Category Archives: Mark Sanford

Whatever Nikki Haley’s Religion and Ethics May be, Andre Bauer’s are Plain as Day

Will Folks, a Republican blogger, and Larry Marchant, a former paid consultant for current South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, have both claimed to have had “inappropriate physical relationships” with State Representative Nikki Haley, current front runner in the SC GOP gubernatorial primary.

She’s running against Bauer, who tried to make political hay out of current governor Mark Sanford’s adultery last year, but has lost huge support since his comments this past winter comparing people on school lunch programs and unemployment to “stray dogs.”

In radio interview, Haley denied the allegations wholeheartedly. As Columbia CBS station WLTX 19 puts it,

Haley once again defended herself against a claim that she had a sexual encounter with consultant Larry Marchant Thursday afternoon on “The Afternoon Drive with Keven Cohen/560 WVOC Radio.”

On a side note, I’d like to point out the dangling preposition in the above sentence, which indicates that the alleged affair took place on the radio show, not the interview.

Anyway, when asked if she would resign if evidence were presented that proved the allegations, Haley replied,


This is very disheartening in and of itself, because in political liespeak, this basically means, “Yes, I did it, and if it’s proven, I’ll admit it.”

After all, if the allegations were completely *untrue*, wouldn’t she have said, “Since the allegations are untrue, no evidence can be presented to prove them”?

Or, maybe, “I admit we were alone for such-and-such a time, and apologize for the impropriety, but nothing happened”?

Nevertheless, the fact that both accusers have close financial ties to the Bauer campaign creates a great deal of doubt.

While many outlets yesterday reported the possession of “texts” by Folks that allegedly document the alleged affair, the texts in question–if they are real–only document a *discussion* of the allegation among various campaign workers.

However, given the fact that our current governor, who built his name on his “Christian values” then turned out to be a total sleaze, has put this state, and the Republican Party, through enough already, and given the fact that SC’s traditional GOP leaning is tenuous at this point, don’t we need a little more certainty?

Yet again, if the allegations *are* false, that would be precisely the motive for making them up.

Folks’ “evidence” consists of phone records documenting numerous phone calls, most of them late at night, sometimes several hours long. The phone calls date to a time when Folks *worked* for Haley.

At least Marchand has the evidence that he and Haley were *away* attending the same out of state convention.

I mean, as Ben Matlock would say, “COME AWN!”

PHONE CALLS? I’m sure someone can dig up hundreds of hours worth of phone calls between Karl Rove and George W. Bush. . . .

I first learned of Haley’s campaign through Facebook, and I’ve been following her Facebook pages for a year now. Haley’s definitely adept at New Media, and one of the things I’ve picked up on from her FB statuses is that, unlike most politicians, she makes time for her family.

If a former advisor wants to make the claim they were carrying on an extensive affair, shouldn’t he be proving they *didn’t* talk on the phone?

On the one hand, we who Haley claims to be: a busy politician and mom, involved in her kids’ life as much as her political work, staying up late and talking on the phone to a campaign aide about campaign matters when she can squeeze the time in.

On the other hand, the claim that she was doing all those things *and* callling this guy late at night for hours *and* sneaking off to have sex with him??? Huh?

Evidence of an affair would be hotel and restaurant receipts, showing they were actually in the same places at the same times.

Sarah Palin has reaffirmed her endorsement of Haley, comparing the accusations to the numerous trumped up ethics charges that drove her out of office in Alaska.

Meanwhile, ex-First Lady and Adultery Victim Jenny Sanford has come out in Haley’s defense, saying that “our state is better than this” (I don’t know about that one).

Sanford, whose endorsement given her own background ought to mean something, was referring both to the sexual allegations and to racist concerns about Haley’s Indian ethnic background.

Haley is presently a state representative representing Lexington County, and the senator from that county, Jake Knotts, recently referred to her as a “raghead” in an interview, applying the racial epithet (which is wrong on numerous levels) to both Haley and Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, CBN’s David Brody has compared Haley to Obama in a more honest way; apparently, Haley has been ambiguous about her exact religious leanings in the past.

