The Untold Stories of FamilyFest

Discussing her recent piece of creative nonfiction, “FamilyFest,” for CALYX, Lynne Casteel Harper reflects on the hard-to-tell parts of family life that never get told in the always already beatified atmosphere of the Homecoming worldview, and how that beatific talk about the family permeates life on and offstage:

I actually have some affection for southern gospel music and the groups I’ve come to know over the past few years.  I enjoy, in moderation, the tight harmonies and the un-ironic happiness exuded from stage. But when I found myself immersed in this intensive environment for three days, I simply could not ignore the deeply troubling way the event had merged faith with a particular portrayal of family.  The fact that only certain versions of family were given the microphone—and only these “family stories” could enjoy public narration—got me thinking about all the audience members whose families did not fit the sanctioned narrative.  It got me thinking about my own stories.

The wedding of faith to one kind of family narrative haunted me, particularly as I began to consider my friends [whom I write about in the essay] (“Melody” and “Justin”) whose theology was similar to the theology represented on stage but for whom these idealized notions of family had shattered in the face of hard realities.  The sacralizing of a particular narration of family does not just happen on the gospel music stage.  My long weekend of immersion in this “Family Fest” family hit this fact home to me.

Harper’s essay is here; the complete interview is here.

(BTW it’s worth noting that Harper’s husband, Ryan, is doing perhaps the most extensive scholarly work to date on the Gaithers and Homecoming. While we’re all waiting expectantly for Ryan’s Gaither work to be published, check out his recent essay on Promise Keepers in Religion and Popular Culture).

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  1. Jackie wrote:

    Wow, I bet this author really feels superior…such big words and complex sentences. How does one carry such a head around?

  2. CNW wrote:

    This article is ridiculous. It’s actually the total opposite of what this author is saying. The HC concerts are intended to be a time of offering hope to the hurting and encouragement to the discouraged. Mr. Gaither’s not bringing the families up to say “look at us we’re perfect and you’re not” It’s the complete opposite. Singing “Because He Lives” gives us hope that we can face all the hurts we all have. Besides, it’s just not accurate anyway. The HC artists are no different than the rest of us. What about Michael English and all the problems he had as well as many other artists who have experienced divorce. So I am just not understanding the author’s perspective at all.

  3. Janet B wrote:

    So…what? I gotta love these super-intellectual types that think they’re smarter than the rest of us because they’ve noticed there’s pain in the world. So she has “friends” who have experienced tragedy. Congratulations. Who doesn’t?

  4. yankeegospelgirl wrote:

    Yah, not really impressed. Sorry.

  5. Norm wrote:

    As one who has been attending Family Fest for the past 9 years an in attendance at the one referred to I found it remarkable that the author spoke of the ending session on Monday morning. If the is a session on Monday morning I has been kept as the best kept secret as there is none! Just maybe she was spending way to much time at the swimming pool she referred to in her essay?

  6. ode wrote:


    She acknowledged that was a weekend only event. If I was sitting in the audience that ate up that crazy story about kidney bean size baby surviving in a Petri dish and later becoming a pastor I’d forget what day of the week it was, too, and start actively thinking how to get outta the place. Thats the size of a 8 week post conception baby, it looks like a fish, with the head making about half of the fetus body. Well,I do know a few pastors that still sound like they live in a Petri dish and maintain the same head/to body size ratio, so maybe…

    The yellow press material; a story as credible as Benny Hinn’s show. BillG provides EXCEllENT signing band + much easy sellable talking points BS, and laughs all the way to the bank. Being used to the reputation about jews and money usually preceding me, I can only applaud ;)

  7. ode wrote:

    Flipping thru her work…girl is a good journalist, but this piece is poor – multiworded, detail-sloppy and many of her thoughts have loose ends.

    But even if she doesn’t know of M.English escapades, she is aware that most Bible Belt states lead the nation in divorce, domestic abuse, teen pregnancies, statutory rape, childhood poverty and kids in foster system. It is doubtful she thinks Bill G is clueless about it; its his presentation style thats rubbing her( and me ;) the wrong way.

