NQC: Cut the Chit-Chat, Cue the Music?

NQC: Cut the Chit-Chat, Cue the Music? September 2, 2011

NQC and politics: I’ve already stated what my views basically are in assorted comments on other blogs, but I thought I would collect them in somewhat more organized form here.
So, last year it was Sarah Palin, this year it’s John Ashcroft. Some people think this is great, others don’t. I thought it might be helpful to look at the people who don’t think this is such a great idea and break them up into three rough groups, recognizing that there may be some overlap:

1. The liberals. Let’s face it, the liberals can’t stand Sarah Palin’s guts, and ditto for John Aschroft. So wherever Palin, Ashcroft, and their ilk goes, the liberals’ snark follows. It’s like the law of gravity. Completely inexorable. So this is just another opportunity for them to try to out-snark each other.
2. The quietists. These are the Puritan throwbacks who believe that politics, any kind of politics, is a corrupting influence on Christianity. Therefore, they oppose the invitation of any political candidate, seeing it as a form of compromise or kowtowing to the world.
And finally, we have…
3. The grumpy musical purists. These are the fans and artists who are irritated because doggone it, the NQC is supposed to be about music, not some politician’s speech (or singing, as case may be). “If I want to listen to a politician, I’ll turn on the TV,” they say. Meanwhile, let’s get back to southern gospel.
Group one is beneath notice, obviously. Group two, I believe, is misguided. I don’t really agree with opposing politicians just because they’re politicians. I would only be concerned about compromise and kowtowing to the world if the NQC were inviting a political candidate who by and large did not share conservative values—for example, a pro-choice candidate, or a candidate who’s soft on gay “marriage.” Then I would be concerned. But Palin? Ashcroft? Sure, I may not agree with everything they’ve said/done, but at least they’re Christians and they have a lot in common with what most NQC attendees stand for. They’re on our side in the culture war. We shouldn’t be isolating ourselves at a time when we need true comrades and allies.
The only group for whom I have any feelings of sympathy is group three. It was rather humorous seeing Palin display her unfamiliarity with the genre as she made a few awkward stabs at connecting with fans of the music. But of course, you’re in trouble with any kind of purist when you’re invited to one of their events and obviously can’t talk the talk. It’s true for southern gospel, horse-racing, chess, needle-point… what have you. Myself I just thought it was sort of charmingly funny and didn’t give much thought to it, but others were, perhaps understandably, irritated.
As for Ashcroft, even granting that he loves the music and is scheduled to perform with Greater Vision, let’s think about this for a moment: Okay, so Ashcroft sings and writes his own songs. Well so do I. So do many other southern gospel fans. Are we getting a spot on the NQC main-stage? Of course not. Why would we? We’re just fans! But because Ashcroft used to be an important conservative politician… he does, even though his singing/writing talents aren’t particularly remarkable. To me, that does seem to cheapen the value of the stage a little bit. Now I don’t intend to be snarky,  but I’m just pointing out that the purists have a point. That being said, I would be even more sympathetic to their side if the politicians were truly hogging NQC time. Sarah Palin took a few hours to speak last year [actually now I’m wondering if it wasn’t even that much], but it’s not like she was taking up the whole convention. Aschroft is appearing and singing this year, but how much is he planning to sing? Two songs? Maybe three max? If he were slated to appear over and over again, okay. Now I don’t have the schedule in front of me so I’ll have to see how much time he gets when I watch the webcast, but from what I’ve heard it doesn’t seem like it will be a significant percentage. [Update: I’ve gotten a look at the schedule now, and he appears to be giving a one-hour keynote address. Whoop-de-do.] But I suppose the argument of the purists is that for a politician, any time is too much time.
I guess in the end my message is… lighten up. It may not be the way I would have done it, or the way you would have done it, but we’ve got more important things to be complaining about. Let’s count our blessings and enjoy the show anyway.

