Welcome to Yankee Gospel Girl! You can call me Esther O’Reilly. I’m an old soul with many interests, and these are a few of my favorite things: great art (including music, film and literature), conservative politics, and stuff that’s been around since before I was born. If you’re a first-time visitor, thanks for reading! Check out my “About” page, follow me on Youtube, and browse around in the filing cabinet for my musings on all genres of music, movies, faith and culture, and old stuff. I hope you like what you find! God bless.
If we can’t make the case to the American people that voting for our party’s nominee is consistent with voting your conscience, is consistent with defending freedom and being faithful to the Constitution, then we are not going to win, and we don’t deserve to win. — Ted Cruz
I am uncharacteristically left speechless after the sad, sad events in Cleveland this past week. As Matt Walsh said, “not my circus, not my elephants,” but it’s still hard not to cry a little cry over the final bullet in the head of the Republican party. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to all that social/fiscal conservatism… stuff, I guess. I mean, minor details really. Not like we’re gutting the soul of the party or anything. Move along folks.
The only bright spot, of course, was Ted Cruz’s perfect balance of principle and savvy, reminding us of what Republicanism used to stand for and reminding us that far more hangs in the balance this election than the presidency. One of the most devastating potential consequences of Trump’s nomination is that discouraged Never Trumpers will not mobilize to keep Congress in the red, as dozens of seats are up for grabs. Cruz’s reminder to vote our consciences “up and down the ballot” was not just a subtle dig at Trump. It was a useful word of advice to real conservatives that there are still worthy senators and representatives out there who need their vote. By the way, I’ve seen a number of people condescendingly wag their fingers at Cruz for “breaking his pledge” by not explicitly endorsing Trump. (And how interesting that even Trump’s own supporters know good and well that “vote your conscience” doesn’t mean their guy.) What a lot of sanctimonious hoo-ha. I won’t even try to respond to all that better than the man himself.
But anyway, I thought about writing a little eulogy, until I read around and realized it’s all been said more eloquently than I can match. So, I refer my gentle readers to the following gems of wisdom. Take up and read:
Maggie Gallagher on where the Republican party is going from here (spoiler, it’s leftward ho!)
Matt Walsh on what true conservative unity should look like (and why uniting around Trump isn’t it)
They call me Mister Tibbs.
In light of the last couple weeks of turmoil, what better way to revive this flagging column of mine than by looking back at a film where a white cop and a black detective are forced to get along? Winning multiple awards, including Best Picture, Actor (Rod Steiger), and Adapted Screenplay, it became a defining film for Sidney Poitier and marked a shift in Hollywood’s portrayal of black characters. As a fan of crime drama and Rod Steiger, I had this film on my to-watch list for a while before I got around to seeing it. Knowing it was a 60s movie and that it was considered significant in the political landscape of the Civil Rights movement, I was worried that it might be heavy-handed or on-the-nose. Were all the white characters going to be idiots? Was it going to be a bait-and-switch affair that purports to be a crime flick but is really About Race in a super pompous, 60s way?
Thank goodness, no! I mean okay yes, it is about race, and yes, we’ll talk about That Scene where Poitier has a slap-off with a plantation owner. And yes, the mystery is ultimately a little flimsy and takes a back seat to the character drama. But really, it’s not so much About Race as it is About Male Bonding. In fact, an alternate title was considered—Machismo: The Movie.
What can I say about this past week that hasn’t already been said? First, we got two murky black civilian shootings in a row, which appear to have been dissimilar in some key respects but were naturally spun together as “Policemen hunting down teh blacks!!!” As with Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile became equally worthy mascots of a movement that tramples individuality.
Then, the thing every smart policeman could have told you was coming, if you were willing to listen: Slaughter of white cops on a mass scale. An outpouring of vicious bile from gleeful, racist black Twitter users, of whose existence President Obama was apparently blissfully unaware when he said he believed he “spoke for every single American citizen” as he offered his obligatory phoned-in condemnation of the shootings. But remember, nobody really knows the motivations of the shooter. I mean it’s not like he said in so many words that he wanted to kill white cops or something. Oh wait. And I won’t even touch Dear Leader’s latest comment that it’s become easier for kids to get their hands on a gun than a computer or even a book, seeing as how Matt Walsh has already won the Internet on that front.
But enough about our bloviating, passive-aggressive president. Let’s talk about passive-aggressive Southern Baptists instead! Yes Russell Moore, I am looking at you.
Little Sister returns, and today we’re here to review Pixar’s latest smash hit, Finding Dory! We got to see what all the fuss was about last week and are pleased to bring you our thoughts on the film’s treatment of adoption and disability, Pixar’s slump into “sequelitis,” and more. And yes, I realize I say “Okay, so…” way too much. Also, #spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Words fail to express how tragic it has been to watch the complete capitulation of old-guard evangelicalism to the giant con that is Donald Trump’s candidacy. Words do not fail me when I think about how disgusting it is that Trump doesn’t even have to pretend to give a damn about the things evangelicals hold dear. But I’m trying to keep this PG-rated here. (Meanwhile, I notice that he finally paused to acknowledge SCOTUS’s disastrous abortion ruling with the astute observation that if Scalia were still alive, the vote would have been 5-3 “the opposite way.” Oh, wait, actually, we would still have lost 5-4, never mind. But don’t worry, I’m sure Trump will hire the best people to do math for him once he’s elected President.)
The latest and most painful development in this slow-motion train-wreck is James Dobson’s choice to join Trump’s religious “advisory” board, while simultaneously spreading what he later clarified was only a second-hand rumor that Trump had “accepted Christ.” The real kicker? The person who some people say they heard from their cousin’s sister-in-law’s aunt might have led Trump to Christ is (drumroll please) Paula White.
