A Few Thoughts on Rick Barnes’ Decision to Stay at Tennessee

Per Chris Low at ESPN and many others, Rick Barnes has decided to remain at Tennessee following a counteroffer from the Volunteers.

  • Much credit to the administration, including Interim University President Randy Boyd and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer for getting this deal done. I have been mostly critical of Fulmer for letting the situation get to this point, but he deserves major kudos for keeping Barnes home.
  • I’m not sure how possible it is to overstate how dire a state the program was in when Donnie Tyndall was fired and Tennessee was looking for its third coach in three years. What Rick Barnes has accomplished is remarkable, and it’s good to see him rewarded for it.
  • It will be interesting to see the terms of the contract. I’m sure Barnes will receive a much-deserved raise, but I’m hoping he will get a bigger Assistant pool as well so he can bring in whoever he wants to fill out his staff. Hopefully this contract will ensure Rick Barnes retires at Tennessee.
  • I won’t blame him in the least if he goes Pro, but it will be interesting to see how Barnes staying impacts Grant Williams’ decision making. I’m assuming he would have certainly gone Pro if Barnes left, so maybe he will at least think about staying with Barnes still here.
  • As rough a shape as UCLA is in right now, it is still one of the nations top College Basketball programs. That Rick Barnes turned them down to stay at Tennessee shows just how far the program has come.
  • Finally, I saw some fans throughout the process state something to the affect of they wouldn’t feel the same way about Barnes again even if he came back. They shouldn’t feel this way. Barnes is universally respected by his peers as one of the top Coaches in the nation. Someone was bound to call at some point. Now that Barnes has hopefully worked out his issues with the Athletics Department and decided to stay put, it should reinforce his commitment to the University. I’m looking forward to rooting to this Rick Barnes-led Basketball team for years to come.

As UCLA tries to lure Rick Barnes, issues in the Tennessee Athletics Department emerge.

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One of the immediate questions to emerge from reports Rick Barnes was a finalist for the UCLA job was “Why would Rick Barnes want to take over UCLA?”.  It’s a fair question.  Barnes at his age isn’t in a position to likely reap the fruit of another rebuilding project.  His ethos seems more Knoxville, Tennessee than Los Angeles, California.  He’s close to his hometown of Hickory, North Carolina, and any compensation UCLA offered would have a difficult time exceeding Tennessee’s package when accounting for tax structure and cost-of-living.

This led to immediate speculation that maybe things were not as well as they seemed in the Tennessee Athletics Department.  Compounded with some recent eyebrow raising remarks from Admiral Schofield, the departure of top Assistant Rob Lanier, and Jordan Bone’s almost eminent entry into the NBA draft, it seems fair to ask what issues there might be behind the scenes.

Most speculation has related to the departure of Lanier.  While Rick Barnes takes a no-drama approach to his job, he has been very insistent on ensuring his assistant coaches receive the compensation he feels they deserve.  He was most notably reported for a very minor NCAA infraction two years ago for paying Assistant Desmond Oliver out-of-pocket because he felt that he wasn’t compensated adequately by then-AD Dave Hart.  While that was one issue John Currie actually fixed, the issue of Assistant pay may have came up again with Lanier creating vacancy.  Rumors have also floated that there will be at least one more vacancy on the assistant staff before the off-season ends.