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  • NWBaritone

    I have not been to NQC, however if I attended a musical event I would expect it to be just that. The last thing I would want is a talking head from either political party taking stage time. Let’s face it, you can turn on MSNBC or FoxNews and get that crap anytime day or night. I feel like Southern Gospel music has a tough enough time getting new fans without alienating anyone supportive enough to attend this event. If the people that are complaining aren’t those in attendance, then I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

  • Well, see, then you’re a grumpy purist. 😛

  • NWBaritone

    If I was grumpy I would not have laughed out loud just now. 🙂

  • NWBaritone

    You are right though, that third category is a bit on the nose in my case. However, I do think there is something to the marketing of the product. It would be interesting to know if more folks are inclined to purchase tickets or not based on the politicians.

  • I don’t know. Would you spend hundreds of dollars in travel and hotel expenses to hear John Ashcroft speak for one hour?
    My cautious guess: 99% of the people who will come are there for the music.

  • I will say that I think you have a point about fans (and even artists) who are complaining. I may think they’re over-reacting or exaggerating, but when you’re running a large-scale event like this that relies on the fans, their perspectives should be taken into account.

  • NWBaritone

    Right but do you think there are more people inclined NOT to go based on the politics. My point being that 99 percent are going anyway. No one is going based on Ashcroft’s appearance, and maybe people are staying home because of it. My question, what’s the point of having him there.

  • Ah, I see what you mean now.
    Well, financially speaking you may be right that if the idea is to bring more people in, that could backfire. However, one thing to consider is that even with the complainers, there were a lot of people who seemed to appreciate Palin last year and will appreciate Ashcroft this year. I remember seeing a video where Arthur Rice went out of his way to say he was glad Palin came, and obviously Greater Vision is happy Ashcroft is coming or they wouldn’t be singing with him!
    I’d also like to think part of it may be that the NQC wants to identify itself with politicians who have a solidly conservative track record. Now we may agree that it’s a little odd/awkward, but if that’s part of the motivation behind it, I do at least appreciate the thought. As I said, I would be making a MUCH bigger fuss if NQC was aligning itself with politicians who share no values in common with conservatives.
    Here’s the thing: More and more I see Republicans trying to gain brownie points with the other side of the political spectrum. They compromise or soften their positions on various issues, and all they do is alienate their base without gaining any new “fans.” When people make disparaging remarks about politicians “catering to their base,” my response is, “Heck, you know I’d be grateful if the politicians who ostensibly represent me tried a little HARDER to ‘cater’ to me.” So I look at what NQC is doing and I think, “This may be clumsy from a practical perspective, but it still sends a message that I can appreciate.”

  • NWBaritone

    I appreciate your well thought out and clearly stated point of view. It’s why this is a fun blog to read and I enjoy conversing with you.

  • Thank you. My pleasure.

  • Pingback: NQC & Ashcroft: Hypothesis Tested « Friday Night Revival()

  • Cecil Van Houten

    Well I’m a bit late to the conversation and in fact, this is the first time I’ve posted on the blog. Nice to be here; linked from a comment on Avery. There was a discussion over there in late July on this topic which actually originated with a post I made in response to the announcement that Ashcroft was speaking at NQC. http://averyfineline.com/2011/07/28/dont-talk-dont-preach-just-sing/#comments. As you do the math, I’d probably fall in the third category but my main objection is that it’s not so much an opportunity for like-minded people to share time together as it is a dual manipulation of the attendees. Any politician is there with a political agenda, whether their own, their party’s or as a cheerleader for a particular viewpoint. So by assuring the crowd of their shared values and impressing on them the importance of fighting to ‘reclaim the nation from the gawd-less liberals’, they attempt to manipulate people’s thoughts and actions. The NQC is similarly guilty of manipulating fans by deciding to include politicians in the mix. I would say tsk-tsk but it’s not as though they are unaware of the implications of their decision. To me it just seems like a cheap shot; and with an increasing percentage of younger evangelicals growing tired of ‘politics as usual’ it certainly isn’t a foward-looking decision on NQC’s part. But then one shouldn’t presume that the NQC leadership is forward-looking. You want to bring politics into it? Then bring in an Ashcroft or Bachmann alongside an Al Sharpton or Al Gore or Al Franken for that matter. Solving the country’s problems isn’t going to happen by promoting partisianship or divisive, combative attitudes. Have them lead a joint prayer and reconciliation gathering, petitioning God for his mercy and praying for the country’s leaders regardless of party. I think it was Sinclair Ferguson who said that too often Christians present a face of smug one-upmanship to the world rather than the tear-stained face of repentance. But of course that will never happen. I don’t believe it makes it ok because the politicians are labeled conservative. Despite their pietism they have proven themselves to be as corrupt and morally repugnant as any liberal. And I’m not so sure it’s about lightening up; it’s about keeping the main thing the main thing and having greater discernment in our actions as followers of Christ. I am neither a liberal or a conservative and I don’t think I’m grumpy. But I am concerned about even the implications of politicians appearing at a relatively insignificant event such as the NQC. I think the calling of the cross-so much a part of southern gospel lyrics-demands more of us than just recognizing its centrality to God’s plan of salvation. It requires us to live deeper, think more critically and forsake self-righteousness. Knowledge talks. Wisdom listens.

