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On Purity Tests in the 21st Century

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
— Leonard Cohen

Back in the stone age of the Net, when the Web was not yet weaned, I wrote  Rules of the Net: Online Operating Instructions for Human Beings published 1996. One of the appendices was a long excerpt from a famous USENET/ MIT document called The Unisex, Omnisexual Purity Test. This test was a bawdy romp through the many sexual peccadillos of mankind and was enlarged and extended as new “less than normal” tastes were revealed by the Net where it was revealed daily that when it comes to sexual matters there Is. No. Bottom.

The point of the Purity Test was not just fun and sex games but that, if the test got long enough, nobody was “pure.” It got a lot of laughs and was given to couples and groups along with individuals, but it really was just for laughs.

Now there’s a new Purity Test and it’s not for laughs, it’s for keeps. You see Purity Tests used in the political and social realms every day. Some salon for women won’t wax the fundament of a mentally-ill tranny? Sue them! Shriek at them! Some small business won’t tolerate shoplifting from some black student? RAAAAAACISTS! “THEY MUST BE O-BLIT-TER-ATED! “Some baker won’t bake a gay cake?  Impure! Kill his business! Bankrupt him with legal fees! Destroy his savings and his family and his standing in the town he lives in! Forever! Eat in a restaurant when you work for Trump as his press secretary? UnPure! Kick her out! Follow her into the street shrieking “Witch! Burn her!” Make her eat home for… Oh I don’t know… The rest of her life?

Those are just two examples, out of tens of thousands, of people who have failed this twisted era’s Purity Tests as the Left strives daily to normalize the perverted as “not/never pure enough.” It doesn’t matter if you put your own beliefs aside and pass today’s purity test because tomorrow there will be a new one with even more questions you MUST answer correctly to stay inside the Perverted Kingdom of the Progressive Faithful. This is why the entire division of mentally ill and perverted transexuals are trying so hard to normalize their perversion for everyone from the pre-school kids at Drag Queen Story Hour to Drag Queens fiddling about in nursing homes hoping to be hired to wield the morphine swabs.

Sensible folks of all sexual persuasions know that Purity Testing people’s lives is wrong but so far are powerless to stop this because there are, these days, no controlling elements left in the society that will step up and administer a consequence as blunt as a solid punch in the nose. Political Purity Tests from the Left have become so pervasive that some are starting to think there is no silver (plato) that can cool them other than a lead (plomo) pellet moving at around one thousand feet per second.

But who wants to start that, especially since the Purity Test virus has not just infected the Left but has found millions of conservative/right/Jacksonian folks ready to administer their own purity test to any individual who enters their tent.

Yes, here in the party of Liberty, some animals are STILL  more pure than others. This is especially true in the arts since the arts are out there more than quiet opinions of the mind and abiding beliefs of the soul. You can if you wish to see that right here on American Digest. I see it all the time since, as the host, I have to check in on the comments.

I cherish my commenters, some of whom go back many years, and I deeply respect their opinions and enjoy them and wish I had more comments and commenters. But this is a boutique operation here and “ya git what ya git and ya don’t throw a fit.”

At the same time, I note that there is a growing tendency here and elsewhere around the Net to judge artists of various kinds according to their “opinions” rather than their art when their art is all that is under review. This showed up yesterday with Daylight Savings Time Sunday Sunrise Sermon: Some of It. This song was chosen for its heart-reaching message and its lilt and its ability to lift a soul up a notch into the clearer air of music and poetry. After all, if music and poetry does not lift us up and out of our shambolic beast-like bodies that we are chained to until transformed, why do we have them?

Some of It is by Eric Church. I was well aware of his remarks concerning the Second Amendment; remarks and views I do not cotton to. But Church’s views on various social questions do not concern me any more than what goes on in Elton John’s bedroom when he imports a cruise ship full of twinks in Speedos. None of that holds a candle to Candle In the Wind. I am there for John’s art, for his God-given gifts of music and song.

The same with Church and his bumptious musings on bump stocks. I listen to Church because listening to country music will make a man happier and closer to God. In fact, most music does this from the Australian outback’s Didgeridoo to Beethoven’s 9th. (Don’t think so? Listen to Kayne’s new album Jesus is King for an update on the most important music in Rap.)

Nobody alive for the last two thousand years can pass a Purity Test, especially artists. To the best of our knowledge, there has been only one man who was pure and that man was not just a man.