    Liberal Baptist minister from NJ, she is not used to SG subculture. Bill’s approach sells THERE, yet to her it naturally appears shockingly cocky, pretentious, self praising, goofy and egoistic. Similar Family Fest events in NY or Chicago would be definitely celebrating families of all kinds, widowed, divorced, single or adoptive parents and would reach out to non-religious with honesty. SG shows do lack brotherly love. Wasn’t there vertical /horizontal song worship discussion here recently? SG is great for praise,worship, etc, it’s just not very human-friendly.

    Next time there she better enjoy great singing and tune out ALL the bull painted as religion.

  8. irishlad wrote:

    haha Ode, nice one….aaaaand on to Promise Keepers, what a load of hypocritical shite that outfit was..a cowboy outfit more like. As soon as enough guys got together and discovered they could go to DC for free and(in some cases)visit a few strip joints rather than pay 60 bucks the organization usually charged it imploded.Forget the 7 promises all nice and dandy but like most things in the real world was all about the money.

  9. John Situmbeko wrote:

    Gaither laughing all the way to the bank? I don’t think so. He may be rich but do you know how many employees he has to pay salaries? It’s not like all these big events he does only make his wallet fatter. Beside him and Gloria there is the Homecoming Friends who obviously are not volunteers on Gaither shows. Not to mention the thousands of workers in the back ground whose livelihood is entirely dependent upon Gaither’s music ministry. Sure, he is not poor(thank God), more than half of his lifetime has been hard work enough for him to rightly and, in humble thanks giving and joyful praise, laugh all the way to the bank, while he laughs all the way to heaven.

  10. John Situmbeko wrote:

    I’m personally displeased and disgusted when people intentionally talk evil of Good intentioned people’s work. If the lady didn’t like it, she should have vented her displeasure in a more productive way, like knitting or canning tomatoes. Her writing is highly confusing. Like a sewer pipe that spills unwanted waste in households, her written work is not only offensive but repulsive.

  11. SG_Obzerver wrote:

    Contrary to what seems to be the moral of her story, those of the Gaither branch of the household of faith are not the wide-eyed, pollyanna, pie in the sky, gullible, hayseed rubes that this pompous, presumptious and seemingly bitter writer makes them out to be. In one dismissive and smug swipe of her brush she paints with such broad strokes a picture that both angered me and saddened me at the same time. The fact is that in the day which we live I don’t know of anyone that has been exempt from the pain that comes from living in a fallen world. Divorce, sickness, death, alcohol, drugs and all manner of sin has touched every family of every singer and fan alike. How they deal and cope with those issues is not for Ms. Harper to determine. It seems that she would rather them crawl up into the consuming black hole of negativity and cynicism wherein she has chosen to dwell. Life is hard but God is good and I would much rather go forward praising Him for His hand of mercy than to simply curse the darkness that seeks to envelop my life and the lives my family. The concept of family seems to be lauded in every form today except the “sacralized” traditional one. In fact the writer almost sounded resentful of the fact that there are still some intact families who have managed to live within this “traditional notion”. You can almost envision her patting the “silly un-enlightened ones” on their heads and with a look of smug superiority sending them off to bed with a glass of warm milk.
    In the words of another antiquated out of touch Gospel singer who is now truly free indeed - “I’ve drank from the cup of disapointment and pain and gone many a day without a song… but I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life that makes me want to keep living on.”

  12. Jackie wrote:

    to #11
    could not have said it any better…may your tribe increase

  13. Jeff_W wrote:

    Shazam! Shazam! Shazam! Garleeeee, you mean there are actually families that have problems? I must be intellecktuel because I kinda thunk that before Captain Obvious done there writ that article.

    Give me a break. Ms. Harper is a clueless dolt.

  14. Ryan Harper wrote:

    I hesitate to offer an opinion here. I’m sure this will be read as a defense of my spouse (a defense she did not ask for; she hasn’t been following this thread as I have). On some level, I suppose it is; I check AVFL from time to time, even when Doug is not so gracious to post something related directly to me, but I don’t typically comment. I suppose this has become a family fest for me.

    But I also write because I think something needs to be said about the type of writing one is experiencing in Lynn’s piece—this thing called “creative nonfiction”—and how it relates to Christian thought and practice.