  • You know what, I agree. You’re exactly right. Smug one-upmanship isn’t the answer. We need to have a tear-stained face of repentance. For the holocaust of unborn children. For the way we’ve twisted God’s law for marriage to suit our perverted ends. For the way we’ve taken our elderly and disabled and treated them like disposable garbage. For the way we’ve sacrificed human dignity and personhood on the altar of “choice” and “freedom.”
    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

  • CVH


  • So, Cecil, would you like to clarify where you really stand, since you’re making obviously liberal statements in one comment and “Amen-ing” me with another?
    See here’s the thing. You claim to be entirely neutral—inclining neither to the left nor to the right—and yet you mock the conservatives for pointing out the godlessness of the left. Admit it or not, yes, this fight is about reclaiming our country from said “gawd-less” liberals. I will say it, and proudly. Now what pains me is seeing the alarming number of Republicans who are trading their principles for brownie points with the left. But their problem is not that they are too stridently conservative. Very far from it.

  • CVH

    I don’t find anything contradictory in my statements. In fact I’m trying to interpret your second comment in light of the first. If the focus of your original post had been coming from the other side, I could just as easily have given examples of the foibles and shortcomings of our brethren on the left. The point I was attempting to make is that hypocrisy exists on all sides of the political world. You may be proud to be fighting to reclaim “our country from said “gawd-less liberals”, and more power to you, but electing conservative politicians is not going to reclaim the country any more than electing liberal politicians is going to significantly advance its decline. The shifting nature of our political system, the rise of third-party factions (Tea Party, Green Party, Libertarians, etc.) and the influence of lobbyists and special-interest groups will continue to negate great strides in either direction. Meanwhile, the nation is going to continue to change: socially, as we blithely careen down the road of self-indulgence and materialism; economically, as the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen; technologically, as our world becomes increasingly digital and wireless; and compositionally, as we wrestle with issues of immigration and the shifting balance of ethnic and diversity groups in the country.
    I’m not sure that Republicans who you suggest are “trading their principles for brownie points with the left” are that short-sighted. A few perhaps. The era of hard-line partisian politics is fading a little more every day. Both conservatives and liberals are struggling to figure it out. Those in the middle lack the ascendency to advance an acceptable agenda. I’m not suggesting that we’re all going to end up sitting around a campfire singing ‘Kumbayah’, but we are moving into a different era where the old stereotypes and cliches don’t work. And people (of any or no political stripe) aren’t buying it. It’s not just apathy. It’s disillusionment with ‘politics as usual’ and, in the case of many evangelicals, disillusionment with ‘church as usual’. That means there is a growing, healthy separation from the politics that have infused many churches for the last thirty years. Should individual Christians follow the Lord’s leading in how they apply their faith to their political views? Obviously, yes. Should they get actively involved? If they so choose, as long as it’s done decently and in order. But does true Christianity equal true conservatism or liberalism when it comes to politics? I would conclude, no. To assume as much is idolatry.
    Oh, and my “amen” in response to your first comment was simply an agreement with the concern you expressed regarding abortion, marriage and the treatment of the disabled and elderly. That’s not a conservative or a liberal position; hopefully it’s a Godly one.