If Barnes felt that his Assistant pool wasn’t what he needed to build the staff he sought, it would be the most Rick Barnes reason ever to engage with another position.  He is clearly very loyal to those around him, and understands the importance of a deep staff.  Beyond this, there have also been reports that he felt the Athletics Department did not respect the Mens Basketball program enough.  If this is true, that is a massive error by the Athletics Department.  The Mens Basketball program has been one of the few bright spots at Tennessee the past two years.  This past season produced one of the best Mens Basketball teams in program history.  If the Administration did not appreciate that, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Ultimately, it sounds like Barnes will not make his decision based on money.  While UCLA is in disarray, it certainly still has appeal.  While Tennessee is a good job, UCLA has a history, prestige, resources, and recruiting advantages that the Volunteers simply cannot compete with.  While Phillip Fulmer should still offer Barnes a raise, a larger Assistant pool, and anything else he believes will keep him in Knoxville, it will be a major setback for him if Barnes leaves.  Fulmer has placed a very large bet in his efforts and resources on Jeremy Pruitt and a very young Football team that will take a long team to reach the upper echelon of the sport.  If the Volunteers do not substantially improve from 5-7 this season and it turns out that Barnes feeling that what may have been the best Men’s Basketball team in school history was short-changed leads him to walk, Fulmer will feel the heat this time next year.  While Fulmer has contributed to Tennessee Athletics in a way very few living people have, he will rightfully have to answer for these issues should Barnes decide to step away.

A Few Thoughts on the Rick Barnes to UCLA rumors.

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  • As a Tennessee fan, this would be devastating. I’m not sure I can overstate how much turmoil the Tennessee program was in following Donnie Tyndall.  Barnes came in and, with very few heralded recruits, took the program to one of its best seasons in history within four years.

 

  • At the same time, there are some real pluses at UCLA. It’s a perfect location with a storied history and significant resources for College Basketball.  Additionally, at a time where the SEC is getting tougher and tougher, the PAC-12 is easily the most winnable major conference in College Basketball.

 

  • While those are real pluses for any program, it is a little difficult to see why they would mean as much to Rick Barnes as some other coaches. He’s a perfect fit in Knoxville, TN, and it’s hard to see how he would mesh with UCLA’s culture.

 

  • That said, if Rick Barnes doesn’t see himself finishing his career at Tennessee, now would be the time to look. There were reports he wasn’t happy with his assistant’s salaries after he paid one of them out of his own pocket.  Additionally, he’s losing Rob Lanier from his staff and most likely 4 starters off the court.  Next year, even with Barnes, is likely a rebuilding year.  If he doesn’t want to go through that, UCLA is about as good as it gets.

 

  • This will be cliché, but if Barnes does leave, Fulmer should call Bruce Pearl. Pearl may very well have no interest in coming back, but it’s difficult to imagine another coach of his caliber having potentially even the slightest interest in the job.  If Fulmer wants to fish among current major conference coaches, Mick Cronin, Mark Turgeon, and Kevin Willard strike me as worth contacting.  Shaka Smart might be a high-risk/high-reward option.  Among mid-majors, I would call Gregg Marshall, Rick Byrd, Casey Alexander, Steve Forbes, and John Brannen.

 

  • Lastly, if Rick Barnes does leave, Tennessee fans will owe him a debt of gratitude. This will not be a Lane Kiffin situation where a young, unproven coach Tennessee bet heavily on leaves after one year on the most classless terms possible.  In the midst of one of the worst periods in Tennessee Athletics in many years, Barnes’ program brought joy to Vol Nation that had not been seen in a long time.  He put together one of the best teams in Tennessee Mens Basketball history this season both on and off the court.  Where the program stands now compared to where it was when Barnes came would be difficult to quantify.  It would hurt if the Vols lost Rick Barnes, but even if he does leave, it should nonetheless be with the esteem of Vols fans for being one of the few bright spots for Tennessee Athletics this decade.

ACM Previews

Tonight is the ACM awards.  Some of the nominations are pretty … questionable.  Some are well-deserved.  Before I offer my predictions, I’m going to go through the major categories and redo them if I had my druthers:

Song of the Year

Break Up in the End – Cole Swindell

Broken Halos – Chris Stapleton

Meant to Be – Bebe Rexha ft. Florida-Georgia Line

Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves

Tequila – Dan + Shay

Yours – Russell Dickerson

Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves both have great songs on here, though I may have gone with different singles for each.  “Yours” wan’t my cup of tea, but it’s a good song that’s hard to argue with it’s popularity.  The songs I scratched out are bad country, bad pop, and brain-cell killing country respectively.  Let’s replace them with:

All on Me – Devin Dawson

Get Along – Kenny Chesney

I Could Use a Love Song – Maren Morris

Honorable Mention: Round Here Buzz – Eric Church

Single of the Year (Has to be Top 20)

Down to the Honky Tonk – Jake Owen

Heaven – Kane Brown

Meant to Be – Bebe Rexha ft. Florida-Georgia Line

Most People are Good – Luke Bryan

Tequila – Dan + Shay

Let’s just be real here – These are all not-good songs.  Even “Most People Are Good” is staying here just because I hated to replace the whole category in this list.  “Heaven” is an OK single, but it’s not single-of-the-year material.  The rest are just downright bad.  Let’s add:

Legends – Kelsea Ballerini

Drowns the Whiskey – Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert

Everything’s Going to Be Alright – David Lee Murphy ft. Kenny Chesney

Take Back Home Girl – Chris Lane ft. Tori Kelly

Honorable Mentions: Coming Home – Keith Urban ft. Julia Michaels, All Day Long – Garth Brooks

Album of the Year

Dan + Shay – Dan + Shay

Desperate Man – Eric Church

From a Room, Volume 2 – Chris Stapleton

Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

These are good nominees for the most part.  Dan+Shay is shallow, country-pop that is overrated, but the rest are very strong offerings.  Good job ACMs! I don’t get why we are limited to 4 nominees, though.  Let’s add:

Girl Going Nowhere – Ashley McBryde

Honorable Mention: Port Saint Joe – Brothers Osborne

New Duo or Group (Announced Winner in Bold)

High Valley

Lanco

Runaway June

No Complaints Here

New Male Artist (Announced Winner in Bold)

Jimmie Allen

Luke Combs

Jordan Davis

Michael Ray

Mitchell Tenpenny

I’ll tackle this after New Female Artist

New Female Artist (Announced Winner in Bold)

Danielle Bradbery

Lindsay Ell

Ashley McBryde

Carly Pearce

New Female Artist inexplicably got a whole nominee less than New Male Artist.  There’s no good reason for this, as there are several female artists who could have gotten a nomination here.  There’s two options.  First, we can drop Mitchell Tenpenny since nothing he’s done so far has been impressive.  Our other option is we can add Cam, Cassadee Pope, or RaeLynn to the Female list.

Group

Lady Antebellum

Lanco

Little Big Town

Midland

Old Dominion

No Complaints Here

Duo

Brothers Osborne

Dan + Shay

Florida Georgia Line

Locash

Maddie & Tae

No Complaints Here

Male Artist

Dierks Bentley

Luke Combs

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton

Keith Urban

No Complaints Here

Female Artist

Miranda Lambert

Ashley McBryde

Maren Morris

Kacey Musgraves

Carrie Underwood

I love Miranda Lambert.  She is an incredible talent.  If we’re just going to look at 2018, though, she didn’t have any album releases and very few singles.  Kelsea Ballerini was somehow completely snubbed.  If we’re going to have a hard-cap of 5 nominees, Ballerini had several more higher-performing singles and a fairly recent album that should have given her an edge for one of these spots.

Let’s Add: Kelsea Ballerini

Entertainer

Jason Aldean

Luke Bryan

Kenny Chesney

Chris Stapleton

Keith Urban

This is tough, because while we need to fix the gender imbalance in Country Music, most of these artists released good records with several high-performing singles.  Since Bryan’s album released in 2017 and his singles weren’t as good as the others, I took him out.  Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde both put out excellent albums that would make them EOTY worthy.

