Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More on Gospel in the Public Imagination

My post on Gospel in the Public Imagination caught the eye of my friends over at GetReligion, who gave me a shout-out and referenced it on their blog. The GR crowd generated some really interesting comments. I'll quote two of them here:

"'What does gospel music mean in the public imagination?'
--it is thoroughly aestheticized cultural detritus that is accepted and approved if stripped from its origins. Of course Keillor's audience knows gospel is "black Christian worship music," but that is OK as long as "black"=voters patronized by white liberals as a specially protected, historically victimized culture group with the inevitably odd practices and beliefs of all "ethnic" folk. Gospel's OK as long as there is no accompanying sermon about the evils of homosexuality. Similarly, bashing Revelation prophecy enthusiasts is OK because we know that means crackers and rednecks, not the black men and women on urban cable access shows. Farrakhan is not, in our cultural logic, a "fundamentalist." "Black religion" is all good but we keep its non-aesthetic contents out of view. "White religion" is conditionally good insofar as it is not hostile to the Democratic Party platform and other triumphs of Enlightenment. Failing that test, white religion is possibly more menacing than Al Quaeda."

and another:

"On Gospelgal's question: 'What does gospel music mean in the public imagination?' I am writing this Sunday morning from the South of France where I attended a large Gospel concert at Le Dome in Marseille last night. Probably 1500 people there, very revved up with the music - big rock show staging and lights and sound, almost all the songs in English, with many favorites old and new.
But when the singers talk in French about Jesus and what he means to them - a pall and and a hush. When one leader asked how many folks believed in God, maybe 10% of us gave a shout out for him. Everyone here loves the music - until it talks explicitly about its subject. "

Here's how I weighed in:

"[The above posters] kind of picked up on what I was wondering: In the public imagination, is gospel music OK as long as it's just 'ethnic music' connected to 'black religion?' ("Well, those are just their customs.") Is it enjoyable as long as it's not connected to actual red or blue religion and the controversial beliefs/voting patterns that can result?

In Keillor's case, this might be part of the answer: (from http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/features/ptth/2001/06.shtml)

" . . .indeed, the Sanctified Brethren are there in Lake Wobegon. My people. People who take Scripture seriously and defend their revelations with fervor and thus are not always the easiest neighbors to get along with. But surely worth paying attention to. And some of them have a sense of humor. I do suspect that my liberal pals have an easier time about Born Agains if they are black than if they're white, but maybe that's just a suspicion on my part."'"

This was a really exciting discussion to me. Not only were we talking about music, but that gospel-driven interchange became a way to think about politics, race matters, matters of faith, et cetera. Good music, good times, and a little something to think about.

Oh, and welcome to any new lurkers I may have who've bounced here from GetReligion! Don't be strangers, now.

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