  • And yet, the typical solid liberal would get hives at pretty much everything I said in that comment.The typical liberal would look at what I said about abortion and marriage and snark about how “us conservatives have a one-track mind,” and we don’t care about the rights of women and gays. He’d probably also lament the fact that I didn’t say anything about the evil capitalists or the environment. In short, his priorities would be completely different.
    That’s the key word here: priority. When you look at where different groups have repeatedly, consistently placed their time, effort and money, a pattern of priorities emerges. And the truth is that conservatives, the loyal ones anyway, have consistently placed their highest priorities on life, marriage, and human dignity, while liberals have placed their highest priorities on communism, eco-worship, and a “liberty” which they define as having the freedom to be as perverted and self-serving as you feel like being, even if it means murdering your own child or grandmother. That’s an uncomfortable truth which I’m sure you don’t like to hear because you think it’s one-dimensional. But a study of history, law and culture will demonstrate it for you every time.
    In short, it won’t work to try to take a stand on some moral issue and say “but that’s not a conservative or liberal position,” because one side or the other IS the standard conservative or liberal position.

  • CVH

    heir-apparent to ann coulter auditioning for her job
    I’m feel as though I’m at a bit of a disadvantage as I don’t know your name. By this point in a real-world conversation we would have been properly introduced. I also don’t know how old you are other than that you’ve been a Christian for 14 years, which presumably would put you somewhere between 20 or 21 and whatever. Regardless, it’s obvious you wear your brainy conservative label proudly and you appear to be very self-assured. That’s good – to a point. Being generous with praise is commendable and offering criticism has its place, but to say you’re “generous with it” implies a superior, almost condescending attitude.
    As I said in my first post, knowledge is one thing; wisdom is another. Your arguments display a kind of self-justifying circular logic that doesn’t usually accomplish much, unless you enjoy screaming at the wind.
    If you’re auditioning for Ann Coulter’s job I’d say you’re on the right track. But if you want to make a meaningful contribution to the conversation you might consider rethinking your approach, turning down the rhetoric a few notches and giving yourself the opportunity to look at life, faith and the world from a more informed, distanced point of view. That’s not compromise, that’s where life is lived. There’s a difference between being brainy and smart. Be smart.

  • Actually I sadly cast aside my Ann Coulter action figure some time ago. She has her moments, but has regrettably shown bad taste on more than one occasion. But thanks for the compliment, even if it was back-handed.
    I’m only assured because I’ve given a lot of thought to the things I discuss, and I have reasons for what I believe. I would be careful about using terms like “circular logic” unless you really understand what they mean philosophically. It’s the sort of thing that gets thrown around as a conversation-stopper by people who don’t know what it actually means. If you think my reasoning is circular, give examples and I’ll consider whether they’re accurate. If you think I am uninformed, show me concrete places where you think I am lacking information.
    As for my criticism, I suggest that if you really want to see what a condescending attitude looks like, you spend more time at Averyfineline.

  • CVH

    Thanks for the invitation but I don’t think there’s any point in digging this hole any deeper. A reasoned discussion requires that the parties involved be willing to engage in the exchange of ideas in a thoughtful manner. You seem more intent on trying to bully the conversation with an offensive posture and deflective challenges…”I’ve given a lot of thought…”, “I have reasons…”, “I would be careful…”, “If you think…”, “I’ll consider…”, “I suggest…”.
    So if you’re fed up with unprincipled Republicans and you “have zero patience with…liberals”, is there any current or potential candidate for the Republican nomination that you like? Or any politician you find acceptable?
    As for averyfineline, I’ve been following the blog for probably seven years now. I don’t find it condescending. Critical? Yes, as it should be. The industry needs to do a lot more self-examination and many of the contributors to the blog have something worthwhile to say. Sarcastic? At times and usually for effect. Deeply moving and thought provoking? Every now and then. But condescending? No.
    Thanks for your time and the opportunity to interact. Good luck with school. And if we’re both around in twenty years, let’s talk again and revisit the conversation; it might be very interesting.

  • Well there’s no accounting for taste. See ya.