Get ready to rock America: Deliverance from the forces of darkness and superstition is at hand. No, I’m not talking about the Republicans being on vacation.
I’m talking about the fact that the “Rock Beyond Belief” concert at Fort Bragg is going to happen sometime in March of next year. Hooah!
In its tireless quest to appear newsworthy, the headline-chasing Center for Inquiry has spotted another star to hitch its galumping wagon to. Here’s the Flash:
The secular festival Rock Beyond Belief will now cometo fruition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, March 31, 2012, after military authorities there reversed course and approved the event that will feature an array of music and speakers including famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
The Rock Beyond Belief event was planned in response to Fort Bragg’s sponsorship,endorsement, and overwhelming support of the Billy Graham EvangelicalAssociation’s Christian evangelical concert, called Rock the Fort, held last year. When secularists around the country protested the government’s support of this event and requested that it be canceled, officials at Fort Bragg justified their support by stating the same level of support would be provided to anyone who organized a similar event.
That pledge proved to be untrue when Fort Bragg officials, led by garrison commander Col. Stephen J. Sicinski, initially denied Rock Beyond Belief organizers the use of an outdoor venue and financial support. The Center for Inquiry (CFI) previously condemned those discriminatory actions as both an outrageous misuse of power and potentially illegal, and applauds the base’s decision to approve and support Rock Beyond Belief.
Speaking only for myself, I can’t find the drama here, the Superman moment where America wins.
For one thing, there is an actual musical genre called Christian rock and it wouldn’t surprise me if some soldiers liked it. Including soldiers who weren’t Christians. Given low wages and precious few other rewards for fighting two wars that nobody wants and the nation can’t afford, let ’em have what they like as long as they don’t scare the horses–the way they did at Abu Ghraib.
But othwerwise, as far as I know, rock is rock, and I don’t know that adding Richard Dawkins to the mix (even if he wears tight jeans and has his nose pierced for the occasion) creates a new genre called secular rock.
I always thought “secular” was taken for granted for music that doesn’t come out of a hymnal or a concert repertoire. To the best of my recollection, most of the bad-ass lyrics I have to listen to as my daughter surfs the FM waves on my car radio are secular, but mainly just bad (how’s your Bruno Mars knowledge: would ya take a grenade for me?).
True, they don’t include commercials from A C Grayling or supportive messages from Sam Harris on twilighting your faith and teaching others to do the same, but that’s the price we pay for life in a democracy, sort of. If there’s a chance the atheist horsemen will be touring (sort of like the Three Tenors but without Ave Maria) I want tickets. Heck, I even offer my services as their booking agent. The only thing is, they can’t use regular rock spiked with a message and call it secular rock, as though they’re as smart as Lady Gaga or Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam. They have to write and sing their own atheist songs, just like the Christian rockers sing about Jesus. They have to play their own gee-tars. They have to wear T-shirts and have a name. I suggest the GnuTonians. Otherwise, no deal.
Secularists are really bad at negotiating these teachable moments. It might have been the understandable position of the much maligned base commander, Colonel Sicinski, who finally approved the concert, that 98% of what soldiers listen to is secular rock. After all, this wasn’t a debate about church music, and balancing an evangelical rock event with a secular rock event makes about as much sense as balancing feathers and bricks, or rocks if you’ll forgive the obvious. Enter the Myth of the Persecuted Atheist: If they [overprivileged religious persons] get their event, we want ours. Poor Colonel Sicinski, just trying to do his job in an atmosphere where new atheist Christian-sniffers are looking for new ways to be outraged.
At least, however, the Rock Beyond Belief (get it?) organizers had the courtesy to be civil and grateful to the Colonel: “Colonel Sicinski, Fort Bragg’s Garrison Commander has now approved the event in full, and we’re extremely grateful to him for this opportunity.” –Not CFI, which implies his actions were “an outrageous misuse of power.” Nothing is really exciting unless it’s outrageous or illegal, is it? Perhaps the story behind the story is why the event became polarized and litigious so quickly, when clearly the Colonel was not balancing two apposites–like hard- and soft- rock- likers where demand could be easily understood and accommodated. Give him a break. This isn’t Iran. The food is much better there.
There’s another something wrong with Rock Beyond Belief and all the joining-the-cause pedantry that CFI does these days as it tries to squeeze a little more juice out of its withering fruit. In offering its shrinking volume of customers this kind of news, they are really attempting to spin false victories for Godlessness and Country out of utterly dumb facts. The spectacle of an organization that now chases more famous ambulances to the scene just so it can get its name in the blogroll and call it a victory for freethought is just a little pathetic, don’t you think?
Do I think atheists should have the same right to hold a messaged-rock concert same as evangelical Christians? Sure I do. I suppose Catholics, Jews, Pastafarians and Nuwabianists need to chime in to assert their rights while the environment is sweet for everybody’s songs. Everybody but Unitarians. They have really bad music.
But equal is equal, fair is fair, and the braintrust at CFI seems to think that secular rock needs defending. As soon as I know what that is, I’m there–on the side of truth, justice, and free inquiry. If they play Freedom, I may just go myself. But then we have to let the NeoNazis do their thing. White Boss or The Dentists, anyone? Anyone? Now that will test Colonel Sicinski’s powers of judgement –and his memory.