Lets Add:

Kacey Musgraves

Ashley McBryde

My Thoughts on the Actual Nominations

Song of the Year:

Should Win: Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves

Will Win: Tequila – Dan + Shay

Single of the Year:

Should Win: Most People are Good – Luke Bryan

Will Win: Down to the Honkytonk – Jake Owen

Album of the Year:

Should Win: Desperate Man – Eric Church

Will Win: Dan + Shay – Dan + Shay

New Duo or Group

Should Win: Runaway June

Won: Lanco

New Male Artist:

Should Win: Michael Ray

Won: Luke Combs

New Female Artist:

Should Win: Ashley McBryde

Won: Ashley McBryde

Group

Should Win: Midland

Will Win: Old Dominion

Duo

Should Win: Maddie & Tae

Will Win: Dan + Shay

Male Artist

Should Win: Chris Stapleton

Will Win: Keith Urban

Female Artist

Should Win: Kacey Musgraves

Will Win: Miranda Lambert

Entertainer

Should Win: Chris Stapleton

Will Win: Jason Aldean

 

 

UCLA is looking for a Basketball Coach. Here is who they need to call before Mick Cronin.

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UCLA Basketball received significant ridicule when it came out their coaching search was down to Jaime Dixon and Mick Cronin.  UCLA is one of the iconic programs in the sport, and while it’s been a rough decade, they are still conservatively a top-20 job in College Basketball.  Between their history, their location in Los Angeles, and a very down Pac-12 conference, UCLA should be able to attract a major name in the sport.  Dixon is probably a UCLA-caliber coach, but his buyout at TCU reportedly dissuaded them from going that direction.

Mick Cronin is a good coach for Cincinnati, but his record doesn’t really meet UCLA standards and it’s difficult to see him being able to fully take advantage of all the benefits and resources that come with the UCLA brand and program.  If UCLA is serious about getting back into the top echelon of College Basketball on a year-to-year basis, they need to make these six phone calls (if they haven’t already) before they settle for Mick Cronin.  These are roughly in the order I would make them, though any of these names would be a good hire for the Bruins.

  1. Mark Few (Gonzaga)

Mark Few has had his share of opportunities to leave Gonzaga for bigger programs over the years, but UCLA should still go all out to land him if he has even the slightest interest in the job.  What Few has done at Gonzaga has been nothing short of astounding, and it’s conceivable he might be more willing to listen to UCLA than other big name schools.  The comparison that comes to mind is Chris Peterson leaving Boise State Football after receiving many offers to go to Washington, a big school with resources that still kept him on the same side of the country.  If UCLA offers Few a significant raise, much better facilities and amenities to pitch recruits on, and the keys to one of the preeminent programs in College Basketball, would that be enough to lure him.  UCLA should at least give it a try.

  1. Chris Beard (Texas Tech)

Chris Beard’s name has come up a lot with this job.  He has succeeded at every stop he’s made, and Texas Tech isn’t exactly an easy place to win.  There are rumors he may be waiting on the Texas job to open if Shaka Smart is gone next year, and Texas is certainly a great job.  If you’re UCLA though, you need to at least make a serious pitch to Beard after the Final Four.  Los Angeles should be an easier place to win than Lubbock, TX, so the appeal should be there if Beard is ready to move up after two years.

  1. Chris Mack (Louisville)

This one has the obvious caveat of Mack’s buyout possibly being prohibitive, though maybe not quite as much as Jaime Dixon’s $8 Million Buyout at TCU.  Chris Mack may also not be especially interested after just one season at Louisville.  That said, since Mack took the Louisville job, the program’s standing with the NCAA has managed to somehow get worse.  Mack knew it would be an uphill battle, but does one of the best coaches in College Basketball want to deal with the ramifications of a major scandal that predates him?  Maybe he’s willing to deal with it to stay with one of the few programs that rivals UCLA, or maybe his buyout is too prohibitive.  Still, if you’re UCLA, you should at least explore this option in case Mack is ready to jump before more sanctions hit.  Whatever amount of money it would take to make this happen, it’s hard to argue it wouldn’t be worth it for UCLA.

  1. Mark Turgeon (Maryland)

These last 3 names may not have the same luster as the first 3, but these are still excellent coaches who have consistently met high standards at programs where it’s not always easy to put together consistently great Basketball seasons.  Mark Turgeon has done an excellent job now at two Power 5 schools (Texas A&M, Maryland).  His teams regularly over-perform.  Maryland is also in a difficult Big Ten, in a position where it may be difficult to breakthrough to the next level (which is already starting to frustrate fans).  If you’re Turgeon, do you take a look at a program with the resources of UCLA in a very down Pac-12 and find it tempting to jump?  If so, he has a very reasonable buyout in the six-figures.  UCLA should at least inquire to gauge interest.

