When I was growing up, the music that got played at my house consisted of choral music, showtunes, CCM and praise bands (the last two being considerably more distinct in those days than they are now). Before and for a while after they had kids, my parents played in an CCM-ish band. Another couple from that group remained close friends of my parents, and their son and I--living a half mile from each other, each surrounded by sisters--were inseparable from birth to college.
On many Saturday nights, I slept in my friend's basement. His dad liked to wake us for church by putting on records by Doc Watson--who died Tuesday--and cranking the volume.
Ruthie Foster has a powerhouse of a blues/gospel voice, which she never allows to overpower a song. If you’re not sold already, Foster made her newest album in New Orleans with the Blind Boys of Alabama and a cast of hotshot players. It wouldn’t have killed them to restrain the Hammond organ player once in a while, but that’s being picky: the project brings a truckload of soul and grit.
So a pro-Romney Super PAC planned to focus on Jeremiah Wright--you know, because those decontextualized clips of a black pastor sounding angry didn't get played on the news enough last time around--but quickly changed its tune based on Romney's unenthusiastic response. Then a pro-Obama Super PAC clarified that it won't be going after Mormonism, and David Axelrod agreed.
I'm certainly glad to be spared a barrage of prime-time crap about how black liberationists hate America (and even say "damn" about it!) on the one hand and about polygamy and special underwear on the other. But note this news story's assumptions.
M. Ward’s solo albums reveal that he surpasses his more-famous collaborators (Conor Oberst, Zooey Deschanel) on all fronts. His sound has a sepia-toned timelessness; it’s both inventive and a whole bunch of kinds of old-fashioned.
I grew up on evangelical praise choruses. I cut my musical teeth playing them at church. As a young adult I found a home in a more liturgical church, and I turned against choruses with a vengeance. I adopted two go-to arguments: worship isn’t about me and my personal-relationship-with-Jesus, and its purpose isn’t to pump me full of arena-rock enthusiasm.
On her third album, Shannon Stephens reins in her chamber-folk experimentalism in favor of a bluesy little band that takes her songs to unexpected places. Her sound remains relatively subdued, yet it grooves and pops and even swaggers.
After Sen. Rand Paul made an offensive (and unfunny) joke involving the word "gay," Tony Perkins (of the Family Research Council) criticized him:
I don’t think it's something we should joke about. We are talking about individuals who feel very strongly one way or the other, and I think we should be civil, respectful, allowing all sides to have the debate.
Last week I joined the chorus of those who wished for a bit more from the president's endorsement of same-sex marriage. Among those who were more unambiguously enthusiastic, I found E. J. Graff's later post pretty compelling.
The first question to ask about a Paul McCartney standards album is why it took him so long. The guy’s always been fascinated by the American Songbook, and unlike some pop singers who have taken detours to the land of jazzy old tunes and swinging little combos, Sir Paul has a powerful and chameleonic voice.
Early this week, the same video kept popping up on my Facebook wall. It's from a press conference in Greensboro, at which North Carolina NAACP president William Barber (whom the Century profiled here) made a crucial point: "How do you feel, personally, about same-sex marriage?" is the wrong question. The right question is about equal rights under the U.S. Constitution and federal law.
I probably shouldn't be surprised if I learned that, when N. T. Wright isn't busy exegeting, episcopating or writing best-sellers, he throws 100-mph fast balls and makes award-winning beer. But for some reason I was a bit startled to find out that he's not only a Dylan fan but a pretty decent singer, too.
I'm afraid I fell down on the blog a little this week. My excuse: I spent most of the week at the annual convention held by the Associated Church Press, an association of religious publishers of which the Century is a member and for which I serve on the board. It was a good gathering: interesting keynotes, useful workshops, plentiful fellowship.
"Between now and Election Day," writes Peter Beinart, "anti-Mormonism is going to be the Democratic Party’s constant temptation for one simple reason: there are votes in it." I'm not sure I'd call it the party's "constant temptation," but Beinart is certainly right that bigotry against Mormons remains a politically potent force in the U.S., and that the Democrats aren't above exploiting it.
But is Beinart right that the Democrats have a bigger religious bigotry problem here than the Republicans do?
A quick word on your “if it feels good, don’t do it” distillation of my message. We can dig into this more as we go, but for now I’d just point out that at various times, Christianity—and particularly my own Catholicism, the faith of carousing Irishmen, hedonistic Italians, and “give me chastity, Lord, but Lord not yet” sinners in every time and place—has been scolded for being altogether too worldly, too pleasure-loving, too forgiving of the weaknesses of the flesh.