WWSAD: What Would Sister Aimee Do?
by Ed Blum
[Warning: humor ahead]:
Since the moment I began graduate school, I hoped to get my name into Books and Culture. I have always enjoyed thoughtful evangelical writers, from Mark Noll and George Marsden to David Bebbington and Margaret Bendroth. And in 2006, I got my wish. I had the privilege of reviewing Harry Stout’s Upon the Altar of the Nation which had so many connections to my own Reforging the White Republic of the previous year. Now, alas, I’ve gotten my name into B&C again, but this time as part of a response by its editor John Wilson (let me say incidentally here that I have utmost respect for Wilson, the work he does at B&C, and his defense of the review). Responding to my comments to a post by Matthew Sutton, Wilson wrote: “By the way, one of the writers who commented on Sutton's post at Religion in American History was Ed Blum, who has written for B&C and has another piece in the queue (and reviews of two of his books in the mag are pending). Blum took Sutton's assertions at face value—evidently he didn't bother to read the article himself—and added a bit of moralizing of his own. Is this how good intellectual conversation proceeds?”
I was shocked; had I been moralizing? had I accepted Sutton’s assertions at face value? Is this what friendship with Sutton brings to people? Perhaps my wife was right, that I pass moral judgment without even realizing it and that I’m amazingly naïve at the same time (she says that only when we’re really fighting).
So I looked back at my comments. Interestingly, neither had much to do with Sutton’s challenge of the B&C book review. I commented first: “I'm fascinated by so many reviewers mentioning the contents of acknowledgments. Where were these folks for decades when male professors would thank their wives for 'typing' their manuscripts, but never for anything else (such as using their ideas or insights)? Reviews are short enough as it is, and books usually have enough interesting ideas to interact with - I'm all for leaving acknowledgments alone.” I would hate, for instance, for someone to mock me for thanking my dog in my books (see picture of him next to my name in comments). I do find his snoring cute, and I find it therapeutic while I’m writing. And then after another response, I commented: “Thanks for chiming in Professor Ketchell; if there is no other place to clear up some points, then surely this blog serves that purpose. As fascinating as your parochial education was (and is, I'm sure, in your memory) I could see why you wouldn't belabor the point.”
I want to respond to Wilson in two ways: first, rationally; and second, as Aimee Semple McPherson would. First, I think it is quite clear that both of my comments were about reviews and blogs in general. I do think it is inappropriate to attack people for their acknowledgements; and I do think blogs are fantastic places for authors to talk about their books. Hopefully I can find my way back into Wilson’s good graces and out of the B&C doghouse (as you can guess from comment above about marital life, I know my way to the doghouse).
And now, what would Sister Aimee do? Based upon my reading of Matt Sutton’s amazing book, perhaps she would attack B&C as un-American or unChristian (or both) in a sermon or on the radio; perhaps she would accuse Wilson of trafficking with socialists; or perhaps Sister Aimee would direct attention away from the controversy. She could hold a huge dramatic Easter pageant with camels and horses and fireworks and face lifts for everyone. Actually, I think we all know what sister Aimee would do. She would fake her own kidnapping with Paul Harvey and rush to Tijuana (perhaps to play some basketball?). They would to be found weeks later, drunk as skunks somewhere in downtown San Diego. Hmm… that doesn’t sound so bad.
[Editor's Note: Dear Sister Aimee, please wait until March Madness ends to stage said kidnapping. Yours, Paul]