In April, the statement “Are you a Christian” on her campaign’s FAQ page was a vague reference to Almighty God; at present, it says “Christ.” In 2004, when she ran for state senate, she claimed to be practicing both as a Methodist and Sikh, attending both services weekly. Newspapers in the US and India praised her as the first Sikh to be elected to US political office.

I don’t know a lot about Sikhism, but from skimming the Wikipedia entry, I’ve deduced how it’s the kind of religion that can be easily meshed with liberal Christian theology, and Christian denominations don’t come more liberal than the Methodists (let’s remember–Hilllary Clinton’s a Methodist). As I’ve heard it said by former Methodist’s on The Journey Home, one needn’t “believe” anything in particular to be a Methodist–there’s no required credo–just a required hymnal.

Now, it’s possible Haley has sincerely adopted a more sincere Evangelical Christianity over the years, and dropped away from regular Sikh observance. It’s also possible her Christianity is in the mode of George W. Bush or, worse, Mark Sanford.

At least she’s able to make a firm statement of belief in Christ–that’s more than Barack Obama can do. He can only mmuster that Jesus is one of many “great teachers,” or that “I believe in the Sermon on the Mount” (even though he apparently ignores the parts about adultery, lust, divorce, greed, serving two msaters, etc.).

As I’ve said many times, I care less about what a candidate’s religious beliefs are than I do about whether he or she is sincere in those beliefs. I care more about whether the candidate is honest, and whether the candidate believes in Natural Law.

Spiritually, I can understand that we are all fallen, and, as a Catholic, I know how hard it is to live in a state of grace *with* the sacraments. I am honestly surprised people without the sacraments don’t commit adultery all the time. One also has to consider that, to Evangelicals, as has been stated by some of them on this blog, Christ’s forgiveness often means the ability to just go on sinning that grace may abound.

However, anyone who campaigns as a “values” candidate needs to be extra careful.

Sadly, in this midst of all this, Mike Huckabee has reiterated his own support of Andre “stray dogs” Bauer.

I can tell you this much: I don’t know whether Nikki Haley is a good Christian or not, but I do know that Andre Bauer is *not* a Christian.

Bigotry Is Alive and Well and Lives in South Carolina

This past Wednesday, March 3, I attended a rally for disabled rights at the SC State House. Under our illustrious Charlestonian snob of a governor, Mark Sanford, the Legislature is voting to completely eliminate several programs under the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, reducing the department to nursing home care only, without increasing the availability of that care. Programs that give vouchers to caregivers, daycare to disabled adults so their caregivers can work, or jobs that keep disabled people off SSI/SSDI would be cut.

“Don’t these people in the State House realize how close they are to being like us?” asked one speaker. That’s right: all it takes is one car accident. One stroke.

In an era when malls around the country are dropping like flies, the state can find $100 million in “tax breaks” for the construction of a new mall in Jasper County, SC (near Hilton Head).

The state can find $9.2 million to rebuild a World War II battleship.

As my professors used to say in college, they can find money to hire some new vice provost for women’s studies or whatever, but they can’t find money in the budget for paper or dry erase markers.

The rally left me very depressed on several levels. First, the fact of what is being done. Second, the fact that I was there because I was already performing double/triple “duty.” On the other side of the building was a rally for charter schools, including the Virtual Charter Schools, and Allie was officially on a field trip with her school.

So I’m going back and forth between rallies. I see all the well-dressed super articulate people standing up for charter schools. Then I hear the disabled people and caregivers speaking. Other than one state senator, there was no one there to speak “for” them. No politicians. No celebrities. No well-dressed, articulate power brokers. Just the lowly trying to speak for themselves.

And then, to top it off, as the rally was breaking up, a reporter and photographer passed by me, and one of them said, mocking the speakers, “I felt like I was watching _Forrest Gump_.”

Boy, people think I’m hotheaded because of my firey pen–er, keyboard–but if I were. . . . .

Anyway, the upside is that, in my frustration, I contacted gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley for her position on DDSN funding. She replied:
“John, what has happened to the disabilities budget is not acceptable. I will continue to work to do all I can to make it right for the families effected.”

Haley for SC Governor, ’10!

Let’s show the country that you don’t have to be an arrogant adulterous jerk like Sanford to be a conservative.

