Saturday, January 16, 2021

Ethan Hein on Wellerman, sea shanties, and folk idioms gives me an excuse to mention the most famous pirate tune you probably only heard as a shape note hymn

So the sea shanties thing has been happening and Ethan Hein has discussed Wellerman recently.  The ex-choral singer in me can't resist writing a few things that I hope may be of interest about the sea shanty genre.


Harmony is not the only thing that makes this sound like a folk song. The Longest Johns’ untrained singing style contributes to the folkiness too. Their backing vocals use some “bad” counterpoint and voice leading. For example, at the end of the chorus, on “take our leave and gooo,” the four singers all converge on C in octaves rather than spreading themselves out across C, E-flat and G. If I wrote counterpoint like this in graduate tonal theory, I would have flunked. But this tune would not be improved by “correct” voice leading. Classical-style choral arrangements of folk songs like this can sound smoother and prettier, but without the rough edges, the music loses its soul.


To this I can add a few first-hand observations about singing a variety of styles of choral music.

in light of Haynes' dissertation on Mars Hill musical culture, there's a book called Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels that caught my eye

"Punk Rock Calvinists Who Hate the Modern Worship Movement": Ritual, Power, and

White Masculinity in Mars Hill Church's Worship Music


I finished Maren Haynes' PhD on Mars Hill musical culture and hope to write about that some time in 2021.  I wasn't too surprised, having spent so much time at Mars Hill myself from about 1999 to 2009 and in connection to people there through 2013, that the Mars Hill musical culture defaulted to grunge, indie rock and white hipster bro sounds.  But ...

updated version of the reading list from November 2020 on exorcism, diabology, Jesus as exorcist, spiritual warfare, and associated themes

Updated list, titles in blue are books I've finished

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Ethan Hein on two classic tunes by Thelonious Monk: "Straight, No Chaser" and "Rhythm-a-Ning"

Since I am a Monk fan I could not resist linking to some of Ethan Hein's recent blogging. Since he chose two of my favorite Monk tunes I kinda have to write something. :)  

Alan Jacobs had some posts on types of dualisms where he pit Obama against Kendi but in a way that seems sloppy, a sloppy prelude to a possible future post on the default of spiritual warfare manuals in pop U.S. Christianity to a white racial frame

Barack Obama:

The point I’ve always made to Ta-Nehisi, the point I sometimes make to Michelle, the point I sometimes make to my own kids — the question is, for me, “Can we make things better?”

I used to explain to my staff after we had a long policy debate about anything, and we had to make a decision about X or Y, “Well, if we do this I understand we’re not getting everything we’re hoping for, but is this better?” And they say yes, and I say, “Well, better is good. Nothing wrong with better.”

Ibram X. Kendi:

There’s no saving America’s soul. There’s no restoring the soul. There’s no fighting for the soul of America. There’s no uniting the souls of America. There is only fighting off the other soul of America.

Obama and Trump did not poison the American soul any more than Biden can heal it. Trump battled for the soul of injustice, and the voters sent him home. Soon, President Biden can battle for the soul of justice.

Our past breaths do not bind our future breaths. I can battle for the soul of justice. And so can you. And so can we. Like our ancestors, for our children. We can change the world for Gianna Floyd. We can — once and for all — win the battle between the souls of America.

This morning I’m doing my weekly reading of the news, and I’ve just read these two stories, from the same magazine, back to back. The contrast is illuminating. One sees politics as the hard slow work of improving the world; the other see politics as the movement towards a final confrontation, on the plain of Megiddo I suppose, between the forces of Righteousness and the forces of Evil.

The United States of America has long had a two-party political system, but it now has a two-party social system also. The social system is not divided between Republicans and Democrats but rather between Manichaeans and Humanists. The Manichaean Party is headed by Donald Trump. He works in close concert with Ibram X. Kendi, Eric Metaxas, Xavier Becerra, and Rush Limbaugh, but really, the Party wouldn’t exist at all without him. The Humanist Party, by contrast, doesn’t have an obvious leadership structure and doesn’t make a lot of noise; its chief concern is less to enforce an agenda than to make it a little harder for the Manichaeans to enforce theirs.
The Manichaeans say, all together and in a very loud voice, You are wholly with us or wholly against us! Make your decision! I don’t know when I’ve had an easier choice.