Art, I will go to my grave believing, is a gift from God and something that I know only too well comes and goes according to a power greater than ourselves. Artists are some of God’s most imperfect humans and are always less than their gifts; often much less. But we listen to blinded Homer, to bitter Dante, to stumbling Shakespeare, to justifying Milton, to pedo Whitman, to rambling Dylan, and even to the much more minor poet, Church not to hear their opinions but to hear God through them.

Artists, real artists (and yes you can tell the difference) are a class of God’s chosen instruments and we ignore their art at our peril. That doesn’t mean we must like or approve of their art but only that their art cannot always be judged solely by our own endless and never finished Purity Tests. God uses the broken nature of the artist to advance his own purposes.

This does not mean that all who call themselves “artists” are touched by the hand of God. Most are not. But those that are real artists make art that survives their era after time has winnowed out the chaff. For example, the heyday of the American novel was the last half of the 19th century when hundreds of thousands of titles were spewed from the printing presses and distributed by mail as a kind of cable TV of ripping yarns for a raw nation. Today, out of those millions of titles and thousands of writers, Twain, Melville, Hawthorne, and a few others survive to be read. All those titles resolve into less than 50 novels. That’s how God chooses and his wheels grind exceedingly fine.

I believe that Eric Church and all his songs will never ever make God’s Top 40 in the long run. In the long run, almost all we make will be drowned in the pop culture’s waters of oblivion but I will not be the one to call out an artist’s based on some sort of Purity Test of the artist’s ability to check the right boxes on a question he was not asked at the time. I judge a man’s works separate from the man.

That’s just me. I could be wrong. I often am. In the beginning, I never thought that with all his warts and his tweets and all his rants and ravings that the broken human named Donald Trump could be God’s chosen instrument to try and mend this broken kingdom, but there he sits astride the world like some Strange Colossus.

Then again God chose the shattered Saul in order to get to that young unknown musician, David.

There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Steve Diaz November 4, 2019, 9:51 AM

    Eric’s music is good and thank God (again) that we can listen to, enjoy basically all forms of art ( thank you You Tube) ,without having to financially support those who want to suppress our individual freedoms.
    My position on this is “yes you have talent, but otherwise I don’t have a lot of respect for you”.

  • James ONeil November 4, 2019, 10:01 AM

    Yep, Vanderleun types for me.

  • Marica November 4, 2019, 10:08 AM

    As the kids would say, “Marica likes a post.”

  • Bunny November 4, 2019, 10:18 AM

    I liked the song and posted it on FakeBook (incoming negative comments-duck!). I would have had a much harder time liking it if the lyrics had promoted depredations against the 2A, which they did not. Even so, the culture war is tough and I can understand people’s objections, kinda like avoiding Gillette, the NFL or Target. Why give the opposition support?, the thinking goes. Everyone decides for himself where to draw the line.

  • Vanderleun November 4, 2019, 10:42 AM

    Too true Bunny. This happens to be my line but I don’t insist that others toe it.

  • Phil in Englewood November 4, 2019, 10:49 AM

    Yes, Van der Leun types for me, too. I think this post deserves another link to Leonard Cohen – The Future:
    ” Things are going to slide (slide) in all directions
    Won’t be nothing (won’t be), nothing you can measure anymore
    The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
    Has crossed the threshold
    And it has overturned
    The order of the soul”


  • Roy Lofquist November 4, 2019, 11:09 AM

    Art is sensational. It evokes emotions or thoughts that are novel, often either pleasant or disturbing. Much of it requires a suspension of disbelief to be effective. An artist who breaks the fourth wall, either by words or actions, does a disservice to both himself and his audience.

  • Andy Havens November 4, 2019, 11:59 AM

    This was a frequent topic in my recent run through higher education. Kant was by far the most doggedly pursued purity failure, his apparent racism being enough for many students to refuse to pay any attention to him. But of course there were plenty of others. I took your position (with gradually declining enthusiasm, thanks to the immature environment), and so did most of the professors, to my surprise.

    If I’m being honest, I’m bothered or put off by a great deal of things I see right here on American Digest. But I know your pursuit of beauty is genuine, and even if I disagree with your hobbies from time to time, I carry stock in your profession.

  • Walt Gottesman November 4, 2019, 12:29 PM

    “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in…”
    Leonard Cohen, Anthem

  • Terry November 4, 2019, 1:13 PM

    In my outlook on life, If someone’s Soul is not projected in their art, 2 + 2 does not equal 4.