    Let me offer the beginning of an interpretation, based on one sentence from the essay. It is an ironic sentence choice, because it is the shortest sentence in the essay, and one criticism on this thread seems to be directed toward the essay’s multisyllabic language.

    The shortest sentence in the piece—“Nothing is sacred, entirely”—is the most difficult sentence in the piece. Deliberately so. The ambiguous syntax invites by my count four possible interpretations. Upon first reading it, I was unsure how the terms in this sentence were meant to relate to one another. The sentence required me to stop, slow down, reread, to exert some mental energy, to think through the implications of every possible direction that sentence could head. As I continued through the essay, I found that what that sentence required of me—what it prompted me to think about—was related to the essay’s larger topics, especially to the tenuous relationship between notions of sacrality, absence, wholeness. I also noticed that, while the essay often thematized fragmentation vs. wholeness, absence vs. presence, the piece was itself a bundle of fragments that sometimes connected and sometimes did not. There were several points when Lynn seemed deliberately to be withholding things from me in the narrative. For example, I ended the essay not knowing if Justin really did molest his children, or if Lynn believed he did. Notice how many times that “details,” or “the whole story” are “forgotten,” or someone “did not want to know the details.” Notice how frustrated those absences and loose ends made some of you feel. It made me frustrated, too.

    Here ends my reading. I fear I have already said too much.

    The most important thing in the piece seems to be the task of re-visioning that the essay puts into motion. The experience of reading the essay, as a provocation to moral-ethical reflection, is more important than is the positing of propositions for the readers’ absolute confirmation or denial—for example, propositions regarding how amazing or terrible the Gaithers are (I hope those aren’t the only two options). As Jeff_W and Janet B suggested, this piece certainly would not be daring or impressive if it were simply saying, “there is pain in the world” or “families have problems” (flat, indeed, as a southern gospel show that thought IT was saying something daring or impressive by merely acknowledging the existence of pain while only narrating stories of pain’s overcoming. The Michael English who HAD problems HAS a public forum).

    The piece needs to do more than that. To rephrase, I think this is what it does (one of the things): Lynn is recommending the exercise of imagination in our ethical lives by requiring imagination of her readers—by making us work to make sense of fragments rather than taking solace in an artificial, easy-to-read/swallow, narrative “whole” presented for our simple consumption. And one of the tough things about this is that, just as there is no promise that greater ethical imagination produces desired results in practice, there is no promise that the work of reading will produce clarity on the points we desire. But at least we will not offer easy solutions (as Lynn admits she and her friends did re: Justin and Melody) and render things catastrophic by denying deeper relational problems. Lynn says in the interview that writing for her is an act of faith. I’d say reading is as well. I would suspect most of you are seldom up for that task. I know I am not.

    But there is hope. Attempting to read faithfully—to work through the fragments—can make us more faithful. Like a muscle, the imagination gets stronger the more we exercise it. It will not get stronger if we believe the apparatus on which we work out should do all of our heavy lifting for us. Simple narratives concerning this vague thing called a “family” do not exercise us. Neither does easy writing.

    “Creative nonfiction” pieces are only going to do so much work for you. If you think this is a copout answer—a skirting of writer responsibility, an excuse for writers to be vague, say essentially nothing, and seem smart—I am probably not going to be able to convince you otherwise. I could tell you that, when Lynn considers writing a sentence like “nothing is sacred, entirely,” she (and most good writers of creative nonfiction) have all of the stuff in mind I mentioned in my reading, and a good deal more. Lynn spends a lot of time thinking about when to be subtle, when to be direct, how different sentences play off others, how many times she uses a particular term, how one usage related to another, what other authors (biblical and otherwise) have used the term/language, whether or not her readers will be acquainted with those usages, whether or not that will matter.

    But, of course, you have no reason to trust me. I may not be telling you everything.

    I would, though, offer two things in closing that will hopefully resonate even if you do not trust me: (1) creative nonfiction is certainly not the only kind of writing the world needs. The world needs good newspaper articles, too. And it is true, Lynn’s essay would be a bad newspaper article. (2) if you are a Christian, you may want to consider the fact that you claim to follow a figure who taught in parables—which frustrated the living daylights out of his disciples who longed for more didactic forms. It is worth stopping and pondering this.

