Regulated dissent

Emily Sutherland’s recent post giving us all a good lecture for not eating our peas and expressing doubt about what the people in power say about Guy Penrod’s departure from the Gaither Vocal Band has me thinking for the thousandeth time about the culture of fiercely regulated dissent in southern gospel.

Though I do think the Penrod thing has been mishandled from the start and that stating the facts simply, tactfully, and honestly would have been the better approach, the particulars of Penrod’s case interest me less than the underlying dynamic it points to in the way southern gospel responds to celebrity misbehavior or transgression, real or perceived.

The lengths that people will go in the southern gospel industry to avoid acknowledging unorthodox realities and truths that might challenge the tenets of orthodox doctrine – or to maintain or defend the inerrancy of their own “truth” – has been so deeply embedded in the southern gospel mind and imagination for so long that it can be difficult to parse. But it relies on several key ingredients:

  • Hypocrisy: the industry not only allows but purposefully encourages fans to collapse the space between the artists and their personae, and so to confuse being a fan with being a close friend. By itself there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this. But when this confusion (quite naturally and predictably) leads fans to expect a meaningful explanation for the personal origins of performers’ public retreat from the stage, entire sectors of the industry rise up in outrage – outrage!
  • Denial: Who, us? Hypocrites?
  • Arrogance: Trust me. I know what’s best for you to know.
  • Fear: We certainly don’t want to look like arrogant hypocrites! More outrage! More outrage!

Thus “truth” becomes synonymous with silence, “sin” becomes whatever breaks that silence publicly, and the self-proclaimed “truth-tellers” make the sweeping of transgressions under the rug - but not entirely out of sight - a form of piety.

Contrary to what many people think, the point of all this isn’t to suppress unflattering information: A secret in sg is what people talk openly about in stage whispers … and then assure you they’re only mentioning all this in such copious detail so you can be sure you know what to pray for.

No, the point of all this is to retain coercive control of who can speak about it publicly and in what way (which is why no one, including me, will publish the reason Penrod left the GVB except on the terms dictated by the artist and his handlers). One’s status and influence in the industry can thus be measured, not by how close one is to the not-so-secret truth, but by one’s willingness to perpetuate the “truth” and  sacrilize self-delusion.

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  1. Irishlad wrote:

    The basis of fundamental/evangelical dogma,which sg is anchored on is: one must strife to live like Jesus. Nothing wrong with that ;except it can’t be done. Hence when some big ’star’ messes up there’s mass hysteria. Wise up were not gods or even demi-gods,we’re human open to every conceivable sin going. Even if we were half ‘n’ half no guarantee we’d be into southern gospel anyroad.

  2. The Big Dog wrote:

    There is a great old book entitled “Games Christians Play.” A somewhat dated and a most un-Politically Correct book, but very enlightening and frankly disturbing look at some of the very themes described above.

  3. Grigs wrote:

    You all aren’t my friends, you’re my fans!

    God bless and good night!

  4. George Davis wrote:

    Doug, had you never come out and told us who you actually were and just remained “The keyboardist with the bag on his head” just think what it could’ve done. You could’ve brought us up to speed on what is supposedly known about Guy Penrod and we’d all be happier. I’ve seen posts on here suggesting voice issues, I’ve seen posts other places suggesting that he told Gaither that if Marsh got the heave-ho he’d walk too. Regardless of the reason I and hopefully many others would like to know what happened and what Bill “I control the world” Gaither is thinking by trying to make some huge cover-up of the whole issue. Hopefully one day either Guy’s handlers or the people who should be standing up for the freedom of press will take a stand and tell us the truth.

  5. MP wrote:


    So, doug if you can’t tell us what the real reason is, can you at least tell us if the rumor is true?


  6. MP wrote:

    (meaning if the gaither story about just wanting to do a solo CD is true)

  7. gaithergirl wrote:

    AMEN! TO ALL OF THE ABOVE! I was very forunate to become close friends w/someone in the industry, and I know first hand there have been MANY cover-ups
    over the thirteen years I know about! It seems the Ten Commandments do not necessarily pertain to “artists’! But even my friend will not ‘touch’ this one! I am a true fan of Guy Penrod. He became my favorite artist a long time ago. I truly pray that this time, there are other reasons for the sudden departure.Whatever the case I truly feel alittle honesty in the industry would go a LONG way. Everything you said in the above post it so true. We are encouraged as fans to feel ‘close’ to the artists, and buy, buy, buy. But after we buy, buy, buy, don’t expect anything else,
    especially, honesty for forth-rightness. I am not saying we need to know ‘dirty details’, we don’t need that at all, just a simple explanation that is believable.

  8. gaithergirl wrote:

    This is one of the best posts I have come across in a very long time!

  9. Wade wrote:

    Told ya.. Told ya… 2 things

    1.) Dr. DH will not allow me to post why Guy left!! So why write it.

    2.) Gaither and ALL Gospel Music has MANY COVER UPs and other BIG TIME secrets!!!


    I do not think there will be any OPEN LETTERS in the SN about this… I think it will be a while before you hear anything from Guy…much less a solo CD!!

  10. cynical one wrote:

    At least when Ray Boltz came out of the closet, and when p&w leader Terry MacAlmon stepped down from his ministry, there was some honesty. Maybe more that we wanted/needed to know in some cases, but still, they told why they were stepping down. They didn’t leave people to speculate.