  1. Gregg Marshall (Wichita State)

For several years, Marshall was at the top of the wish list for every major program with an opening.  Since Wichita State experienced a little less tournament success and moved up to the AAC, Marshall’s name has lost some of its national luster.  None of the things that make Marshall an excellent coach have disappeared, though.  He still took a fairly run-of-the-mill mid-major that started to taste success and turned them into a year-to-year contender to make the NCAA tournament and do damage once there.  If he can experience the success he’s had in his career at Winthrop and Wichita State, the possibilities for what he could accomplish at UCLA are extraordinary.  UCLA should be intrigued and reach out.

  1. Lon Kruger (Oklahoma)

Kruger’s biggest knock is his age (66).  Still, it’s hard to deny that he is one impressive coach and recruiter.  He has experienced an impressive amount of success at Oklahoma, which is not particularly a Basketball school.  Even if he was only at UCLA 5-10 years, based on his record at Oklahoma, I believe he could easily make the Tournament’s second weekend year-to-year at that program and reach at least one Final Four.  If you’re a UCLA administrator, can you honestly say you can expect that from Mick Cronin based on his record?  And if you’re Kruger, wouldn’t you find a final act in your career of bringing success back to a legendary program and restoring it to prominence satisfying?  Even if Kruger wouldn’t be at UCLA as long as some other names, he would be in a position to succeed and leave the program in better shape the next time UCLA hires a coach.

What Does a Better Populism Look Like?: A Response to “Against the Dead Consensus”

One of the more interesting debates in politics right now is what is the future of the Republican Party and, to some extent, the Conservative movement.  In the Republican Party right now, there are a wide variety of different viewpoints trying to exert influence on the party.  This includes everyone from the Ted Cruz-aligned Religious Right, to the Rand Paul-aligned Libertarians, to the traditional, more moderate Republican establishment, to mainstream Reagan-style Conservatism.  With the Trump presidency, an avenue has opened up for other ideological variants of the Right to enter the fray.   Much of it has involved the rising of a new class of attention seekers and grifters.  While hacks such as Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, and other Republicans of the “Own the Libs” variety existed before Trump, the Trump presidency and continued Reality-Telivification of our politics has given them prominence and profit of a degree not seen before.  Not as prominent has been a more ideological populism, focused more on what ideas and policies might fit the New Republican Party best in the Trump era.

To that extent, the First Things manifesto “Against the Dead Consensus” is a welcome addition to the competition of ideas.   In this relatively short and welcomely accessible open letter, several different writers and thinkers such as Sohrab Ahmari, Patrick Dennen, and Rod Dreher offer a few guiding principles for what the new GOP should look like.  The politically diverse group effectively identifies current problems in both society broadly and Conservatism specifically.  As someone who identifies as #NeverTrump and who supports some mainstream Republican policy proposals that at least some signing members of this statement are against, I found it a very helpful guide for understanding what a mature populism in our political sphere might look like.

One of the best elements of the statement is simply that it does focus on actual principles.  Much of what is called populism in our political discourse today is little more than saying whatever will move books and generate Fox News hits.  While political gimmickry is particularly pronounced in populism, it is not only populism that it has infected.  On the eccentric horseshoe that exists between some parts of the “Resistance” Left and the “Never Trump” Right, there is currently a competition to determine whether a Twitter account called “Devin Nunes’ Cow” can gain a certain number of followers.  A lack of seriousness and an anathema to anything resembling ideas, policies, or principles is a part of the political discourse in all ideologies and tribes today, and it is to the credit of the drafters of this statement that they seek to inject populism with general ideals.