Jacobs might feel perfectly comfortable bracketing Metaxas and Kendi into paradoxically being on the same team.  But if Kendi's dualism even "can" be compared to the spiritual warfare mentality of Jericho March types or Eric Metaxas, then Jacobs could more studious about explaining overlapping methodologies in a way that could account for the obviously real differences between someone like Metaxas and someone like Kendi.  Most people can differentiate between ideologues who are "left" and "right" or "progressive" and "reactionary" and one of the problems with Jacobs' hasty taxonomy is that I don't think he can sustain a case that among the ideologues we're looking at people who are functionally totalitarian.  An ideologue might have a litmus test in which anti-racism must manifest in support for reparations, which Kendi has indicated in some writing in the past, but that's not the same as casting doubt on the legitimacy of electoral processes and simultaneously claiming a divine mandate for Trump's victory.  Maybe some Trump supporters THINK Kendi has done that but I haven't sensed that Kendi has!  

But Kendi's language does suggest that there are progressive and conservative voices who have no problem invoking what in traditional theological talk would be known as the language of spiritual warfare.  Kendi has definitely invoked and evoked the idea of a Manichaean struggle between forces of good and evil, I'll grant Jacobs that much.  But whether or not Obama's proceduralism is necessary a healthy alternative to Kendi's activism I am not entirely sure about.

I don't think it's actually wrong, writing as a Christian, to simply state that white supremacist mentalities should be considered demonic strongholds in Western cultural history and that racial supremacist views can and should be considered "doctrines of demons".  There, just put that in print for the record.  I don't have to agree with several specific "how" elements of Kendi's policy recommendations or approach to historiography to agree that the "what" of white supremacist defaults is something that should be combatted.  

Having just slogged through John H Walton and J Harvey Walton's mostly time-wasting book Demons and Spirits in Biblical Theology: Reading the Biblical Text in Its Cultural and Literary Context, one of the things I found annoying about the book, besides the authors' sloppy and vague definition of "conflict theology" and a reticence to just admit their real target is Greg Boyd's open theistic conception of spiritual warfare is that they misrepresent, I think, Jeffrey Burton Russell's five books' project on the history of Abrahamic religious thought about personified evil as though the eruption of functional dualism is, however unbiblical the Waltons think it is, is something that has to be best battled against by exegeting demons out of every proof-text ever used by Jews or Christians with respect to evil spirits.  The irony of such a project is that within ostensibly secular or mainstream progressive, liberal and exvangelical scenes invoking spiritual warfare language has been overt in the liberal/progressive wing of Christianity (a la Greg Boyd) even more so than within evangelical contexts (although not at all that subset of evangelicalism known as Pentecostalism but I'm saving the topics of forty-plus books on spiritual warfare, exorcism, diabology, the Watchers tradition in 2nd Temple Judaism and the like for some other time!)

Take this podcast title "Powers and Principalities".


Powers & Principalities, a new podcast series from Blake about the systems and institutions that propagate white evangelical & Christian nationalist sociopolitical power. Debuting in late August 2020.

Follow along in the Exvangelical feed, or subscribe to the new show directly on Spotify. (The feed is new, and will appear on other platforms soon.)


That's openly using Ephesians 6 language about powers and principalities to describe the systems and institutions that propagate white evangelical Christian nationalist power.  That the white evangelicals were merely aping and aspiring to the power they saw the mainlines have before them seems to not come up so much in discussions of evangelicalism.  If, as is easily done, evangelicals are punchlines about how uncreative they are then do mainlines and progressives think that evangelicals are solely guilty of Manifest Destiny ideas or have evangelicals in the early 21st century become, possibly, a useful scapegoat for still embracing ideas that they parasitically absorbed from the mainlines they were extracting themselves from between the last 100 and 50 years? 

After all, check out the index of episodes.