    That is just my opinion. I missed out on Common Core.

  • Nori November 4, 2019, 1:17 PM

    You are an artist of articulation,Mr V.
    As one of the offenders,I take your words seriously. It is a privilege to be here and I thank you sincerely.
    That being said,I stand by yesterday’s comment. When an artist makes a point of speaking out on something other than his art,is he immune to being challenged on his opinions?
    Mr Church,like so many performers,opened that door all by himself.
    I did’nt say he should be shunned,or treated like the lunatics treat normies.
    But he made a stand,and he has to deal with the consequences.

    I’m truly sorry for being a Baby Ruth bar in the Sunday Sermon punchbowl. Think it’s safe to say that no one here wants to offend you.
    But I’m really,really tired of Performing Artists dictating what my God-given rights are,and how I should live my sad little Wal-Mart life.

  • ghostsniper November 4, 2019, 1:28 PM

    I did the 200 question version, got a 57.

  • Vanderleun November 4, 2019, 1:34 PM

    I expected less from you ghostsniper.

    Neitehr you nor your thoughts are bobbing in the punchbowl. They are valued. Very much so. I too am tired of the endless prognostications from all these celebrity whackos. To them all I say “shut up and sing/dance/whatever.”

    My only point here is that it is the song and not the singer we listen to.

    Example: Pick any singer whose politics you admire (say Charlie Daniels or Ted Nugent) then imagine either of those singing this song. It would be the same song unenhanced by opinions that roil you or are flatly ignorant and wrong. The song comes though. \

    The song is the signal and not the noise.

  • Punditarian November 4, 2019, 1:59 PM

    To my mind, the definitive commentary on the stupidity of conflating an artist’s life or opinions with the work was penned by Denis Diderot in the 1760s and 1770s, although not published until 1805 – he points out that Rameau was not a very nice person, that Racine was not a very nice person, but 500 years later, who would care? Only the work will survive. As another despicable person admirably noted, the only real presence is the presence of the author in the work. That goes even more for actors and actresses, most of whom are stark raving mad. What’s nuts is our present day culture’s accepting actors as political commentators – pace Shelley’s comments on the true legislators of mankind.

  • Jeff Brokaw November 4, 2019, 3:58 PM

    Personally I love your music posts.

    I agree with you Mr. VDL. I don’t get too bothered by a few comments from an artist that I respect and admire—they have the right to speak their mind, too. I can get bothered when it turns strident and dismissive, or just never ends.

    In general I will cut musicians and singers a lot more slack just because I love music far more than any other form of art. Hollywood dipshits get no slack whatsoever because I have no use for 99% of those freakshows.

    I love your line “not to hear their opinions but to hear God through them“. Sometimes music moves me emotionally and spiritually to such a degree that it does seem exactly like that. Very intense, private, and uplifting. This has happened for me many hundreds of times in my life.

  • Skorpion November 4, 2019, 4:37 PM

    Ghost, I did the test as well. Got a 41.5%. Yes, I’m a dirty bastard.

  • Joan Of Argghh! November 4, 2019, 5:40 PM

    A couple of things, since Gerard types for me most of the time:

    If you would have more commenters, you should engage them more. The door here needs to swing both ways a bit more often because we feel close to you, and seldom hear a greeting from you.

    The song by Eric Church was a collaboration, so those that hate Church can only hate a fourth of the song. Church wrote the song with Jeff Hyde, Clint Daniels, and Bobby Pinson. Purity check on the whole of Aisle 2.

    Lastly, the Amadeus conundrum fascinates me: gifted of God, useless as a person. I usually maintain that the same Spirit that went into a work when it was created, comes out of it when we experience it. If it lifts, inspires, encourages then one can guess that however it happened, God was present in its creation. Indeed, froward, unpleasant, or even demented is no obstacle to God. Why, when necessary, He can even speak through an ass.

    Also, I flunked out on the Purity Test miserably.

  • Vanderleun November 4, 2019, 5:49 PM

    I couldn’t agree with you more Joan an d, as I emerge from this horrible year and my fortunes turn I am endeavoring to do that more; to write closer to the bone.

    And I agree about how the Spirit is what speaks, something I wrote about in a more personal piece called The Arrival published here years back. Maybe I’ll exhume it.

  • Joan Of Argghh! November 4, 2019, 7:31 PM

    Oh yes! I love that piece!

