So I was reading John Mark Reynolds’ live-blog of Sarah Palin’s new memoir, and I’m sure he’s right about the whole thing. The only conservative writers I can stand for more than 900 words once a week in a column are William F. Buckley and P.J. O’Rourke — and since one’s a dead Catholic and the other is a lush, feel free to let the next round of condemnations begin. But at least they cite sources and really do know what the heck they are talking about — either because one has made these mistakes himself, or because the other is looking down on us plebians from the Mount Olympus of his towering intellect and our little mortal follies are somewhat amusing to him.
Rather than try to assess that, listen to this:
This is related to the Sarah Palin thing, so bear with the drunken master. You all recognize the style of Karen Peck and the Gaither Homecoming choir even if you have never heard that song before. It’s Southern Gospel is all its Bransonesque splendor. It’s down-home music, and it’s Christmas music at that — in the same holly, jolly vein as Irving Berlin and Burl Ives (lyrically if not by genre), but just a little more Bibliocentric than Rudolph, Frosty and the gang.
Now: what do we make of that? You know: I’m a guy who’s is all about disambiguating the Gospel from all the other trash around it, and it gets me branded as a truly-reformed, cold, dead overzealous bigot all the time. And this is music that is called “Gospel”, right? So it’s time for the torches and the pitchforks, and it’s time to get down with the contention because the faith is at stake.
Yeah: hang on a second. I think that it would be completely right to reject this song as a theologically-robust hymn of the faith which will ultimately convict us of our disobedience before God, or bring us greater light on the joy of Christ — but is it worth anything at all? Should we just disavow it until the denizens of NashVegas and Branson, MO, can compose 117 theses recounting their intellectual errors and then, after composing a proper catechism and a systematic theology, produce a CD with the sufficient quotient of Greek lexicography and references to Paul, Moses, Spurgeon, Owen and Steve Camp?
I rolled my eyes writing that, so if you’re rolling your eyes we’re on the same page.
I think the place we have to start with stuff like this is the scope of the matter. You know: this is entertainment, and in the same way we don’t get all blue in the face when Dr. Doom hatches another plot to destroy Reed Richards and become the rightful monarch of Earth, and in the same way we don’t worry too much about how the Coyote survives all those Grand-Canyonesque pratfalls, and in the same way we enjoy Jack Bower and Jason Bourne, some people enjoy a rollicking ditty about down-home good feelings associated with the holiday seasons. That is, the Christmas holiday season.
Those people, let’s face it, prolly don’t read blogs like this — let alone Calvin’s Institutes, Owen’s The death of Death in the Death of Christ, or even Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. They probably read those over-formatted e-mails with jingoistic propaganda and don’t know how to look them up on Snopes. They are entertained by 4-part harmony and broad references to simple faith and the joy which follows.
And they are real people. They are not a demographic; they are not a statistical quotient which we hope we don’t have to deal with because our other constituencies are large enough to overshadow them.
I know: for many of you, this is a staggering revelation. It never occurred to you that they were real people. Rather than berate you, I welcome you to the next plateau of your sanctification. Let’s move on.
Here’s where I’m going to get myself in trouble: I think these people are our spiritual friends. And while I don’t think I want them running things, as they say, I like what they bring to the family of faith and I know I can personally learn a lot from them.
The people who buy this music and make this music are the rank-and-file of the faith, and they’re never going to be like Stephen, let alone like Paul or John. They’re going to be like Dorcas, and Rhoda, and Zaccheus, and Mary and Martha.
So what’s that got to do with Sarah Palin?
Here’s what I think: I don’t want Sarah Palin running things, but I like what she brings to the political family. I like what she brings to the public stage even if it’s a little bit lower than the angels — a little less erudite than Buckley and a little less worldly than O’Rourke. I can politically embrace her as a Republican and a political friend or cousin without giving up the farm and saying that she needs to be the next president of the United States or else all is lost.
So we’ll read her book, and maybe she gets a talk show on FOX, and maybe she fills the void Oprah’s going to leave on daytime TV. She’ll be outstanding at it. We’ll all learn something from her about how our politics really ought to look on real people. And we don’t have to pretend that her views on politics are the equivalent of the 39 Articles. She is to politics what Gaither Homecoming is to the Christian faith: a lovely ornament in a homespun mode, but not hardly the high water mark of orthodoxy.
Let’s keep her, and ourselves, in perspective.