Elaine Paige and Susan Boyle have sung “I Know Him So Well” on TV, but Jenny Sanford’s singing it for real

Two sort of related stories today, that I thought made an interesting combined post.

First, Jenny Sanford, who has recently come out with a memoir, did an interview with Barbara Walters in which she admitted her soon-to-be-ex husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, refused to make a vow of fidelity when they got married.

She says she was young and in love. How about stupid? This should be like the opposite of an annulment. She agreed to marry him even though he didn’t vow fidelity, so she shouldn’t have the right to divorce him.

In other news, on this feast of the patron saint of throats, Barry Manilow and Susan Boyle are appearing together, on the top 10 album sales!! Barry’s The Greatest Love Songs of All Time has debuted at #5, while Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream remains on the charts at #4, after 9 weeks (6 at #1). It was little over 100,000 short of being the top selling album in the US of 2009, and *was* the top selling “physical” album of the year (as opposed to download) in the US, and, most importantly, the top selling album of the year in the world.

In December, TV Guide Channel had the highest rated special in its history with “The Susan Boyle Story.” In the special, Susan sang on stage with her hero, Elaine Paige, OBE, “The First Lady of British Musical Theatre.”

The connection of the two stories is that Paige and Boyle sang Paige’s hit duet “I Know Him So Well” (Originally sung with Barbara Dickson). Ironically, while Susan Boyle is of course known for her more “plain” appearance, she looks very good compared to Paige, very obviously deformed with face lifts and/or botox.

The song, from the musical Chess (music by ABBA; lyrics by Tim Rice), is sung by the mistress and wife of a chess champion. The mistress figures “he needs a little bit more than me / more security,” while the wife muses, “he needs his fantasy and freedom.”

Both figure they should have gotten to know him better before they “fell,” but “now, at least, I know I know him well. . . .”

So, in honor of Jenny Sanford, here are Susan Boyle and Elaine Paige:

When will that word be considered equivalent to the “N” word?

It’s not just insulting to the mentally handicapped; it’s insulting to all disabled people.

And when it’s used by Rahm Emmanuel, whose brother advocates the very “death panels” Sarah Palin was accused of being a nut for speaking against, it is all the more monstrous.

Thus, when the poorly-named Emmanuel used the word “retarded” to describe some Democrat political strategy, Sarah Palin rightly called on him to resign.

Is this met with any kind of “she’s right” from the ultra-sensitive, tolerant types on the Left? Apparently not. The same people who think that Trent Lott saying “If he’d run again, Strom Thurmond would have made a great president” was equivalent of a lynching seem more perplexed at Palin’s perturbation! One of the headlines, as linked on Yahoo, reads, “Why Palin was incensed,” as if we shouldn’t know why she’s upset!

Meanwhile, Yahoo saw this as a wonderful opportunity for another link: “Palin’s shadow over AK“. Shadow??? The shadow of the Democrats’ many phony ethics accusations, you mean? The shadow of the Democrats’ dirty politics, you mean?

While another governor made ethics headlines for using government jets to fly to Argentina to “hike the Appalachian trail,” Palin’s “ethical” problem was taking her family with her while travelling on government business!! Oh, what a horror! Like 6 extra people on a government plane is that big a deal! Like the president never does something like, Oh, fly Air Force One over New York to take his wife out to dinner!!

Of course, Democrats hate children, and Democrats hate families, and hate the idea of a family who are actually close, or that people might actually value time with their children, and supervise their children, rather than surrending their children to the care of daycares and public schools during all waking hours.

Why did Tiger Woods commit adultery?

I don’t like jumping on celebrity “news” bandwagons unless I think there’s a moral in there, especially if it’s someone who’s a particularly overrated celebrity. 

So, the latest, of course, is Tiger Woods’ apparent adulterous affair.

Here we have the richest athlete in the world.  Now, everyone ought to know by now that wealth isn’t necessarily a cure for financial problems; indeed, it creates financial problems of its own.  But at the very least Tiger Woods has money and influence.  He can’t say, “I travel a lot for my job and don’t get to spend as much time with my wife, and I get lonely.” He could afford to take his wife and kids with him whereever he goes.

