Don’t give up hope ye heavy laden

Don’t give up hope ye heavy laden April 20, 2023

• “Amy Grant, Sheryl Crow and other top artists push lawmakers for gun reform measures

A group of Nashville music industry heavy hitters are calling for the Tennessee General Assembly to pass “common sense gun safety legislation” before lawmakers end their session, a timeline that is rapidly dwindling as legislators push to finish within days after weeks of political controversy.

Sheryl Crow, Amy Grant, Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell are among the dozens of signees calling for extreme risk protection laws and legislation strengthening requirements around secure storage of firearms. The letter was drafted in the wake of the deadly Covenant School shooting.

“Gun violence in Tennessee is not inevitable,” the group said. “We are not hopeless, and we will not accept inaction. This does not have to be our normal and we ask that you stand with us! We know that gun safety laws work. Policies like extreme risk protection laws and secure storage of firearms can save lives. And we ask that you keep your session open until these policies are put into place.”

The list of artists signing this letter includes lots of folks who will or already have been dismissed by the white Christian Republican Powers That Be in Tennessee. The white guys running the show in Nashville — the (mostly) men who make up what David Dark calls Nashville’s “Prayer Trade” — have already trained themselves to pretend that artists like Isbell, Crow, and Musgraves are outside agitators and coastal elites and don’t represent real, true Nashville or real, true Christianamerica.

The Prayer Trade — like the white Republican legislature, the white Republican church, and the white Republican barons of Country radio — is shaped by Us vs. Them. If you ain’t one of us, then you’re one of them and we don’t have to listen to them. They have no rights that we are bound to respect. That’s why Republican legislators didn’t hesitate to seize the flimsiest of excuses for expelling two duly elected young Black state representatives for minor violations of rules of “decorum.” (Both have since been reinstated by the constituents who elected them.) And it’s also why the white Republican “Us” will automatically discount any criticism that comes from the likes of Isbell or Musgraves, or Margo Price or Maren Morris or Lucinda Williams or Emmylou Harris.

These Christian White Guys In Charge are, after all,  people who long ago taught themselves to pretend that Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton were cosmopolitan liberal interlopers lacking in red-blooded Country authenticity. And once you’ve convinced yourself that folks like that are irrelevant, it’s not hard to ignore people like Mickey Guyton and Michelle Branch too.

But then there are other names here too, artists who haven’t previously been discounted as suspiciously liberal: People like Amy Grant and Martina McBride. These are people generally thought of as wholesome, apolitical, and mainstream. Yes, I’ve often joke about how Amy Grant has been cancelled by white evangelical gatekeepers ever since her duet with Peter Cetera, but Amy Grant is still Amy freaking Grant, and if you’ve lost the Amy Grant constituency in white evangelical Nashville, well, you might have to start paying attention.

• Jonathan Edwards’ slavekeeping and advocacy for slavekeeping should be viewed with extreme charity and deference because he was a Man of His Time.™ George Whitefield was also a Man of His Time.™ So were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, etc.

But David Barrows, apparently, was not a Man of His Time™:

Barrow was a Revolutionary War veteran and church pastor who had been persecuted for his Baptist faith in Virginia before freeing his slaves in 1784 and publishing a booklet arguing against the institution of slavery, Harper said. “If you want to defend slavery as an institution, read that booklet and see if you can still do it. And to his credit — to his eternal credit — David Barrow paid for the publication of that book out of his own funds. He paid for it, he gave it away for free and it fell on deaf ears.”

Barrow became a pariah in the [Kentucky Baptist] Elkhorn Association in the process, he added. “They took the unprecedented step of actually going to David Barrows’ church on the day they were having services and tried to get him voted out of his own congregation — against Baptist polity, against anything that Baptists say they believe. But that’s the lengths to which they were willing to go.”

Yes, humility and charity require that we extend a bit of grace to those who participated in the prevailing evils of their time. Most of us will require that grace ourselves. But it won’t do to argue that their participation carries the innocence of ignorance. We can say, “Alas, this did not make them exceptional,” but we cannot say “Most people at that time didn’t know any better.” The white Kentucky Baptists who actively worked to shun and silence David Barrow cannot be said to have never heard of David Barrow.

• Ever since Deane Galbraith closed shop years ago there has been a depressing lack of Nephilim and Nephilim-related blogging. Good to see B.J. Oropeza helping to make up for that with a series of recent posts.

Here’s one on “The Book of Giants from the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Alas, we only have fragments of that ancient text offering what Oropeza describes as “imaginative elaborations on the stories of Genesis.” Or, in a sense, Genesis and Book of Enoch fan-fic. Gilgamesh even makes a cameo, which is pretty wild, like one of those Batman meets Spider-Man stories.

Oropeza also discusses one of my favorite aspects of this weird biblical tangent: “Who Are the Nephilim and Did They Escape the Flood? Giant Problems in Genesis 6 and Numbers 13.”

This is, oddly, one of the questions I got in trouble for asking as a young fundie. How are the Canaanites and (later) Goliath descended from people whose descendants all perished in the (literal, universal, dinosaur-killing) flood? Getting in trouble for asking such questions was troubling, which is part of why young fundies often don’t become old fundies.

Anyway, this apparent contradiction is only a problem within fundie/inerrantist contexts among those determined to inflict a “literal” and anti-literary interpretation onto two ancient passages that defy such readings. But it’s still a fun puzzle for the rest of us and Oropeza has fun with it, even providing a suggested solution that our fundie friends might find almost satisfactory. He suggests that the post-flood reference to the Nephilim comes from unreliable narrators — the faithless spies — who may have been lying. That resolves the contradiction, but only by acknowledging the presence of unreliable narrators within the Bible — a concession that our fundie friends generally realize is fatal to their hermeneutics.

• The title for this post comes from this weirdly adorable little track from Amy Grant’s debut album. Don’t press play on that unless you’re prepared to have this stuck in your head for a while.

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