  15. irishlad wrote:

    14 Look Ryan,forget it you’re dealing with a socio-economic class who are neither interested, nor, more sadly want to be interested in what you or your wife have to say.
    Really, it has no bearing on their every day life. I’m sure they don’t have the money,time or energy to dissect the minute of that particular part of the human psych,captivating as it may seem.

  16. Ryan Harper wrote:

    Kind of you to respond, Irishlad. Whatever disinterest there is in “me/us,” from
    “them,” though, I do not want to be perceived as returning inattention for inattention, disinterest for disinterest (and I don’t assume disagreement is always disinterest; I’m sure there are good reasons not to like Lynn’s piece, or my post above; I’m less convinced that there are good reasons for paying no attention to their detail).
    The whole Homecoming space means a good deal to me (and, even more, the spiritual discipline of attentive reading–which I think is of a piece with how we perceive others and how we behave toward them). I’ll be a quite public representative of one corner of the SG world soon enough, and I want to be critical, exacting, and laudatory to all involved–fans and all. I want to write for those interested and on behalf of those who are not.
    Thanks again,

  17. MCP wrote:

    Ryan, it’s admirable that you tried to explain what your wife wrote and why, but it simply doesn’t fly. I’ve read her essay a few times trying to make sense of her points, and read your comment twice. I’m left to wonder - would your wife rather have Gaither present a “Broken Family Fest”, or a “Dysfunctional Family Fest”? I’ve never been to one of those events, and have no real desire to, but I think I’d like what it is than another format. Frankly, to me it’s just another quasi-intellectual piece that falls short on every point, especially whatever the point was that she was trying to make.

  18. Jonathan Sawrie wrote:

    Just to cast my vote…

    The essay is not easy reading, but I often enjoy such “heavy lifting”.

    The point is well-made and worth examination.

  19. Ryan Harper wrote:

    Hi, MCP. It’s a fair and important question, regarding the “Broken Family Fest.” It’s actually one I’ll be dealing with at some length in my book (forgive me if I don’t tip my hand too much!). I can’t answer for Lynn on this point, but I’ll try my hand.

    The issue for me pertains to how we envision community and what sort of role the Homecomings play in that envisioning. Certainly, as SG-Obzerver noted above, the Gaithers are not averse to showing the fact of pain on their stages–Sheri Easter’s cancer comes to mind; there are numerous other examples. And they’re quite clear that a life of faith does not lead to the end of pain. In this sense, they do much, much better than many of their peers on Christian television.

    I think they’re less prone to showing interpersonal conflict and the pain of actual dissent. Interpersonal conflicts that appear on stage are always past tense. They’re a resolved chord. One leaves a Homecoming quite aware that some varieties of pain exist, and maybe one leaves with some resources to deal with these sorts of pain. But interpersonal conflict is not treated.

    Now, more to your point. I can see it two ways. On one hand, it does not seem reasonable to expect the Homecomings to render interpersonal conflict visible. I mean, do we expect them to hold their business meetings or family interventions on stage? If the Homecomings are but a two-hour plus show–or even a weekend-long revival–can’t they simply be seen as a moment when we set conflicts aside and celebrate some sort of unity? Given how divisive and divided American Christianity is, the Homecomings seem like a prophetic voice in this sense.

    On the other hand, the Homecomings have elements that exceed the simple revival. We are made to feel as if we are let in on the minutiae of the musicians’ lives. In talking to the numerous over the past few years, I have heard this resounding refrain: “I feel like I know them.” The baby pictures, the Homecoming magazine articles (and cookbook!)–it’s all designed to make fans feel like they’re in a relationship with the performers. But interpersonal conflicts are not part of the public narration. This strikes me as a bit unfair (incidentally, there is a very fine discussion of the issue of privacy and public display in SGM in a March 30, 2011 post on this blog: “Catching a Tiger By the Tail”).