He’s married to a beautiful woman, at least according to the standards of beauty set by the  homosexuals who run the beauty pageant and modeling industries.

Why would Tiger Woods cheat?  Anyone who knows me well or has read this blog regularly should be able to guess what I’m going to say. . . 

Last year, Shania Twain filed for divorce from her husband and longtime manager (he’d been her manager since she was like 12 or something, like Celine Dion’s husband/manager), the appropriately named Mutt Lange.  When I heard the news on the radio, the DJs commented, “Why would you cheat on Shania Twain?”  Oddly enough, age and beauty can’t be excuses for Mutt–he dumped her for his long time secretary, a fairly ordinary looking middle-aged woman.  Indeed, that case, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s divorce from Sarah Brightman nearly 20 years ago, may be one of a kind of reverse mid-life crisis: a middle aged man married to a younger, beautiful woman who wanted a more substantial relationship.  That’s one explanation, but it really only hints at the real case.

The Blind’s, I mean, The View‘s Joy Behar says Woods isn’t a hypocrite because he’s “not a right winger” (warning: linked post contains profanity).

One possibility is that his wife is intolerable.  Though the police deny it, rumors are that his wife was engaging in domestic violence when the “accident” occurred, and at least one feminist is praising her for itDomestic abuse of men by their wives needs greater media and social attention.  Abused men tend to seek release in adultery or alcoholism or addiction, which only exacerbates the cycle of abuse.  Elin Nordegren Woods may have been reacting to knowledge of her husband’s infidelity when she allegedly chased  after him with a golf club, but that doesn’t mean this was the first time she ever hit him.  (NOTE: Explanation of motives is never a justification of sin).

Then there’s the whole question of gold-diggers.

Some are suggesting that it’s a case of when a new father feels neglected by his wife, so he seeks solace elsewhere.

Another hypothesis is that he’s a man who has everything, and he’s “bored,” and adultery offers a challenge, a risk, a sense of variety.  

Both those explanations, and any other explanation someone could come up with, would only be a subset of the real answer. 

Celebrity divorces as a whole don’t make sense for some of the reasons highlighted, and the meager explanations offered, while somewhat valid, only point to the real problem: “Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” 

There’s something missing.

This guy dumps his pretty wife for a more homely (in the proper sense) woman: someone who isn’t so high maintenance, as it were, who feels more domestic.

That guy dumps his longtime wife for a younger woman for the opposite reason.

This guy cheats beause his wife won’t have kids; that guy cheats because he’s jealous of his kids. 

This guy cheats because he’s bored with the monotony of his life.  That guy cheats because he says he can’t spend enough time with his wife.

The motives seem contradictory, but they point to the fundamental need reflected in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

I often argue that we can learn a lot about morality from morally questionable fiction.  The iconic villain Roger Thorpe on Guiding Light comes to mind as I write this: a man driven by his quest for perfection in life: power, money, pleasure and family.  A man who, in his early life, was compelled by his appetites and then, in his later life, was torn by the compulsion of those appetites conflicting with a genuine desire to change his ways, but an inability, without Christ’s grace or the sacraments, to really do so.

So he’d  go after one woman for her money and another for her beauty or fertility, or he’d try to be back together with his ex-wife to be a real family with their grown daughter. 

Last night, at adoration, I finally returned to The Theology of the Body, which I started reading several years ago and left off after a couple chapters due to its intimidating length.   John Paul II points out that, in that passage, God uses the Hebrew word “adam,” which is more generic like “human,” rather than “ish,” which is used later to distinguish “man” (“ish”) from “woman” (“ishasha”). 

Based upon this, he suggests four meanings of Adam’s being alone:

1.  Adam, humanity in general, is alone among creatures. 
2.  Adam is alone in facing God.
3.  Adam is alone and needs other people in general.
4. Adam is alone and needs a woman, specifically.

It would be flippant to say, “Tiger Woods is just a jerk,” or “original sin” as the answers for the puzzle.

Often, we might phrase the answer as “contraceptive mentality”.  This gets a lot closer and more specific: adultery (particularly of a homosexual kind) was traditionally a method of birth control.  And, of course, in our modern age, adultery is “facilitated’ by birth control devices which take away some of the superficial “risks” of adultery.

