Fame, fallibility, and gospel misfits
Following up on my post on the culture of regulated dissent, it’s probably fair to ask: Ok, but why exactly do you think this kind of thing should be reported publicly?
Good question. It isn’t about airing a beloved personality’s dirty laundry for the sake of seeing soiled linen (there are ways to tell the truth without turning it into Springer, and besides, though southern gospel types like to act shocked and horrified when an artist pilfers from the take at the product table or posts nekked pictures of himself on a gay chat site or ends up in rehab or sleeps with someone else’s wife, everyone knows this stuff happens about as often as most people blink).
It’s about exploding the myth of pious lying and challenging the dysfunctional fragility of the southern gospel fame and fan culture, which runs on a preposterous confection of fear and sanctimony. Because the music as a structure of belief can support a far wider range of unorthodox experience than most artists and other industry insiders themselves seem capable of accepting.
More than most forms of Christian entertainment, gospel music appeals to people because it gives them an emotionally meaningful language in which to contextualize and make sense of negative feelings and experiences. Don’t believe me? Compare the experience of singing one chorus of Ronnie Hinson’s “That I Could Still Go Free” to fourteen choruses of “Awesome God.” At its best, gospel music endures because of, not despite, human fallibility. Do you think the power and pathos of Hinson’s lyrics or the Hinsons’ music emerged from a life of gold stars for good behavior in
By and large, the saints go to Sunday School. The rest of us follow the smell of diesel fumes to the nearest southern gospel concert. Understood rightly, the entire history of southern gospel is the record of misfits, outcasts, non-conformists, and strugglers searching for, hearing, finding, or longing after the right key for the soul to sing in. And these people are on both sides of the footlights. To pretend otherwise when those misfits, outcasts, non-conformists, or strugglers happen to be popular performers is to cheapen the grace that gospel music can afford.Email this Post