    Since there is no interpersonal conflict, the experience leaves the impression that communities without conflict are, indeed, possible. This is troubling to me. It keeps citizens from developing the critical, conflict-mediating habits necessary to creating and sustaining any robust community (church, nation, etc.), and it makes us despair (and skip town) the moment we are faced with interpersonal conflict and criticism. Christianity is sorely lacking in resources for dealing with conflict (as a glance back through the comments on this thread illustrates). False, incomplete ideals of community and unity–which are linked to false, incomplete, ideals of family–only make the situation worse. I have to believe this is correlated with the fact that folks leave their churches so often, over things like the color of sanctuary carpet. The irony is, the more we idealize communities without dealing with the dark stuff, the less chance we have to realize the community ideal–in our families, churches, societies at large.

    Thanks for your question (and for your attention to the texts, even if they strike you as off-base or not that meaningful). Like I said, I can see this “what do we expect of Homecomings?” thing both ways, and I’m still wrestling with the matter I’d love your thoughts–either on this thread or in an e-mail.

  20. Ryan Harper wrote:

    “Riding the Southern Gospel Tiger,” March 30, 2011. Sorry.

  21. yankeegospelgirl wrote:

    The passage where she talks about the “friends” who urged Melody not to abort her baby seems almost derisive towards said “friends.” As if somehow they were closed-minded or one-dimensional for believing the only right choice was to have the baby. Now, I don’t agree that Melody should have felt like she had to KEEP the child at that point (that’s always been a tricky balance for pro-lifers—how to create the maternal bond necessary to discourage abortion without going all the way and encouraging the mother to raise the child herself), and in that respect her friends probably made a mistake. Ideally, she would have had the child, placed it for adoption, broken off the relationship with Justin, and tried as best as possible to start fresh.

    But whatever else you would like to say about the situation, the friends were absolutely right to persuade her not to abort, and I don’t really appreciate the tone the article took towards them even for doing that.

  22. yankeegospelgirl wrote:

    And lest anyone question the derision I’m sensing, I think this sentence says it all:

    “Any word entertaining the ethics of nonbeing smothered under this gag order. (When I was a child, I thought like a child.)”

    Right. I mean heaven forbid we should stifle a free and open conversation, right? We’re grownups here. When we were kids we were silly enough to think it was actually a baby. Silly us.

  23. CNW wrote:

    Well #19 My question is what does all this have to do with a musical concert for crying out loud! It’s a concert…a two hour space of time when you listen to great songs sung by great voices. You seem to be WAY over-analyzing a simple concert. If you don’t like it don’t go, simple as that. Your thoughts may have their time and place in a different context, but I am totally failing to understand how bringing the singers’ families on stage should elicit such a response!

  24. Ryan Harper wrote:

    That’s a good example of a good reason to not like the essay, yankeegospelgirl. Thanks for referring to a specific passage. Obviously, Lynn is claiming that a certain practice is childish, and obviously you disagree.
    The only thing I’d only add is that the childish thing seems to be the process of arriving at rthe conclusion rather than the conclusion itself that bears the brunt of judgment. It is the “non-entertaining” of a trajectory of thought–a manner of disallowing a consideration and by virtue of that disallowing sanctifying an opposite conclusion–that is being treated as childish. I can see how this grates against you.

  25. Ryan Harper wrote:

    Oh, sorry CNW–forgot to respond to you.

    I think the issue is best approached if we consider your statement, “if you don’t like it don’t go.” Judging by this statement, I think you assume two things I do not: (1) there are things we like, and things we don’t like, and they are for the most part mutually exclusive; (2) those things I do not like are things I should avoid.

    Re (1): I do not divide the world that way. Rare are the occasions that I utterly like or don’t like something. If I experience the former, I assume I need to be more critical, because nothing is purely good. When I assume the latter, I assume I need to be more charitable, because few things are purely bad.

    Re (2): If I really don’t like something, that is hardly an excuse to leave off considering it. I have found that engaging things I don’t like has caused me a great deal more reflection than engaging things I simply enjoy (or that are easy to engage). When I experience “dislike,” I have to do a lot of soul-searching to examine why I do not like the thing in question and why I might have reasons to respond differently.

    Your comment actually illustrates the worry I articulate in my response to MCP–the presumption that not liking something should lead to cutting and running. While I concede that we all have to make our choices re: how much “dislike” we can stomach, I think this is a dangerous, “conflict-avoidance” way to approach the world. The chuch sees its effects, and broader society does as well.