However, even these “Catholic responses” just point to the real answer:
Tiger Woods, Mutt Lange, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, and millions of other men and women need to learn the Theology of the Body.

We could phrase things in the negative, or we could come up with motives that seem like excuses, or we could point to what is missing in all these people, the appreciate of sexuality as a gift, the appreciation that that gift is mutually reflected in the unique gift of self that is this other person.

Sanctified marital love, seen sa a reflection of and participation in our relationship with God, seen as a total giving of self, is difficult to betray.

A gift is more meaningful if it is a treasure.  We don’t give $200 gifts to our coworkers and $5 gifts to our spouses and children.  The more meaningful the relationship is to us, the more value we put in the gifts we give. 

The more meaningful sommething we have is, the more we guard it.  And if we choose to surrender to someone else something we have guarded so dearly, we can show how much they, and the gift, mean to us.

One of the other things highlighted by this case is that prenuptial agreements are not set in stone.  Prenuptial agreements are one of the worst affronts to marriage in our society, since the best way to stay married for life is to presume divorce is not an option: prenups take divorce for granted.

Dismissing Sarah’s Supporters

One of the responses labelled at those of us who criticize Obama is “So does that mean you hate the 54% of Americans who voted for him?” (Actually, it’s more like 26% of Americans, if not less).

Yet, with Sarah Palin, one of the baffling things is how the media totally dismiss her support “from the Republican base.” Those of us who support her are accused of “identity politics” and not thinking.

Yet we have a president who was elected largely because of people (white and black) who had the illusion that he was “like them.” Obama was elected on style, not substance. And Republicans have been running on identity politics for 30years: Ronald Reagan’s, just as the Democrats ran on identity politics of FDR and JFK for 60 years.

But, just as there are differences in polls between church attending Catholics and self-identified Catholics who do not attend Mass every week, I wonder about polls of those who support and oppose Sarah Palin.

I look at what David Letterman and “Celtic Diva” did to Palin’s children, and I read the words of Palin’s resignation speech, and then I hear the pundits, on both sides, saying they “don’t understand why she resigned.”

They don’t, huh?

Peggy Noonan, a childless harpy who claims to be Catholic and pro-life (but doesn’t put as much emphasis on either as she does to the Grand Old Party), gloats that Palin knew she “couldn’t cut it.”

Palin’s critics say she can’t stand to be criticized. Like the schoolyard bullies when the geeks and good kids they terrorize start crying, Palin’s enemies say, [cue Nelson Muntz]: “HA HA!” “She can’t cut it!” “She tried to play in the big leagues with us, and she couldn’t take the heat!”

They express bewilderment over her resignation, but anyone who is a parent should be able to understand her resignation.

They say, when you are pregnant or planning a child, that “everything changes.” I used to take offense at that notion. I used to think I knew about parenting. I used to think that when people said, “Everything changes,” they were speaking from a materialistic, “You can’t go on ski trips anymore” mentality.

But, no, everything does change. Change, of course, doesn’t have to mean you lose something. But everything becomes amplified. Just about every politician and pundit who’s made it big has done so at the cost of his or her children.

Alan Keyes and Dick Cheney both have lesbian daughters, and honest psychologists admit that lesbianism is caused by a dysfunctional bond with the father.
How many Republican “leaders” are divorced and remarried?
Who was the only divorced and remarried president?
How about all these one and two children political families? Lots of secondary infertility among the ruling classes? Lots of serious use of NFP? I doubt it. If they were all successful at NFP, they’d be promoting it. If they were all having secondary infertiltiy, they’d be working to cure it.

Lots of adultery among politicians, too. Isn’t that right Bill and Ted and Rudy and Mark?

Put your daughters in pretty dresses, tell them to smile and wave, and shove them off the stage. That’s the order of business for most politicians.

Sarah Palin takes her daughters to work and puts it up to family vote whether she should resign from office.

Would Rick Santorum do that?

I really would like to see a poll done of how many parents versus non-parents support Sarah, and how many parents of 4 or more kids support Sarah versus parents of 2 or less.