So yeah, if you need me, I’ll be under all my blankets sobbing in a fetal curl. Wake me up when Jesus comes back.
What’s that you say? I can’t just hide in bed until the apocalypse? What, are you gonna tell me the death of the religious right does not equal the death of the church, or something?
I should have known.
Grant us grace always to live in such a state that we may never be afraid to die, so that, living and dying, we may be thine… — The Book of Common Prayer
I was sad to read the other day that bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley (sometimes called Dr. Ralph Stanley, for his honorary doctorate of music from Lincoln Memorial University) had died. I’ve never studied his catalogue in depth, but like everyone else, I knew his performance of “O Death” from Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Originally, it wasn’t meant to be a bare-bones acappella number, but Stanley convinced the producers to let him sing it Primitive Baptist style, like the church where he grew up: no banjo, no guitar, no nothin’. Just Ralph’s reedy, old man voice, asking death to spare him over ’til another year.
When I first heard “O Death,” I thought it was one of the most remarkable songs I’d ever heard. Though virtually tuneless, it is arresting, even riveting, in Dr. Stanley’s able hands. It has the primal quality of so many early American folk songs—the kind of songs that are unerringly in tune with all that we know, and love, and fear. There is no cheap sentiment here, no sanctimony or pious platitude to cover the naked truth.
If you look closely at the lyrics, you can tell that the speaker is meant to be a younger man who is not yet ready to die. He’s being tended by his mother, and he asks the ice-cold specter to “please consider his age.” This makes it all the more striking for Stanley to cover it as an old man full of years. The phrase “please consider my age” takes on a different meaning, almost like a private joke between Old Ralph and Old Death.
It’s welcome news that Stanley remained implacably Christian to the last. This adds yet another layer to this, his most haunting performance. It is a reminder that Death is merely the means of separating soul from body. It summons us to heaven or to hell, but God alone decides which. I close my eyes and try to picture Stanley as he must be now: as C. S. Lewis said, a creature of surpassing brightness which, if you could see it, you would be strongly tempted to worship.
Well what is this that I can’t see,
With ice cold hands takin’ hold of me?
Well I am death, none can excel,
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell.
In recent months, you may have noticed ads for a relatively new movie filtering service called VidAngel. Based in Utah (probably owned by a bunch of Mormons), it operates on a buyback model, where moviegoers can buy a movie, stream it through VidAngel’s content filters, then sell it back to VidAngel within 24 hours for a net loss of only $1. Well, sort of. Technically, if you read the fine print, you were paid back in VidAngel credit, so that you’d get a discount on the next movie you rented with them. See what they did there?
Anyway, it didn’t take long for Disney, Fox, Lucasfilm inter alia to notice the company in a legal way. You can read all about the team they’re assembling for the defense, posted last week on their blog. They seem confident about their chances, believing they’ve discovered a loophole that will allow them to continue operating. The comments on this article provide good summaries of the state of the law and theories about how good their case actually is. Not being a legal expert, I’ll let others make those predictions. At any rate, this kind of legal battle is merely the latest in a long string of Hollywood vs. Mormon Video Editing Outfit battles. I’ll let you figure out who typically comes out on top, although in fairness, the most recent one was decided in the Mormon company’s favor, using the same legal team VidAngel is now hiring.
To be honest, I find it difficult to care who wins or loses this case. In fact, given the way this particular site has compiled and marketed its content, I can think of a couple reasons why it might be just as well if it went away.
There has been no shortage of Christian think pieces about Orlando in the last 36 hours. Almost without exception, their headlines are variations on the “here’s how Christians ought to react” theme. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this. It’s the template Christian pundits are expected to follow in the wake of any national atrocity. But I trust my readers to decide for themselves how they choose to react to the events of Sunday morning. So I simply offer my observations on the Orlando aftermath, in hopes that they will distinguish themselves in some way from what you have already encountered.
As usual, I am approximately two weeks behind the hot issue of the week, but in this particular case, since literally nobody else is out there saying what I’m about to say, I figured what the heck. Might as well get out there and offend someone.
The name “Mark Yarhouse” might not ring a bell with the average reader. He’s a Christian psychiatrist at Regent College who has conducted multiple studies on gender and sexuality and is touted by outlets like Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition as “the leading Christian scholar” on gender dysphoria. A full bio is available here (which includes other resumee items like the facilitation of various “dialogues” between homosexuals and Christians). Last year, he wrote a long-form piece for Christianity Today condensing the highlights of his book Understanding Gender Dysphoria. A couple weeks ago, he appeared on their podcast to weigh in on the bathroom wars and Obama’s executive order.
Ordinarily, I don’t pay much attention to what Christianity Today is up to these days. They lost me a while ago. But since this recent interview with Yarhouse was highlighted in the newsletter for Summit Ministries, a solid conservative organization for whom I’ve been freelancing this past year, I was curious. As soon as I had clicked their link and realized Yarhouse was the guest, my heart sank, because I knew just what to expect. And it’s hardly “helpful,” “thoughtful,” “useful,” or any of the other milquetoast adjectives that have been used to describe Yarhouse’s work.
Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the stars farewell.
— Sam’s song from The Return of the King
It’s been far too long since I visited this column, now several years old (catch up on past entries here if you’re new to the site). So, I’m reviving it by pairing up two songs that hold especially poignant significance for Memorial Day, or really for any day where we reflect on the costly sacrifices of our military servicemen, living and dead.
On the “Question” side, we have Bruce Hornsby’s shattering song “Fortunate Son,” based on the tragic life and death of Vietnam veteran Lewis Puller. On the “Answer” side, a song by Rich Mullins called “I’ll Carry On,” which is open to more than one interpretation but can naturally be read in the voice of a young man going to war.