    Exhume … which is funny because we just finished watching the Addams Family… 😀

  • mushroom November 5, 2019, 5:28 AM

    You got it right, and that stanza of “Hallelujah” often brings tears to my eyes as I sing along with Mr. Cohen. It’s just too true.

  • Terry November 5, 2019, 7:12 AM

    I truly love Leonard Cohen music. I own some of his albums. He sings from his heart and soul. Leonard’s ‘Hallelujah’ is my favorite and my wife’s as well.

    I also love Kenny Vance music. He also sings from his heart and soul. The piece linked below covers a video that could have been my love and myself, she 18 and me 19, fifty-five years past.


    Yes, I am a hopeless romantic.

  • Vanderleun November 5, 2019, 9:08 AM

    Nothing wrong with be a hopless romantic. Some of the best moments in my life have come from my hopeless romanticism and my hopeless idealism.

  • Andy November 5, 2019, 9:11 AM

    Total misnomer – romantics are the hopefullest people we have. We’d be sunk without ’em, so don’t ever stop.

  • ghostsniper November 5, 2019, 12:10 PM

    “The song by Eric Church was a collaboration, so those that hate Church can only hate a fourth of the song.”

    Well that’s quite a jump, and I’m not aware of anyone saying such.
    I was outspoken more than most but never said anything about hating the dood or his song. I listened to the song and read the lyrics and thought it was pretty good. From a business perspective I think he’s stupid for alienating a good portion of the people that might consider doing business with him. Perhaps if he spent more time reading appropriate materials and less time running his yap he’d be a better person all the way around. I believe his new found wealth and natural arrogance prompted him to over step his bounds. The penalty is built-in to the infraction. Free market and all that.

  • Teri Pittman November 5, 2019, 1:00 PM

    Have you heard of Sockmatician? He’s a gay British knitting designer. He ran afoul of the SJWs by basically saying we should all just get along. And they went after him. They got him removed from a book deal. They claim he harassed a BIPOC (when she seems to have been the aggressor). And they continue to try and run him out of business. His You Tube video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ1ilP31d8o

  • ghostsniper November 5, 2019, 7:18 PM


    Contradictions are susceptible to collision.
    grotesques vs heretics vs abominations

  • Foo November 5, 2019, 10:36 PM
  • steve walsh November 6, 2019, 4:18 AM

    Yes, couldn’t agree more.
    The trouble it seems to me is that sometime during the last 20 years or so the artists have been asked, and are all too willing, to spout off about social and political issues and topics. Of course they have every right to do so. What I object to is the presumption that because someone is a good writer or musician or actor or architect they have expertise in some other area or discipline. Sean Penn on the politics and economics of Socialism (as in Venezuela); Leonardo DiCaprio on the workings of climate.
    So long as they leave that stuff out of their art then there is no problem – they can blab away to their hearts content, I can ignore them and enjoy their movies and music.
    Religion and faith are a special case (not so much for the woke among us), it will be interesting to see the reaction to Kanye’s latest contribution.

  • BWayne November 6, 2019, 4:55 AM

    We are here even tho we dont say much

  • Vanderleun November 6, 2019, 6:43 AM

    Hey, BWayne, thanks for saying hello. I’m pleased to have everybody.

  • Regan November 6, 2019, 1:20 PM

    I don’t comment very often on the internet as I find it a hard medium to convey an opinion accurately and succinctly, but I will comment here to say that I enjoy your writing and I look forward to your new posts.

  • RosalindJ November 9, 2019, 5:43 PM

    I kept this tab open for days, unable to find the time to frame a coherent thought.
    I had a foot on the purity train in comments also. Would that I could have spent the rest of my life be-bopping along, appreciating the “the song and not the singer we listen to”, the Spirit that makes such magic. Something has happened culturally (as noted above), along with the tear-down and resulting rubble of deconstructing everything and anything. Right up there with you will be made to care, which annoys the hell out of me. While it is not in my nature to be a scold that holds everyone accountable, which sucks the life out of most people – some thrive on it – there are some realms that should necessarily be cut some slack. Music is one such.
    Perhaps I can better hone the skill of seeing that message, despite the proclivities of the messenger, in a personal search for Grace. It really is my natural default anyway. Your post is a good jumping-off point for that effort. I do reserve a shut-up-and-sing though for the deserving.

  • Vanderleun November 10, 2019, 12:15 AM

    And so say we all, Rosalind