If I were in public life, and someone did to my kids what these Liberals have done to Sarah Palin’s kids, I’d be waging an all-out war.

I’d take the gloves off, and I do.

I’ve cut off relatives for less. We don’t anyone who’s “pro-choice,” or in any way eugenicist, near our children.

Those who understand that sentiment support Sarah Palin.

For Sarah, the gloves were her gubernatorial position, which required of her a dignity she could not compromise to fight for her children.

So, faced with the choice of fighting for her children and retaining her political status, she fought back.

And “She can’t take criticism” is all these bullies have to say for themselves.

Let’s be clear: I have serious qualms about “Christian Rock,” too

And the shenanigans of Amy Grant are an outstanding example.

Depending upon its usage, rock music, even with “decent lyrics” or even very positive lyrics, can have a dangerous effect on our souls, as Thomas Howard suggested in a 2008 article for Inside Catholic (which I cannot presently find a URL for). 

C. S. Lewis often said that Heaven is a place of both great silence and great music, and everything in between is dangerous.  Cacophony is the sound of Hell.  The closer “music” gets to cacophony, the closer it gets to Hell.  And the support for this is in the testimony of many converts from rock culture who have appeared on EWTN over the years.

We were sitting at Ruby Tuesday this evening, and a series of songs were apropos to recent topics I’ve covered on this blog.

Mary’s a big Huey Lewis fan, and “Happy to be Stuck” came on the air, which seemed fitting to my earlier post on Jon and Kate Gosselins and Gov. Mark Sanford: if you want a successful marriage, just remember you’re “stuck with each other.”  Great song.  Oh, and it actually has a melody.

Next, or shortly thereafter, we heard the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by Mick Jagger (“Satan” in Don McLean’s “American Pie”) and the Rolling Stones.  One could credit the song as attesting to St. Augustine’s “Our Hearts are Restless till they Rest in Thee” but without the “Thee.”

There is a very plausible theory regarding the link between the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Drug Trade.  Now, you have to strip away some of speculations to get down to the facts.  I’ve linked the summary form from a conspiracy theory website, but this is one I’ve thoroughly researched on my own over the years, and found that there is merit to the links they established.

First, the ideology, disguised as sociology, which promoted the idea of the “teenager” and “teenaged rebellion” came out of a British think tank called the Tavistock institute.  If you trace the funding of the Tavistock Institute, it leads you to the modern day descendents of the families who owned the now-defunct British East India Company.

The argument contends that the Tavistock Institute orchestrated the groundwork for the arrival of the Beatles, and that the Beatles and the other bands in the “British Invasion” were really doing the work of the Tavistock Institute.  Here’s the thing with these kinds of conspiracy theories: it doesn’t really matter if there’s a direct connection.  It would be a stretch to say that the Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc., were working directly for Tavistock.

But Tavistock *did* set the ideology in motion which paved the way for them.  Social Engineers do their work by getting their ideas infiltrated in the universities, and, through the universities, into the business executives sand teachers. 

So, regardless of how direct it was, regardless of whether it was truly “orchestrated” or just a common movement of people following a similar ideology from different facets of the power structure, Tavistock set the whole “teenager” concept in motion, and the Beatles arrived on the scene to catalyze it in a way that the existing American rock stars had not yet touched.

The Beatles challenged people’s sensibilities, but then the Rolling Stones followed suit with even more offensive stuff.

So a two way effect happened: on the one hand, the Beatles looked more “clean cut” than the Stones, so, after the arrival of the Stones, parents were willing to compromise on Beatles.

On the other hand, it was like the cliche of the older sibling “paving the way” for younger children to get away with stuff: since parents caved into the Beatles, they couldn’t argue against the Stones.

And most of the songs of both groups were,  directly or indirectly, promoting fornication and drug use.

The song in question is very obviously about fornication.  It’s also barely even a song: harsh electric guitar riffs mixed with a growling chant that barely qualifies as a melody.

It’s very unsettling and disturbing.  I don’t see how anyone can call it pleasing at all.  I don’t see how anyone can say this song makes them “feel good.’

Following up on this drug anthem was another song by the Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up,” which I first heard of when Microsoft used it as an ad jingle for Windows 95, replacing “Program Manager” with the “Start Menu”.  This song is also sexually explicit, as even its Wikipedia entry acknowledges.