Another high point of the statement is that it correctly identifies the problems in our society today and fairly critiques past iterations of Conservatism for failing to combat them.  The authors correctly point out the importance of healthy communities, families, and workplaces as some of the keys to the healthy society, and how the atomization of the individual and the resulting consequences from it destroy these building blocks.  They also fairly point out how Conservatism broadly failed to combat these issues.  For all of their flaws (and there are many), think about how the “Moral Majority” of the 1980s infused the Republican Party with an emphasis on issues such as combating pornography and fighting back against gambling.  As the Republican Party drifted towards Social Libertarianism and focused more on issues such as government spending and aggressive foreign policy, both issues which reasonable people can have disagreements about, issues of traditional values and healthy communities fell out of the Republican mainstream.  Tim Alberta documented this recently in Politico, in an article with supplements this First Things statement nicely.  The Party, in fact, reached a point where an individual who posed in Playboy and who owned casinos could be its standard-bearer.  Looking at society today, it’s hard to say our communities are better places because of our broad acceptance of (including the GOP’s acquiesance to) hyper-individualism and social libertinism.  The authors of the First Things statement are right to call out these failures.

Finally, the authors deserve credit for specifically affirming the importance of human dignity as a guiding principle for the common society.  A large number of our societal issues today, from hyper-partisanship to economic destruction and vulturism to the growing number of deaths of despair can be directly or indirectly attributed to our collective failing to view our fellow humans as worthy of respect and value.  It is particularly right for a Christian publication to make this emphasis.  As Christians, our faith teaches us that we are created in God’s image and that one of our ultimate callings is to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This includes the importance of the protection of unborn life, as the authors rightly include.  I am glad the statement rejects attempts to compromise on human dignity, and I believe that regathering a fuller societal understanding of human dignity is one of the necessary ways to remedy the problems described in this statement.

Having affirmed the statement, of which there is much to affirm, there are some critiques that need to be made as well.  One of those critiques is that the statement, like much of the rest of populism, seems unnecessarily hostile to immigration.  In the words of the statement:

In recent years, some have argued for immigration by saying that working-class Americans are less hard-working, less fertile, in some sense less worthy than potential immigrants. We oppose attempts to displace American citizens. Advancing the common good requires standing with, rather than abandoning, our countrymen. They are our fellow citizens, not interchangeable economic units. And as Americans we owe each other a distinct allegiance and must put each other first.

This is partly true.  We shouldn’t view our fellow Americans as inferior beings who, for one reason or another, are inevitably bound to suffer economically.  At the same time, all of the best data shows that immigration does not hurt our fellow Americans.  Immigrants improve our economy, by virtue of being both creators and consumers, and benefit the country broadly.  The anti-immigrant hysteria so broadly espoused in populism today simply isn’t grounded in reality.  We should want to see the economic success of our fellow Americans, but there is no reason to believe that opposing or limiting Immigration accomplishes this.

Another weakness of the statement is that it seems to portray Trumpism as superior to Reaganism.  From the very end of the statement:

Whatever else might be said about it, the Trump phenomenon has opened up space in which to pose these questions anew. We will guard that space jealously. And we respectfully decline to join with those who would resurrect warmed-over Reaganism and foreclose honest debate.

It’s true that “warmed-over Reaganism” is probably not a viable course for the future of Conservatism, and that it had problems which the writers did a good job of analyzing.  A blind spot in the statement, however, is that Trumpism in practice fares even worse than Reaganism when it comes to the ultimate problems recognized.  When we think about the atomization of the individual and the “pornographization of daily life”, those are the very attributes at the heart of Trumpism.  Donald Trump specifically has lived his life according to the social Darwinism and sexual libertinism to which nearly every legitimate problem highlighted in the statement can be traced.  If Reaganism failed to adequately pump the breaks on these issues, Trumpism pushes down on the accelerator.  Reaganism, at a minimum, sought in theory to promote traditional values and national unity.  It’s very difficult to see how Trumpism in practice does even that.  It would have been a welcome addition to this statement if the authors could have accurately recognized that while a populism based in ideas has its advantage over stale Conservatism from yesteryear, Trumpism in practice should be a greater threat to the ideals espoused here.  That would be unless closed borders and immigration restrictionism are more important than the other ideals espoused here, which gets to the first critique.

