Three Things for a Summer Sunday

1) Farewell to Ornette Coleman.

I’m writing a longer piece about this, but for now, I have to mark here the passing of one of America’s musical giants. Ornette was from my hometown, Fort Worth, and when I was a teenager, just learning about him–and driving by I.M. Terrell High School, which he attended with Dewey Redman, Prince Lasha, King Curtis, and Charles Moffett (!!!)–forever changed my view of both the city and the state of Texas. Here’s what Richard Brody wrote about him a couple of years ago in The New Yorker:

One way into Coleman’s music is to think of it as avant-gutbucket. Hailing from Fort Worth (which figures prominently in the film, as in the clip above), he got his start in rhythm and blues and the blues are, conspicuously, at the forefront of his achievement. (In the movie, he speaks warmly of another son of the city, King Curtis, who, having made a fortune from a more popular strain of bluesy jazz, picked Coleman up in New York with his Rolls-Royce.) The forbidding harmonic intricacy of bebop sparked several responses in the fifties, but Coleman’s was the most radical. He threw out the chord changes, famously excluding pianists from his primordial groups, thus eliminating “comping,” or chord-prompting that kept soloists in line, and played music that often had the furious speed of bop but lacked its tonal anchors. His melodies and solos were filled with catchy bluesy riffs and soul-chilling cries, but he shifted notes (or, rather, from pitches) without regard for traditionally recognizable relations of consonance.

Coleman was an icon, not just for the jazz world but also for Fort Worth. The piece I’m writing explores what that means in light of the racial dynamics that sparked last week’s travesty in nearby McKinney.

2. Hooray for Tony Campolo!

Lots has been said about leading evangelical Tony Campolo’s strong statement in support of LGBT Christians. I particularly liked Cathleen Falsani’s description of his statement on his website as a cultural tipping point–though we’ve had lots of those already, and I’m looking forward to more.

But here are the paragraphs of his piece that really struck me:

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage…Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

So often, LGBT issues are painted as a debate between younger and older members of the church, but Campolo, who is 80, reminds us that the experience of older Christians can also be a powerful argument for inclusion.

3. Go read Bilgrimage and A Sound of Sheer Silence!

One of joys of writing this blog has been interacting with bloggers Bill Lindsey, atBilgrimage, and Michael Boyle, at A Sound of Sheer Silence. I know, I know, I recommend them all the time, and I can’t imagine that anybody who reads this blog doesn’t also read theirs. BUT! They have both been on fire lately and if somehow you’ve missed their recent posts, do go catch up.

In particular, I recommend Michael’s post “The Substance Behind the Style” on the semiotics of Cardinal Burke’s and Archbishop Cordileone’s outlandish sartorial choices. I have friends who have taught courses at my university on the Rhetoric of Fashion–Michael’s post would fit perfectly on their syllabi.

At Bilgrimage, the conversation on Caitlyn Jenner has been phenomenal. I especially liked Bill’s response to charges that embracing transgender individuals represents a sort of newfangled gnosticism. Bill writes:

People choosing the gender that they experience as their given gender despite the gender assigned to them according to biological determinations are seeking to fulfill their humanity, not to escape from it.

Just as women seeking to live as full, authentic human beings in a world which tells them that women should be thus and so and always subordinate to males are not seeking to escape from their human destiny as women. They’re seeking to fulfill it.

In another post, Bill highlights a reader’s comment on Fr. Jonathan Morris’s Fox News defense of the Duggars: “I guess this is the logical end of First Things’ ‘Protestants and Catholics Together’ project; they band together to fight against culture war issues and look the other way at each others’ abuse cases.” It’s always worthwhile, I think, to point out the fundamentalism–the Puritanism–behind the Catholic Right’s position on sex.

More posts coming this week, including: my new land-clearing project, rethinking “natural law,” and (maybe–no promises!) a return to Anthony Esolen’s Defending Marriage.

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