    To your question: this is, then, all tied up with your suggestion that a simple music concert is not the occasion to “overanalyze” things–that maybe such analysis is fine in some contexts, but not here (I assume “here” means a music concert; correct me if I’m wrong).

    Although I no longer claim to be an evangelical, one great debt I owe my evangelical upbringing is that I learned my consumption of media objects can have a profound effect on how I view the world and how I treat others in it. And the effect can happen before I know it. While we certainly would wear ourselves out if we were constantly analyzing our consumptive habits (I have plenty of “stupid time” in my day; I cannot do otherwise), I believe it is imperative to me to investigate with great depth the media objects I/we consume (presumably sacred AND secular objects) and how I–and how we, my community–can and might be affected by them. Again, I owe a great debt to evangelicals for instilling this sensibility within me.

    I do not want to be harsh, but I want to be clear here. This level of examination I am recommending is not simply the scholar’s vocation. It is a profound Christian calling. To recuse yourself from it is to allow yourself to conform to the ways of the world and to refuse to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The refusal of this call is a profound moral failure that will likely multiply its ill effects because it increases misunderstanding and prevents us from sharpening our capacities, thus preventing us from being able to sharpen others in turn. I take seemingly innocuous activities to be very serious business. At my best moments, I take up the call to profound examination of myself and my world . At my worst, I refuse the call.

    I hope that answers your question, and makes sense of what I believe to be our impasse.
    Ryan H

  26. yankeegospelgirl wrote:

    Well, I am curious, what method of arriving at the conclusion that all unborn life is sacred (no matter how fully developed), would be considered sufficiently “proper” or “sophisticated” or “un-childish” by Mrs. Harper?

    And if she’s going to use (or rather misuse) biblical passages to bolster her point, we get to do that too. Did not Jesus say that unless we become as little children, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven? A word that it seems many would do well to heed?

  27. yankeegospelgirl wrote:

    Or wait, I forgot, she didn’t have a point. This was just a piece of post-modern, amorphous prose designed to “spark conversation.” No agenda or bias to see here folks. Move along.

  28. Ryan Harper wrote:

    Hi, yankeegospelgirl. Your last post (#22) caused me to revisit that passage in the essay. It struck me that this thing Lynn is calling “ethics of nonbeing” might not simply apply to abortion. You got me thinking about the passage that set it up, about the secret marriage in the previous paragraph:
    “Instead of risking the fearful and wonderful abyss, they—we—knit together lives never meant to be joined.”
    Everyone here is probably tiring of my interpretations, so I’ll just say that it may be worth thinking about what different lives are being knit together in this essay, who, precisely, is doing the knitting, where we in the Christian tradition have heard talk of “knitting together” and being-formation before, and how that reference relates to the passage.

    But all that said, yankeegospelgirl, let me answer your questions. Again, I must answer for myself. I can answer here because I am in agreement with her. This method–I take it to be your method–of arriving at such a conclusion is childish, and this childishness is indeed bad–bad for Christians reasons. Certainly you deserve a fuller answer (btw, sorry for all those sloppy sentences in my last response; I’ll try to be better this time around!).

    You probably know as well as I do that this is not the place, and we are probably not the people, to rehearse the old pro-life/pro-choice arguments. So I just want to dip into them insofar as they help me answer your question. Let me start by stating what I believe to be your premises.
    (1) “All unborn life is sacred” is an absolute truth.
    (2) It is absolutely true that that which is sacred must be preserved.
    (3) This absolute truth is incontestable.
    (4) The proof of the absoluteness of this truth is that no one contests it.

    My thoughts:
    (1) seems reasonable to me. (2) does not NECESSARILY seem true, because there may be other sacred things we desire to preserve that unfortunately require the violation of said sacred thing. “Unborn life” isn’t the only sacred thing. The only way to work these difficult matters out is to devote a lot of thought to things in a faith community– also a lot of prayer, and always in community with others who are able to make the best possible cases for the respective possibilities.
    (3) might be true, but it is not true simply because someone says it is true. In fact, the fact that someone contests (3) suggests (3) may well be false. The only way to preserve the truth of (3) is to utterly dissuade contesting parties, or otherwise silence them–say, with a “gag order.” Because dissuasion requires conversation, (3) gets defeated the moment it is defended. So the “gag order” is a quite tempting option. But the gag order must be total if it is to be effective. ALL dissenting vioces must be COMPLETELY smothered.
    If the voices are completely smothered, then (4) is rather easy to believe, even though it is clearly circular logic. The end effect, then, is that a defense of the sacrality of the unborn–beings who are voiceless, who cannot defend themselves–has been achieved by rendering opponents utterly voiceless, unable to defend themselves.