While the song is also notably upbeat, less of an assault on the senses, and more melodious than “Satisfaction,” it still emphasizes noise over quality, with percussive guitar chords and vocals that are more shouted than sung.

I am not as totally anti-pop music as I was in my more staid childhood, but I still believe that Christians, who are to be in the world but not of the world, need to be extremely cautious about the aspects of popular culture we expose ourselves to.

To claim that  a pop musician is “talented” is no justification for bad art or bad morals.  Quite the opposite.  If someone is truly a talented dancer, then the fact that his preferred style of dance is to grab his crotch and slide left to right should be all the more scandalous.

Talent untrained is worse than talentlessness.  A person may be a talented storyteller, but will not be a good writer if he or she does not know the rules of grammar.  That person may even be a successful writer, but it would be foolish to praise such a person for any “achievement” when the person has failed to pursue even the most basic refinement of craft.

The most worthy of popular musicians, even some I wouldn’t necessarily admire myself, turn to at least some level of elevation in their later years.  If they’re primarily performers, they elevate their craft by switching from rock music to covers of old standards, as, for example, Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart has done (for the songs on his 60s-80s tributes, Manilow has also added a touch of class to some of the original material).  Or else, like Huey Lewis and Petula Clark, they start taking roles in Broadway musicals.  Others turn to composing, writing musicals and movie soundtracks, as Barry Manilow, Elton John, ABBA and others have done.

When Andrew Lloyd Webber achieved unimaginable success with Cats, he said, “I have more money than I know what to do with.  I think I’ll write something for art’s sake and do a requiem mass.”  His original intent for  Phantom of the Opera was to write a straight up opera, or else remix pieces from existing operas. 

Speaking of Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of his achievements, along with other composers of his generation, has been to show that rock and roll music, and electronic instruments, have something to offer the musical world.  The electric guitar, like the acoustic guitar,  is actually a versatile and potentially very beautiful instrument, in the proper hands, when not used merely to produce noise.  In the original heavy metal single version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and more subtly in the later film version, Lloyd Webber blends the signature d-minor organ intro with an electric guitar, showing the world that an electric guitar can serve the same role as an organ (it would be interesting to hear an all-electric-guitar version of “Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor”).

Similarly, jazz musicians can do amazingly gentle things with electric guitars (Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack to Twin Peaks is an example).

Lloyd Webber’s Variations on  Paganini’s 24th Caprice, for cello and “rock ensemble,” is an amazing blend of classical, jazz, rock and New Age elements.

Rock music can do amazing things when it a) has, minimally, a melody, b) does not make noise for its own sake, c) involves some art, and d) has decent lyrics.

That’s not even to say that you can’t have lyrics about controversial subjects.  Many great classical songs and operas deal with controversial subjects.  As Messrs. Andre and Firmin sing in “Prima Donna”:
“You’d  never get away with all this in a play, but if it’s loudly sung, and in a foreign tongue, it’s just the sort of story audiences adore: in fact,  perfect Opera!”

Of course, one must recall that Mozart’s operas were also censored and criticized for their lewd content.  That should not elevate the Rolling Stones; it should make us more cautious about Mozarts. 

But the *topic* is not so much the issue is how it’s dealt with.  Is it explicit or subtle?  Crass or reverent?  Does it specifically refer to fornication or adultery, uncritically?  Does it show the inherent flaws of fornication or adultery?  Can the song be applied to marital love?

We must ask these questions when we consider our involvement in pop music.  One of the first times I watched Life on the Rock, Jeff Cavins (oh, how I miss him!) was talking about walking through a store with a seminarian friend, and his friend said, “Oh!  I’ve been wanting that CD!”  And Jeff Cavins was like, “What?  You’re studying for the priesthood, and you want to listen to that?  How is that going to help your vocation?”

It could just as easily be applied to, “You’re trying to live a chaste marriage, and you want to listen to that?”
“You’re a single person. Is this going to help you live in continent, celibate chastity?”

If we’re going to make heroes out of popular artists, there ought to at least be some objective standards by which we elevate them to that status.