• It’s ironic that Donald Trump is suddenly tweeting about promoting “biblical literacy” in schools so soon after his top spokesliar Sarah Huckabee Sanders got thoroughly schooled on the subject by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
Newsweek’s Tom Porter offers a brief explanation of where Trump’s abrupt enthusiasm for the subject comes from. (Which is to say, an explanation for why the subject came up on Fox & Friends and was, therefore, soon-after tweeted about by the Fox Friend in Chief.) We touched on some of this earlier in looking at the travails of scandal-plagued “demon-buster” and Bibles-in-schools champion Kimberly Daniels.
• If you’re interested in reading excerpts or hot-takes or juicy tidbits from former Trump White House staffer Cliff Sims’ new tell-all book, Team of Vipers, I recommend reading them at Wonkette, where Evan Hurst presents them with the appropriate tone of class, civility, and decorum.
• Jack Jenkins has a nice Religion News profile of Sen. Chris Coons. I was still working for the Delaware paper when Coons stepped up to be the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb in the 2010 special election to fill Joe Biden’s old Senate seat. Coons was liked and respected for cleaning up a scandal-ridden county government, but everyone expected — everyone knew — that he was destined to lose to wildly popular former governor and then-current Rep. Mike Castle.
And since everyone knew that Castle was destined to win, Delaware Republicans didn’t bother campaigning or voting for him in their primary. Only about 10 percent of them bothered to vote in that primary, thus allowing a few thousand fired-up fringe voters to seize the nomination for Christine O’Donnell instead of Castle. Coons was everything O’Donnell was not — smart, competent, trustworthy, respectable and respected. And Delaware has been happy to have him representing them in the Senate ever since.
The lesson both parties should have learned from that 2010 surprise: Contest every race with capable candidates, because what everybody “knows” will happen might not be what happens.
Among the many things our friends on the religious right saw as “Satanic” last year: Democrats, Jews, the media, Democratic Jews in the media, head scarves, journalism, Cards Against Humanity, women, witnesses against Brett Kavanaugh, Bigfoot and UFOs.
• John Fea makes an observation about The Key Change in Evangelical Praise Songs: “Whenever a praise band makes a key change I notice that the number of raised hands in worship rises significantly.”
I call this the Manilow Effect. The fact that a well-timed key change may be predictable, cheesy, and transparently manipulative won’t prevent it from working. You don’t have to like the song or to admire the song or to enjoy the song. You can even viscerally resent its contrived schmaltz. But none of that will prevent you from experiencing a brief sensation of exultation that you have, at last, made it through the rain and found yourself respected by the others who got rained on too and made it throooough.
That is what it is, but it shouldn’t be confused with an experience of actual worship any more than it should be confused with actual heartbreak for Mandy, who came and who gave without taking before you sent her away.
On a related note, I’d bet that in the hands of a talented worship band “Weekend in New England” could — with very few changes to the lyrics — inspire a very successful altar call. That’s partly because of the genius of Barry Manilow’s key changes, but mainly it’s because we haven’t really understood or examined what it is we’re doing or measuring when we think of “a very successful altar call.”
It is entirely your choice whether or not to click “play” on the video above. But be warned: If you’re tempted to do so intending only to enjoy the song ironically, you may find that’s not so easy to sustain. I once saw a hipster bar band attempt an ironic, mocking rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” They kept up that sneering detachment until, oh, about halfway there, when it melted away and they and their audience earnestly and unironically succumbed to the song’s fist-pumping charms.
Key changes, man. They work. All of us under their spell, you know that it’s probably magic.