On Bing Crosby and the Sexual Revolution

Bing Crosby, old

Few voices are as inimitable or instantly recognizable as that of Bing Crosby. Warm, yet cool, he defined an American generation, and he remains one of the best-selling pop singers of all time.

In 1977, Bing Crosby gave his last televised interview. The interviewer, Barbara Walters, was known for asking prying, uncomfortable questions. She chose to leave no stone un-turned when it came to interrogating Bing about culture, morality, and its connection to his own family. Walters maintains a pleasant tone throughout, but it is clear that she saw herself as one of the cultural elite, while Crosby represented a generation whose cultural influence was gradually slipping away.

However, if she expected to one-up or throw off the Crooner King, she was sadly mistaken. And thanks to YouTube, we can see for ourselves just how mistaken she was.

Continue reading “On Bing Crosby and the Sexual Revolution”


I Stand With the (Innocent) People of Ferguson

Ferguson bakery owner

Much ink has been spilled about the grand jury verdict in Ferguson that was handed down last week and its violent aftermath, as black citizens took to the streets and commenced rioting, looting and burning their own town down. It would weary me to enumerate every instance of smug talk-talk that was churned out, hastening to remind “white evangelicals” that racism is still a Problem and they shouldn’t “use the riots as an excuse” to “not listen to their African-American brothers and sisters” about it. (What’s that, the evidence overwhelmingly implies that so-called systemic racism was a non-factor in this case? Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts.) Reformed pastor Thabiti Anyabwile even tried to dispute the verdict with his own legal analysis of the case. I can only conclude that Rev. Anyabwile should stick to his day-job.

The most nauseating thing about it all was that while these opinion-makers could fill paragraph after paragraph with concerned noises about how their “African-American brothers and sisters” might have had their feelings hurt by the verdict, they seemed incapable of sparing more than a couple lines for the “African-American brothers and sisters” whose livelihoods were being destroyed by their fellow black men as the presses rolled. But for most people, that was apparently too uncomfortable to think about for more than a couple lines. The best thing “white evangelicals” could do right now, apparently, was to “stop talking and listen.” Because presumably, talking volubly and forcefully about the evil of the rioters and the need to stop them with force if necessary would be “insensitive.” Or “poorly timed.” Or something. As for the innocent people of Ferguson, yes, yes, of course, everyone agrees that burning their businesses down is bad. Now, hastily moving on to spend the next two pages blathering about white privilege.

Meanwhile, I’m listening to sound bites on the radio of one of these mobs screaming obscenities and death threats. “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” Over and over and over again.  Continue reading “I Stand With the (Innocent) People of Ferguson”

George Zimmerman, Justice and the Church

George Zimmerman--I Am a Man

Last year I thought about saying something about the Trayvon Martin case. But then I thought it would be best to wait. The media was generating so much more heat than light, and besides, racial tension is one of those issues one is always reluctant to talk about if one’s opinion strays from the popular narrative. Now that an official verdict has been handed down from our justice system, and George Zimmerman has been declared not guilty, I would like to address some of the appallingly irresponsible reactions I am seeing from the leaders of the evangelical community in the wake of this decision. I don’t mind saying that I am equal parts disheartened, angered, yet depressingly un-surprised to see how thoughtlessly they have, collectively, abandoned George Zimmerman. And I am not the only one.

Let’s begin with this fact, which precisely zero evangelical “voices” have acknowledged: This is a case that should never even have gone to trial. Continue reading “George Zimmerman, Justice and the Church”

Some Thoughts About the Internet and Blog Debates

It’s my personal conviction that the Internet divides as much as it unites. Sadly, it divides even those who agree on many or even most things. Why? Because the Internet fosters debate. No matter how much you share in common with a person, you quickly come to find the one, two or three things you can’t agree on. Then those few things quickly grow out of proportion, and before you know it you’ve forgotten that you had anything important in common.

I’ve spent a couple years wandering around the ‘net looking for conversation and kindred spirits. It’s not for lack of like-minded family and friends. It’s just that your personal friends aren’t always available to chat about this, that or the other thing. (In fact, my personal closest friends have such hectic schedules that we only connect about once every month or so.) So in a weird way, Internet “friends” can come to feel more accessible than your real friends. But because of the phenomenon I’ve just described, you learn by experience to hold these new-found “kindred spirits” lightly. Because you feel compelled to talk about everything, and sooner or later you disagree, and those disagreements magnify until you can’t stand each other and part ways.

I’ve encountered this with all kinds of people in all kinds of contexts. I’ve tried to “fit in” around various web communities, only to discover I don’t really belong, for one reason or another. Every time I think “Finally, somebody like me!” I come to discover, “Oh snap… not really, and in fact, they don’t like me.”