    But maybe, whatever it is, Guy needs time to heal his family, before dealing with the public, and trying to heal his career. I can understand that.

    But I agree with what Gaithergirl said: “We are encouraged as fans to feel ‘close’ to the artists, and buy, buy, buy. But after we buy, buy, buy, don’t expect anything else, especially, honesty for forth-rightness.”

    And maybe some of us have been too harsh in talking about BG, intimating he maniuplates people and information to glorify his kingdom. Maybe it really isn’t any of our *%@& business.

    I can see more than one side to this issue.

  11. gaithergirl wrote:

    Some indicated that Bill was ‘taking it on the chin’ for Guy, who knows… .

  12. gaithergirl wrote:

    Wade, we understand you can’t break a confidence, but can you tell us this, is the
    Penrod family still together? If you can’t address this, we understand. It would break my heart if they weren’t.

  13. Indoubt wrote:

    The Penrod thing definitely carries with it some enigmatic intrigue. I think so much has happened over the last 10 years or so within the Gaither empire that we as fans are almost left perplexed… wondering how a man who basically owns Gospel music repeatedly surrounds himself with or always seems to be in the midst of his group, homecoming, or entourage members falling out of good graces with him, the homecoming family, or the fans… Think for a second about the folks he has used over the years….. Boltz, English, Christmas, Lowry, Pierce(Jonathan)…and this is just to name a few….

    I truly believe that when you are serving the Lord…Satan will attack…and I think the downfall of some of these singers, or the “rumors” that have been spread are proof….

    However, to keep us all in the dark and expect us to only see the good in what he does….or only see the “star” power in his newly assembled groups….. while turning our attention away from possible corruption and sin in the camp……insults me…

    Whatever Guy has done…or not done(I truly think hes a great man…and I will forgive him or applaud him…regardless what he is or isnt guilty of)…whatever the rumors are…dont expect that WE the fans are stupid…Dont expect us to be blinded by the flashy pinstripes of your new group. It is obvious that there is a problem and by not addressing it in some official capacity it implies that you see us as complacent….then again maybe we are… I did buy a ticket to their last show!

  14. gaithergirl wrote:

    Once again, Amen, to all that was said!

  15. Dottie Bonner wrote:

    I too agree with above. From the minute I read that Guy was taking time off. You knew something was up. The bull about him going solo was just that bull. But in all honesty, as a fan, we pick our favorites, we follow their careers, read their stories, in this case watch the family grow, to have Guy fall off the face of the earth is totally unacceptable. Honesty is the best policy and even if we don’t get all the nasty little details, Just be honest. We as fans are not going to like him less. In fact I went and bought several hundred dollars worth of dvd’s just so I could watch Guy over and over again. He’s a terrific singer, a terrific person, a terrific family man and I can see Christ in him through his singing, his expressions, his eyes. Maybe someone close to him can tell him to set up a blog somewhere and Marshall too. I’d hate to lose touch with these two great men.

  16. gaithergirl wrote:

    Well, it would seem indeed, we have lost
    touch w/these two! Not a peep from Guy
    in six months! I truly miss him. If anyone
    hears anything I hope they will let us know.
    I am beginning to wonder if he truly is planning on going solo.

  17. Wade wrote:

    gaither girl… it will be e while!!!

  18. gaithergirl wrote:

    Thank you, Wade. Even though it’s hard
    we will all just have to wait!

    Guy and his family need some time, and that’s far more important than our ‘needing’ that new CD!

    Our prayers are with him and his family.

  19. Dottie Bonner wrote:

    I would love to see Guy, Marsh and 2 others start their own quartet, bet that would be something!!!

  20. onlygodknows wrote:

    Hey, Dottie Bonner, wouldn’t that be a great quartet with Guy, Marsh & 2 others? Yep, yep!! Thought about that myself…”why not?”

  21. Dottie Bonner wrote:

    Found the alto, don’t remember his name though. He was the blond guy that sang with the Cathedrals, there was George Younce, Glenn Payne, Ernie Haas and the blond alto. He would make a perfect fit with Guy and Marsh, now we just need a base singer.

  22. Dottie Bonner wrote:

    OOPS! Meant to say bass singer.

  23. Dotty Dottie wrote:

    Dottiw - do you mean Scott Fowler, the former Cathedrals baritone? I think he already has a full-time gig. Legacy somethingorother ;-)

  24. deke sailor wrote:

    I heard a replay of part of the new GVB concert done recently in Orlando. As always, Michael English, David Phelps and Wes Hampton are fine artists, but other than that, the absence of Marsh Hall and Guy Penrod was very painful. Michael will always be great, as will David and Wes, but as the GVB–it ain’t. WHATEVER the reasons they are no longer part of the GVB It was a disaster when Guy and Marsh left. There is no cohesion now and the blend is flat. Replacing Mark AND Bill would be a big help. Ernie Haas and his guys are now the big attraction.

  25. Dottie Bonner wrote:

    I agree totally with deke sailor!!! Amen, bring Guy and Marsh back. I also saw it in Orlando, sorry I have’t watched it since! Bill didn’t do so good this time I’m afraid!!!

  26. dottie bonner wrote:

    WWW.GUYPENROD.COM, to purchase Guy’s new CD. He’s back!!!!!! Yea

  27. wendy J wrote:

    What groups are faithful to their marriages and live daily, for the God they are singing about?

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