Now even as a moderately conservative Calvinist I've been bugged by what I'd have to call the default "white racial frame" in pop level spiritual warfare books.  It's a topic I do hope to actually blog about later this year.  I'd add books on the topic of spiritual warfare by African American theologians and am open to recommendations that ... aren't Charisma House or in that orbit.  I've got some articulate and thoughtful books by African pastors and theologians I'm working through right now, actually, and added some Andrei Orlov to my list recently, too.  All that is a tangent with a theme, which is to say that I think American Christians may benefit from perusing through spiritual warfare manuals at the pop and even academic level and thinking about what someone like Merrill Unger was getting at in his dismissive remarks about "ethnic demonology".  

By the way, I am not intending to castigate the Waltons in a categorical way.  I have heard some folks say positive things about John Walton's work but I am reminded of something Jim West blogged a decade ago about how Walton seemed eager to rescue the text from something rather than just exegete it. 

Meanwhile, I refrained from blogging about this stuff last month because I was determined to be on a blogging vacation but this is something I wanted to blog at least something about for a few weeks.  It would be one thing for Jacobs to stake out an overtly and explicitly anti-utopian stance, as Richard Taruskin has done for decades, regardless of where the utopians formally land on a spectrum (I can't forget Taruskin's very sharp-edged observation that it doesn't matter how far "left" or "right" you go in European history seeing as in both extremes somehow people agree that the "solution" is to kill more Jews!).  That reminds me of something my Native American relatives used to tell me about how the American Civil War worked, that there were white racists in the North fighting white racists in the South about how to treat black people and after that sorta ended they agreed that they all wanted to gang up and kill Indians!  

Maybe it's because I gravitated into the realm of the hair-splitting Reformed scene but Jacobs' "two-party system" seemed far too pat.  It doesn't mean I plan to stop reading Jacobs over that, I read people I don't always agree with, I even read people with whom I have vehement disagreements on a semi-regular basis.  

The other thing is, I've read enough progressive and leftist writers to get a sense that using Obama as the example of a counter to Kendi has a flaw in it, which is that the history of injustice can often enough be masked by the appearance of reasonable proceduralism ... the trouble with that being that it's kind of like "witchcraft". Susan R. Garrett, in her book The Demise of the Devil in the Gospel of Luke pointed out something simple and obvious but necessary, that generally witchcraft is less a cohesive, definable set of practices than a polemical accusation.  Alan Jacobs treating Kendi and Metaxas as somehow combined into the second party in a "two party system" seems comparably sloppy. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Simply Seattle store broken into early Saturday morning, local coverage, a post-Mars Hill update on things for former executive elder Jamie Munson

from January 9, 2021

It's been a while since there's been news in connection to former executive Mars Hill elder Jamie Munson but there has been some news, break ins at Simply Seattle have been frequent according to reports from KOMO and KIRO from September 2019 and earlier this week.  That Munson has purged any traces of his Mars Hill involvement from his LinkedIn would only be obvious to someone who had a Mars Hill connection between its founding and dissolution but it's a point of consideration since this blog, at one point, chronicled a mountain range of stuff about the megachurch. 

Downtown Seattle has been boarded up in all sorts of stretches for months.  Even CrackDonalds (let the Seattle readers understand) was boarded up and non-operational for months last year.  Break-ins have become more frequent, per coverage above.  While there's not been a tag for Munson specifically, there is one now, and tags are included at the bottom of the post that cover topics pertinent to Munson's era as legal president of Mars Hill. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

At Get Religion, Julia Duin has a piece on a civil war among American charismatics & Pentecostals about DT that is not getting much coverage in the mainstream press

 Nearly by definition if something is getting covered at Get Religion it could be because it's not getting substantial coverage in other outlets.  Julia Duin had a piece a few months back on the significance of Jericho March participants being more charismatic/Pentecostal than "other" evangelicals. Regular readers may remember this one:

There is a massive cat fight going on right now among evangelical and Pentecostal Christians that mainstream religion reporters have all but ignored.

Other than one story by Religion News Service — that ran mainly because famed Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore has gotten involved — there’s been little coverage on the schism between two evangelical camps as to whether President Donald Trump won or lost last month’s election.

