar you will see the Blue Hair Diesel Sniffer in it’s natural habitat. Note it’s vast collection of cassette tapes. This is due to a congenital reluctance to accept more modern day culture and of course the absence of a CD player in the creature’s domicile. An unhealthy but steady diet of meat and taters has thinned the herd somewhat in recent years. This along with a stubbornly conservative and narrow minded nature mark this species for certain extinction as the quaint melodies that it holds so dear and has been essential to it’s survival up to this point dies a slow death.

    Dance Monkeys…Dance!!!!

  12. Sandra Lawrence wrote:

    Douglas, I just read your article in Thought and Action. I, too, am a “blogademic” but fairly new to it all - just a few months. By the way, did you coin the word? I like it. Thanks for an informative piece. I wonder if others are writing about the tensions in academia around what “publishing” means.

  13. Alan wrote:

    So - we have some “newbies” on board. I welcome you, even as I shortly take my leave of this blog. You folks from academia have missed the occasional piece of really transcendent writing, and you’ve missed a few fairly decent brouhahas. Since you’re new, my parting gift will be to try and assist you in your understanding of a few very current issues. I’ll copy and paste Doug’s own words, lest there be any confusion:

    “…mainline fundamentalist theology.” This might be an unknown language to a few of you. Simplistically stated, this is the disease that afflicts those who, in a quaint and archaic way, happen to believe that the Bible is “fundamentally” the word of God. I’m one of them, so I can state this with some degree of delight and certainty. Hold on, though, as there’s more, this of a personal nature.

    “… a form of music from a world and a way of life that, in most other respects, I left behind half a lifetime ago.”

    Ah. Some of us, and many who once posted here eloquently but have left the building, have discovered just how far behind him his early training has been left. We discovered this courtesy of Doug’s own words, out there in cyberspace for anyone interested to see. And here’s the rub; the subtitle of this blog reads “Criticism and Commentary on Southern Gospel Music and Culture.” Well, the vast majority of the former audience here, who have left and yet will, have come to realize that while we respect Doug’s talent, his lifestyle renders him disqualified to comment on the music of the Gospel, much less to dare criticize it.

    So welcome to all of the newcomers, although I’d be shocked if my welcome sees the light of day. I dare say that you’ll be warmly welcomed here, as a lot of us are saying farewell.

  14. NG wrote:

    So a person cannot comment or criticize southern gospel music if his lifestyle disqualifies him.

    That means I cannot comment on or criticize hard rock music because I don’t do drugs; same with honky-tonk country music cause I don’t hang out in bars and cheat on my wife; same with the music of rap singer Wyclef Jean because I’m not a refugee; and the same with black gospel music because I’m not black.

  15. Mark wrote:

    The part of Doug’s post that shocked me the most is that any publication of the NEA would be referred to as scholarly! In fact, ALL publications of the NEA are merely shameless propaganda designed to inflate and protect the dominance of their tenure-protected member teachers and their monopoly in the government schools. If you paid tax dollars today, thank a teacher and the NEA!

  16. Kyle wrote:

    Oooh, the question of the century!!! Can someone who admittedly has left behind the “world” of gospel music still have the right/authority to comment on gospel music?

    Now, Doug’s article is just vague enough to let the uber-bashers of the site jump all over it and use it to say that Doug is at least one (if not all) of the following:

    1. Not a Christian, or has left Christianity behind
    2. Finds Christianity to be non-intellectual (and, at times, a target for ridicule)
    3. Is drawn to gospel music based on nostalgia, not the ministry or message within

    If any of the above is true, does that negate his opinions altogether, or does it provide gospel music with something that it inherently avoids at all costs: the views of an outsider….

  17. Aaron Swain wrote:

    Say what you will about Doug, but one must admit that he is very right about most of the stuff he posts about here.

  18. wackythinker wrote:

    No, Aaron, we don’t have to admit anything. We might be failing to tell the whole truth, but we don’t HAVE to.

  19. quartet-man wrote:

    It bugged me at how long it took for accompaniment tracks to be on CD. I would have bought them that way from the beginning of when I bought them (around 1988) had they done so. Oh wait, my church didn’t have a CD player then. :D Even so, even long after we got one (I would have to say maybe 10 years ago or so) CD’s were still not available.

    Same thing with the Gaither videos. It took some time for them to be on DVD. Even when the new ones were, it took much longer to get the old ones re-released on DVD.

    However, in both cases you can’t really blame them. They make them to sell and if many of their customers do not have the components to play them on, it wouldn’t be profitable.

  20. Grigs wrote:

    “That means I cannot comment on or criticize hard rock music because I don’t do drugs”

    If you do drugs, it will probaly will sound good to you and you won’t criticize it. LOL

  21. Irishlad wrote:

    Love and sex,religion,psychological depression and music itself. Avery or Leonard Cohen? Hallelujah or I’m neither left or right/i’m just staying home tonight/getting lost in that hopeless little screen. And a happy xmas to you too.

  22. Wade wrote:

    Hey Alan… SEE YA… hope the door knocks you down on the way out…take doc joe with ya and a few others to be named later.

    If Dr. DH some how is not qualified to comment on your precious music…we been down this road before but, what about all the ppl who perform, write, listen & comment on it who are adulterers, liberals, gay or like me, just an every day sinner???

    Should we even try to get sinners to go to concerts or even church???

    I can’t wait to get to Heaven and see some of you who think you are so perfect take a worse smack down than I will take.

    The Blood of many more ppl will be on your hands because of your sanctimonious, better than you attitudes.

    Now go start your own blog for SGM for perfect sinless ppl. It will be pretty boring. Have you seen some of those other blogs that have post after post with not EVEN 1 comment. Just go to one of those.

    Merry Christmas!!!!

  23. Glenn wrote:


    Couldn’t agree more.

  24. Daniel R. Collins wrote:

    Doug, just read your T&A article tonight and thought I’d check out your site. It’s very serendipitous, because just this morning I was musing about starting a mathematics blog as an outlet for my extra-curricular thinking, and your article basically clinched it for me.

    I share a lot of your split-personality issues, albeit regarding diametrically opposed subjects. On the one hand I’m a faculty member teaching math and computer science. On the other hand, I play in a hard rock (punk) band here in NYC. It’s a continuing exercise in courage to try and share all of me with either individual world.

    Your initial quote in T&A (Justin Timberlake, etc.) made me laugh, because I’d actually written a punk song in the past with exactly that plot (at www.myspace.com/megachurch). LOL and all that. Thanks!

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