Finally, one last critique is that while the authors rightly advocate for human dignity, it can ring as inconsistent when some of them fail to uphold a general respect and value of fellow people in their lives.  One of the major human dignity problems in our society today is that in our politics, we fail to treat other groups and political tribes as human beings made in the image of God.  Sadly, some of the authors here exhibit some of these worst tendencies.  One of the authors, like President Trump, mockingly referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and later defended it.  Another habitually crosses the line from rightly defending the religious liberty of Christians to mocking LGBT individuals.  To defend human dignity should be to defend human dignity for everyone, including Racial Minorities, LGBT people, and our political opponents.  The fact that some of these authors have not lived up to their message of human dignity in this statement may lead it to ring hollow to some who read it, which is unfortunate in that it is one of the most important parts of the statement.

This statement has a lot of good in it, and is worth reading regardless of political orientation.  It is a helpful attempt to highlight an ideology that is far too often represented by its worst caricatures, including the President, in the public square.  While it has much too offer, though, it nonetheless falls into some of the same traps as grafter, Trumpist populism though in that it is unnecessarily includes anti-immigration sentiments and exaggerates the extent to which the Establishment is its enemy.  These unfortunate elements keep the letter from having its maximum impact and winning others outside its camp to its view.  A better and more politically potent populism, in the future, will hopefully jettison the anti-immigration hysteria, recognize and identify Trumpism as at least as much a driver of hyper-individualism and social libertinism as the worst of mainstream Conservatism, and inspire us all towards a personal ethic of human dignity that brings out the best of us in all parts of our lives.

A Few Thoughts on Lifeway’s Announcement

Earlier today, Lifeway announced that they are closing all of their retail locations by the end of 2019 and will be pivoting to an entirely digital platform.  This is very disappointing news, in my opinion.  While I don’t agree with Lifeway on everything (Sho Baraka is amazing, for one thing), they provided access to a variety of helpful resources.  Just in general, the demise of any brick-and-mortar book retailer is a bad thing for our society, as well.  Since different people are already throwing in their thoughts, I’ll add a few of mine in:

  • There are many people who will lose their jobs because of this change. While I don’t want to make this very political, the rise of institutions such as Amazon and how technology displaces jobs is a critical issue that us as Christians need to think about from a perspective of Faith-based Ethics.

 

  • Lifeway’s bread and butter haven’t been as much the retail stores as it has been the development of resources and products. I’ve seen some people talk about how those elements won’t be affected by the store closures.  That’s true in some sense, but a large part of how Lifeway distributes its resources is through its physical storefronts.  That will be impacted, and it will be interesting to see how much of their storefront revenue for Lifeway developed products transfers to its online storefront.

 

  • Finally, some theologically Liberal voices have been celebrating Lifeway’s demise. Their basic argument is something along the lines of “Progressive voices were suppressed by Lifeway’s dominance in this field, so Lifeway’s pulling back will not suppress voices.”

 

  • First, these voices were not suppressed in any meaningful sense of the word.  No author is born with a birthright to any specific retail space or market placement.  The idea that Lifeway carrying specific products that aligned with its institutional values and the values of its consumers suppressed Liberal voices is ludicrous.

 

  • Second, the reason that Progressive voices don’t have as many books with the distribution of other content is because there isn’t widespread demand for theologically Liberal content.  As some pointed out on Twitter, there aren’t exactly theologically progressive bookstores thriving out there.  Additionally, there is this very weird assumption that your typical Lifeway consumer is in the market for Progressive content.  If Theologically Liberal voices can’t get the sales and distribution they want without access to Lifeway, I don’t think getting into Lifeway is going to fix that.  Basically, theological progressives are just whiny that mainline Protestantism is dying and Lifeway is a scapegoat for their lack of appeal.  If you doubt that, let’s see how many Unitarian bookstores pop up in the near future.