• Say hello to something called “The Stronger Men’s Conference“:
If I ran the world, the headline speakers for this event — Craig Groeschel, John Gray, Louie Giglio, and John Lindell — would be the focus of episodes 1-4 of the next season of Queer Eye. That is the kindest thing I can suggest for them, and I think it would do them all a world of good.
This conference is, among other things, what happens when your idea of “biblical gender roles” makes you unable to listen to women. Monster trucks, guns, pyrotechnics, MMA fighters — chicks dig dudes who dig that, right?
And what could be more Jesus-y?
This whole thing is being marketed to Christian men who are seeking some kind of purpose or mission to give their lives meaning. It won’t do that for them. And the tidy sums being pocketed by the hucksters organizing this testosterone-a-palooza won’t give their lives meaning or purpose either.
The only thing that could redeem this, I suppose, is if it all turns out to be a bait-and-switch. Instead of Groeschel pumping up the crowd with Driscollish bro-dudery, the real speakers turn out to be, like, Tom Junod telling stories about Fred Rogers, and Paul Putz to talk about the long, strange history of “muscular Christianity.” And then — why not? since this is fantasy anyway — Steven Grant Rogers.
• Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) pushed through something called the Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting (EGO) Act. So now it’s illegal to spend taxpayer money on official portraits. Sounds good, right? No more public funding for fancy portraits of the president, vice president, or members of Congress. This might save almost $500 grand a year.
Does this mean there will no longer be elaborate official portraits? No. It means those will now be funded privately — by wealthy donors, oligarchs, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, and corporate lobbyists of every stripe. Cassidy didn’t abolish “ego”-driven official portraiture, he privatized it. And that will likely cost taxpayers way more than $500k a year. See also: Inaugural balls.
• As America prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the sheriff of Sacramento County is out here talking about outside agitators and professional instigators. This is an old and ugly lie that has never, in its long history, been believed even by the people saying it. Sheriff
Stephon Clark Scott Jones* is beclowning himself by repeating this garbage.
• “The Secret History of the Jersey Devil.” I want to read this — and not just because Brian Regal has one of the best answers to the question “Why did you decide to become an American historian?” in the history of this author’s corner series.• Glenn Altschuler reviews Randall J. Stephens’ The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll. Eric Miller has an interview with Stephens at Religion Dispatches.
Altschuler’s review lost me when he started talking about the “Fourth Great Awakening” — an imaginary event that I, like most of America, apparently slept through. There is no such thing as a “Fourth Great Awakening,” partly because there was never any such thing as a Third Great Awakening. The only way to argue for such non-existent phenomenon is to define “Great Awakening” down to such an extent that whatever it is you’re referring to as Third or Fourth would have to become the Seventieth or Three-Hundred and Ninety First Great Awakening. Nope.
Here’s Stephens in that RD interview:
Because I focus largely on the American South, I looked at the white Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Presbyterians, and Southern Pentecostals, and found that their reaction to rock was almost uniformly negative and very often racialized. They attacked rock as “jungle music,” “congo rhythms,” and “savagery.”
… There was often this funny discourse about the missionary enterprise of these organizations — the experiences that their missionaries had had in the field — and how these experiences were supposedly applicable to the music. They referenced the “caterwauling” and the driving tribal drums that they had heard in the jungles of the southern hemisphere, and noted how this had a parallel in the music now blasting out of the mean streets and teenage hangouts of American cities.
This “racialized” response to pop music didn’t start with rock and was in no way peculiar to the South. Sketch Erickson’s diatribe about Elvis. Aron. Presley. was utterly steeped in this racist take, and Sketch was from Illinois. Jack Chick — the most infamous popularizer of that “funny discourse about the missionary enterprise” — was from Los Angeles. The fundamentalists decrying rock and roll as “race music” weren’t doing that because they were Southern, they were doing that because they were fundamentalist.
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* Good Lord that was an epic name-switching screw-up on my part. I apologize. The awful Sacramento County sheriff repeating the “outside agitators” nonsense is Scott Jones. Stephon Clark was the 22 year old father who was shot in the back 20 times, unarmed, in his own backyard by Sacramento police. (Thanks Matt for alerting me to that.)