Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On the Phenomenon of the St Louis Jebbies

Yah, ol' CWN didn't like the music:

I find the SLJ music painful: sugary, trite, rhythmically clunky. The lyrics, though ostensibly biblical in inspiration, have a smarmy mock-modesty about them that is lethal to any attitude of devotion: "What a lucky deity you are, Yahweh, to have such cute and talented disciples as us caroling your praises!" You've all known teenage girls who are in love with the idea of being in love, and stand humming and sighing for hours before the mirror; transpose that woozy self-absorption onto vinyl and you've got Earthen Vessels: The Album.

...Other congratulations are cited from Fr. Virgil Funk, Bishop Remi de Roo, and Bishop Donald Trautman. The list goes a long in justifying Tucker's mischievous assimilation of the SLJ to leisure suits and platform shoes. These churchmen are men of the 1970s. And the Catholic culture war in which the shibboleth is invoked concerns the question of whether we must remain stuck in the 1970s forever: with burlap banners and glass chalices and warpainted feminism and epicene ministers of music coaching us in social justice. The phenomenon of the Saint Louis Jesuits is, quintessentially, a phenomenon of the 1970s. In every detail -- from their acoustic guitars to their chumminess with "Yahweh" -- they announce that they could belong to no other era.

Another, perhaps more acute, critic has referred to the beginning of the SLJ era as "The rusty cutting edge of '60's liberalism." And there is something to be said for placing this in the '60's rather than the '70's--the '60's were THE era of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.

Given that antecedent, the SLJ phenomenon is, distinctly, '70's. Their stuff is not rock; it's countrified-rock, with the hard edges removed. Deleterious, but not horrific.

You'll remember that the Saint Louis Jesuits (not all of whom remain Jesuits, or priests, or Christians, according to Tucker) assembled to provide the music for the Justice & Peace-themed liturgy at the last Religious Education Congress -- itself an extended orgy of 1970s nostalgia. Bishop Donald Trautman was the celebrant, and he had been invited to the Congress precisely to call a halt to progress in liturgical translation. The result gives the effect of one of those paperweights in which a miniature world is frozen in Plexiglas. Think Mario Cuomo. Think Msgr. Dan Hoye. Think Cardinal-designate Bernardin, and Jackie Onassis, and Richard McBrien still with dark sideburns. The brief shining moment!

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