But listen, here’s a little tip I’ve discovered, and once it finally dawned on me it was a very freeing thought: Let it go. Here’s how that manifests itself concretely for me: When I’ve opened my big mouth and gotten entangled in something somewhere on the ‘net, and gotten someone or a few someones annoyed or impatient or mad at me… I simply leave the thread behind me. I make a final comment, and then I DON’T GO BACK. Because I know that if I sneak a peek to see how people are responding, I won’t be able to resist the temptation to jump right back into the mess and keep wasting my time with people who’ll never be convinced by me anyway.

So instead… I let it go. The other day, I was trying to analyze the feeling of freedom that it gives me to take this approach, because it seemed familiar to me. Then I thought of an analogy. Occasionally when I’m driving, I’ll do something that makes another driver mad at me. I’ll turn in front of somebody when I thought I’d checked and it was clear. I’ll make my move when someone else technically had right of way. Or maybe it’s not my fault. Maybe it’s the other guy’s fault, and he honks his horn at me just because he’s a jerk.

But then (at least assuming I haven’t broken the law or anything), I keep driving. I move on. I leave the angry dude or dudette behind me and continue going about my life. Because I know it doesn’t matter, nobody can do anything to me, and there aren’t any consequences.

I thought of another analogy. Sometimes I do stupid things in my dreams. And of course when you’re dreaming, you often don’t realize you’re dreaming. But when you wake up, you think, “Wait a minute… that was just a dream! It didn’t matter! I don’t have anything to worry about after all!”

Blog debates are like that. Unless you already know somebody very well, and a precious relationship is being thrown away, there’s really not much at stake. You don’t really know these people, and they don’t really know you. So give up trying to argue with them. If they decide they don’t want to be your “friend” anymore, that’s their choice. In the meantime… you still have real friends, and a life to live. A real life.

What’s the Big Deal With Michael Buble?

I originally wrote this post when Michael Buble came out with his new Christmas album. It had been brewing for a while, but I kept forgetting to write it. Then when I started to see people talking and tweeting about the new project, it reminded me of him, so I wrote it. Then I forgot about him again and this post got forgotten in the process. I’m posting it now for no particular reason, except the fear that I might forget… again.

Basically, here’s my question: What’s all the fuss about with this guy? For those of you who may not know, he’s a crooning swing-pop sensation who sings “throwback jazz” in the style of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And he appears to have quite a few fans within Southern Gospel. In fact, I don’t keep up with the secular music scene, so that was how I first heard about him. And it was all rave reviews. So I thought I would check him out.

My conclusion was that he has some nice chops. But let’s just say his personality and ideas of comedy leave a lot to be desired.

I’ve browsed through numerous concert reviews from all different venues where people have consistently described his jokes as “R-rated.” On several different occasions, he’s even singled out small kids in the audience in some way (pointing them out, getting a picture with them, etc.) and then turned right around and done “the finger” or dropped the f-bomb. He also jokes about the fact that people think he’s gay, sometimes saying that even though he isn’t, he would be “very proud of it” if he was. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. I should add that this kind of behavior has been noted even by people who are giving him positive reviews—they seem to think it’s funny.

There’s another thing I know some people might be able to brush away, but I think it’s worth mentioning as well. Granted his music and music videos may be tame by certain standards, but the vid for the song “Haven’t Met You Yet” features Michael lounging around with some cute chick on a bed in the middle of a grocery store. Fully clad, but still. I’d feel weird if my 10-year-old put it up for her Facebook status (which a 10-year-old I know of actually did).

However, whatever your opinion may be on that, I think a lot of his Christian fans who’ve never been to a concert of his (or who’ve caught him on a good night, as one gospel singer did) may simply be unaware of the kind of show he consistently delivers. The consensus: NOT a family-appropriate one. And I don’t know about you, but that really lowers my respect for him and makes me disinclined to listen to his music, even if I think he has some talent. It just makes me appreciate performers who have real class all the more.

Now let me clarify something before going further: I’m not against listening to secular artists. My ipod is loaded with them. Sure, Billy Joel isn’t exactly a model of morality. But he’s not aiming for the demographic Michael Buble is aiming for. And I can’t appreciate the kind of artist who markets himself to a wide age range, attracts families with children to his concerts, and then proceeds to frat-boy his way around the stage with no regard for that demographic whatsoever. If you’re going to be crude and obscene, at least don’t pretend to be the classy, family-friendly type in the image you project to the market.

And you know, the sad thing is that I can see why he’s popular. I can see why a lot of people like his music, and the reason is that his style hearkens back to a more innocent time. It’s different from the junky hip-hop and club disco and electro what-not that’s circulating around these days. People associate his music with class, elegance, and style. Would that he personally embodied those characteristics in the way he acts when he’s not singing. And tell the truth, it’s difficult not to sense that he’s immensely pleased with himself even when he sings—very much of an “Anything you can sing, I can sing smoother” attitude.

So bottom line is… if you see some of your favorite gospel singers tweeting about Buble, and you don’t happen to recognize the name… it’s a lot of hype over a guy who doesn’t deserve it. Take my word for it.