That Pentecostals can be identified as evangelical (not fundamentalist as a general rule) but that charismatics are not necessarily evangelical (since charismatics can be Catholic (Mark Driscoll emphasizes this point in his more recent books, in fact) or Episcopalian/Anglican (which is also not necessarily evangelical) is something mainstream reporters are not particularly good at distinguishing.  

For that matter even among the Mars Hill diaspora I'm not convinced people who were there are much good at keeping the categories clear.  That there has been a contingent of evangelical never-Trumpers is not something that the press seems interested in keeping track of because, well, if I have to make a guess it's because many journalists are deliberately religiously illiterate to the point where they bracket Paula White, Beth Moore, Franklin Graham and any white Christian who is or seems conservative into a single bracket.

Being an ex-Pentecostal who ended up being a Presbyterian (i.e. Reformed) I admit to paying attention to these kinds of details.  It is significant that the now supposedly no longer Calvinist Mark Driscoll's soteriology can be categorized as Amyraldian ("limited unlimited atonement") because few Reformed denominations would let that fly if he had bothered to train in a traditional denominational context. I'm not against Amyraldianism, by the way, but that's yet another reason why I'm part of the laity.  

I say all that by way of example that if you're going to wade into these waters it helps to have some knowledge of what you're talking about.  So I'm not surprised by Duin's reporting that since the last few weeks' worth of events there is a civil war brewing within Pentecostalism and that some who prophesied Trump's re-election are publicly admitting they were wrong.

Last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol has ignited a civil war among many Christians.

Whereas white evangelicals are being creamed in the media for their (nearly) unwavering support of President Donald Trump, their Pentecostal/charismatic cousins have hardly been mentioned. The latter is an evangelical subset little known to the media, and many of its adherents remain fiercely pro-Trump.

Why is this important, besides the fact that Pentecostalism is the fast growing form of Christian faith in the world? Well, for starters, its most famous leader here in America, the Rev. Paula White-Cain, is Trump’s personal pastor.

White-Cain, by the way, is someone I considered a Word-Faith prosperity teacher heretic even back in my Pentecostal days.  But then White-Cain as a stumper for Trump is not unlike Frank Schaeffer as a stumper for Obama.  


Some have said that these charismatic and Pentecostal leaders are part of a New Apostolic Reformation, described in Holly Pivec’s and Douglas Geivett’s 2014 book. It’s not a creedal movement, but its basic tenet is that God has restored a cadre of apostles and prophets to lead worldwide Christianity in the 21st century.

Things are rocky, right now, among the NAR crowd. There’s a war going on in that group concerning the “prophets” who have set the tone for much of Pentecostal America. These are individuals who claim to have foretold Trump’s 2016 victory. For the past few years, almost to a person, their prophets said God had planned a 2020 repeat victory for Trump.


Cracks are showing. Charisma magazine openly calls the election “stolen” in its interview with Rodney Howard Browne, the first pastor in the country who was arrested for having mask-less services. But others are confronting those claiming to be prophets.

There’s hell to pay right now and folks are angry. This makes great copy and even greater interviews. I haven’t even gotten to Denver evangelist Loren Sandford’s Jan. 7 apology, a video of which which is at the top of this page.

Now if I'm right, that Loren Sandford is the son of John and Paula Sandford, who have been known in charismatic/Pentecostal circles as specialists on deliverance and inner healing (which are related but not necessarily equivalent concepts to exorcism and spiritual warfare). Sandford has issued an apology for getting things wrong and botching a prophecy.  Having read some of the Sandford's books over the years I am not surprised that among charismatic/Pentecostal clergy a Sandford would issue a mea culpa about a bad oracle.  That might be the exception that proves the rule.  

That false prophecy abounds across the spectrum is not really a surprise.  People who anticipated a Trump victory look to be catastrophically wrong but the likelihood of them changing their minds, if they aren't already admitting they were wrong, is low.