    To your first question: Why is this childish? An analogy: I’m sure you’ve heard those stories of autocrats in other countries who were “elected” with “100%” of the people’s vote–who then used this figure as evidence that their rule was absolutely supported, uncontested. If you’re like me, you are a little suspicious of such men. Sure, they may have a lot of support–and heck, they might even be the right guy for the job. But this man will have a tough time convincing you that his rule is uncontested just because he says it is. You will suspect the absence of dissonant voices might be traceable to something other than actual, unequivocal support. You will suspect some coercion, some “gag orders.” And this will likely (and rightly) make you doubt the foundation of his rule.

    Such a ruler is but a toddler with more power–using whatever means he has to drown dissent. To preserve his desire to be absolute, he is like the child who puts his hands over his ears when his opponents start speaking, hoping to drown their protests with “no! no! no! It cannot be true!” This is childish.

    “Any word entertaining the ethics of nonbeing smothered under this gag order.” The belief that the unborn are under all circumstances entitled to “being” has a lot of support–heck, it might even be right. But you will have a tough time convincing me that it is right just because you (or anyone) says it is. You can attempt to enforce a gag order (I don’t necessarily mean physical force; we’re back to Lynn’s worry about the coercion involved in “only giving certain stories the mic” here). But there are always going to be people who can’t be gagged. I am one of them. Moreover, there are always going to be people who notice a profound contradiction in your attempts to smother vioces on behalf of the voiceless. I am one of them, too.

    The best hope you have in actually defending the voiceless is to persuade folks. That requires conversation/relationship. That requires “entertaining” possibilities. If you think this is fruitless, let me offer a personal note. This past year has been a time of profound reflection for me re: abortion. I’ve always understood myself to be basically pro-choice, but through dialogue with thoughtful people–pro-life people who really understand the best arguments for abortion and realize how well-meaning people can believe such things. These people have caused me serious reconsiderations. I’m really wrestling right now. These are people who understand our common ground (we held many of the same things sacred), our departures, and who for these reasons really changed my mind (I can’t say I’m completely “pro-life” by most definitions, but I am a good deal different on the matter than I was; the process is still going on).
    If you think conversation does not work–that gag orders are a better way to arrive at a Christian conclusion–I can only say that people can be better persuaded by other means. I may be one of them

  29. yankeegospelgirl wrote:

    You know Ryan, I thought about answering you on a philosophical level. I could say, for example, that you got my 3rd premise wrong. In fact, there are many people who contest the truth that unborn life is human and sacred. Universal assent is not the yardstick of truth. Many have ears but do not hear. Many have eyes but do not see. Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.

    But I don’t think a philosophical debate will persuade you, partly because I don’t think anything will persuade you. Not now at least. By God’s grace, someday, someone will.

    And yet, I offer one thing. It’s a passage from T. S. Eliot’s play _Murder In the Cathedral_. After Henry’s knights have carried out the murder of Thomas A Becket, they clean their blades, then come forward and take turns offering their excuses to the audience. If you read the passage, it’s frighteningly easy to be lulled by some of their arguments.

    But then comes the cry of the Chorus, which plays a prophetic role in the play. Their chant rises above the cold, matter-of-fact calculations of the knights. They are saying:

    Clean the air! clean the sky! wash the wind! take the stone from the stone, take the skin from the arm, take the muscle from the bone and wash them. Wash the stone, wash the bone, wash the brain, wash the soul, wash them wash them!

    Doubtless Eliot has Lady Macbeth in mind. The ghost-like figure haunting the halls, guilt-ridden, murmuring: “Out, out damned spot!” She who had insisted “A little water clears us of this deed.” It recalls to mind someone else who thought that a little ceremonial sprinkling could clear him of a foul deed.

    God’s mercy on us all. I now take my leave of this debate.

  30. Ode wrote:

    Ryan, you wife’s writing manner is deep diving and thought provoking. I hear you, the short attention span is a plague of my generation. I do like it all short and concise, yet just enjoyed 900+ pages of Murakami’s “1Q84”, so I guess I am on the mend :)

    Encouraging the reader to meditate, leaving some things mysteriously unspoken is wonderful, but she also made it abundantly, doubtlessly clear that she strongly disliked the show, Gaither’s presentation style and fake religiosity associated with it, poor physical appearance and, described in pretty graphic terms, rampant obesity among the fans, evils of fundamentalism and was “eager to leave” (no plainer way to express disappointment with an entertainment event). Girl after my own heart, I like her audacity, if disagree with some observations.Send her my regards. Sadly she didn’t like the singing – I do love GVB.

    Yet even if she was less blunt, her description of the fest shut readers off from anything else she was trying to convey, because – I am sure you know that already – most SG fans generationally idolize and worship their artists. That leaves no room for any critical approach.

    And while I give her the benefit of the doubt, majority here didn’t, as evidenced by names she was called, like a sewer pipe, a clueless dolt, smug, pretentious , stupid under the guise of fake intellectualism.

  31. Ode wrote:

    Don’t let the criticism get under your skin, Ryan. Articles can’t all be gems, and she is still talented. I yet to encounter an exception to an eternal wisdom deposited (in somewhat chewed up form) in Proverbs 29:5.

    “If someone admires your every deed and agrees with your every word, he wants to screw you, in either sense”. -the direct quote originally came from J and P (I know you are familiar with Torah composition) and lacked additional sexual meaning added in modern times- back then a screwer needed no smooth, good manners (thank you, women’s rights!) gaining desired advantage was achieved by getting a screwee transferred into marriage as a property from her father , or by buying her , or, as a third ,valid at the time and often sanctioned by God option- raping her.

    I hope you don’t mind our critique, for all comments can be potentially constructive.

  32. Ryan Harper wrote:

    Fair enough, yankeegospelgirl and ode. It was…well, not always fun..but important and challenging to engage y’all these past few days. Here’s hoping that seeds we all hope were planted in the exchange were indeed planted.
    Peace and take it easy, everyone.
    Ryan H

  33. Wade wrote:

    Jeesh… I never read such an unnecessarily difficult peace and then further confused by some one writing 10x as much as the original spouse who was a spouse defending a spouse who did not want to be defended but was any way!!!

    But be that as it may… DIVORCE and whatever issues Michael English has had is THE LEAST of the problems some of the performers have?!?!

  34. Wade wrote:

    Oh and REALLY is it necessary to have other people tell us what other people SAY!!!

    That is why I dislike either CNN or fox… I do not NEED some one to tell me what I have just HEARD!!!… or in this case READ!!!

  35. DMP wrote:

    So I see Gaither will one again have a reunion concert at NQC. Someone out there must know the real scoop. Why do Franklin and Pierce refuse to attend? It doesn’t make sense. The publicity could only help both of their careers, so what’s up? I am assuming they were both invited…

  36. Jackie wrote:

    Not sure about Franklin but he has been known to visit some of these forums from time to time. Not sure if he has ever made an appearance here though. Would be nice if he would give us an explanation (not that it is any of our business but I would like to know myself).
    As for Pierce, he is not even singing anymore as far as I can tell. Saw him a few months ago on HGTV. He is an interior designer with a business in the Nashville area and had his own show for a brief while. A real shame because I used to like his music.

  37. DMP wrote:

    It just seems odd. I can’t see why Franklin would not want the PR. To my knowledge, he never appeared on any video or concert (that I know of) after he departed. Hmmmmmmm…..

  38. DMP wrote:

    Well, the plot thickens. Here is an odd video find. I had no idea that the GVB performed with Franklin, Mullins, Lowry and Gaither. And, according to Franklin himself, he gave notice and left the group.

  39. Derek Frerichs wrote:

    Wow! I’m sorry I missed this thread until now. Verbal Verbosity; I loves they. :)

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