Here we are in 2021 and was Frank Schaeffer really right about the Obama administration?  If he was then how, exactly, did we get Trump?  As an ex-Pentecostal who doesn't disdain everything about that tradition but who is not in the scene as of decades ago, I think it can be easier for people to remember the dubious oracles they provide because they claim overt oracle access, whereas some blowhard like Frank Schaeffer can be forgotten or maybe forgiven since he switched from religious right to backing Democrats even though he's still as bellicose and strident as ever.  Frank Schaeffer is someone I regard as more a propagandist and an agitator than a thinker.  

I regarded Trump as in that category of propagandist Jacques Ellul described as the populist agitator, someone who doesn't have a set of coherently attainable policy goals so much as an eagerness to appeal to a standard of living or way of life, and that this sort of figure shows up in the United States (and, of course, elsewhere). But even though I'm an evangelical, moderately conservative, and not technically a cessationist, thanks to those categories a whole bunch of people might presumptively bracket me in with Jericho March types.  I thought Gulf War II was a bad idea and not defensible in terms of responsible foreign policy or international relations, like anyone should really care what I think about that but I mention that to say that, for instance, I could say I think the United States is the latest iteration of Leviathan or Babylon the Great and it wouldn't matter. :)  Thanks to the way people often behave on social media I find people now behave worse than people in the 2003-2008 period of Mars Hill and I don't say that as hyperbole or merely for effect. 

Particularly as I watch people I've known from my Mars Hill days, there's a temptation in some quarters to scapegoat a generically defined "evangelical" as to blame for the rise of Trump rather than, say, trawl through the electoral shifts on Rust Belt Catholics or ask why ANY black or Latino people voted for Trump.  I was surprised to hear one of my black friends explain at some lengthy just why he voted for Trump and also why, had Sanders gotten the nomination instead of HRC, Bernie probably could have won.  So despite living in Seattle I can say that at least one of my black friends cheerfully voted for Trump for reasons that I disagree with.  Among former Mars Hill members, however, I have seen a temptation to broad brush all of evangelicalism for the cumulative sins of white mainstream culture.  My issue with that, as someone with half-Native American lineage, is that it wasn't the fundamentalists who were running the Native American boarding schools, was it?  

It's a bit too easy for contemporary progressives, especially recent converts to progressivism in the 21st century, to not do any serious study on how overtly white supremacist progressivism from a century ago often was or how selectively a progressive might entertain an African American man as a guest of honor while regarding Native Americans as beneath consideration.  We're living in an era in which, as I've complained before, white progressive and conservative pundits have made an industry of scapegoating each other as a way to agitate their respective bases.  That there are evangelicals who have always regarded Trump as a dubious demagogue and regard the kinds of prophetic claims on his behalf as heretical is probably not going to exist in any practical sense among those who see in evangelicalism in general but white American evangelicalism in particular (never mind what it even is, just use it as a general slur) in ways that make it seem like a shibboleth and a slur.  

I won't miss Trump when he's gone but it does sometimes seem as though when the Russian angle didn't stick that scapegoating white evangelicals rather than consider why POC or Rust Belt Catholics might have turned the electoral tide is the easier thing to do.  

That there's a civil war brewing within charismatic and Pentecostal groups in the United States may not get much coverage at all.  If the would-be prophets for Trump turn out to be wrong then that's something none of us should want to forget.  I think they were wrong, by and large, before they decided to endorse him but four years on it's not like I have an especially big readership compared to the final two years of the late Mars Hill.  I've been disappointed to see the ways in which people trying to distance themselves from that scene are still acting in the same ways but for different teams but that's probably a topic for another post at another time.  

UPDATE 1-13-2021 7.07PM

Sunday, January 10, 2021

links for the weekend, variations on themes of elite over-production PhDs in US and the cult of smart vs. the cult of genius

So this weekend there's a general theme in the links, what writers across the West regard as the over-production of elites, specifically in the humanities. Quite a few of these were links I read last month but didn't blog about because I was taking a vacation from blogging.

What's interesting is that the first link, by Noah Smith, has a headline and subheader that proposes that "we just need to create the jobs to satisfy them."  That will led me at length to some riffs from Malcolm Kyeyune I read last month but first, the first link and a sample: