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Posted in: General,Rock and Theology Project,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on June 2, 2013
A few weeks ago, the new book Secular Music and Sacred Theology was published. The chapters are written by many R&T contributors, and explore different ways that popular music can be connected to spirituality/religion/faith. I served as editor of the book and also wrote the introductory chapter. Here is an excerpt from my chapter, “Theology of Popular Culture as a Theological Exercise”…
Most people spend a lot of time enjoying music, but very little time asking why we care about it so much. In the United States, lots of people easily and passionately state that we like this or that song, band, or genre, but we have few occasions for asking how these choices connect up with what we think our lives are all about. This is perhaps easiest to see among young people. More than one teacher has observed that students today “live inside music. Their musical lives may well be their spiritual lives.” They (and their elders) find something “vital, vigorous, intense” in music. But they (and we) lack ways of integrating that pleasure into our larger lives, of thinking about how music relates to the bigger picture of our lives.
The authors in this book, in writing theology, care about “big picture” questions. Theological research focuses on what religious traditions have to do and say concerning the beings, books, and beliefs that people call holy, sacred, or somehow special. Certainly there are many fields of inquiry in (more…)
Posted in: General,Rock and Theology Project,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on May 15, 2013
The new book that includes many R&T authors, Secular Music and Sacred Theology, really should end in a question mark, so that it would read: Secular Music and Sacred Theology? Indeed, that was how the book started. Somewhere along the process, the question mark dropped out, but only on the cover, not in my head.
Adding the question mark would put in question whether “secular music” and “sacred theology” are the best way to denominate the two sets of phenomena we are trying to relate to each other in the book. I don’t think they are the best/clearest ways. In other words, I don’t want to let theology off the hook for also being, in a certain sense, a ‘secular’ exercise, nor do I want to let popular music get away with not being considered ‘sacred.’
The problem with both terms is that both ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ are pretty well worn-down to very fine armies of pencil-point definitions now in academic discourse, even though they still carry substantial weight in everyday language. In fact, as far as I can tell, one of the benefits of carefully exploring the relationship between music and theology is that neither one is able to stay on secure ground over against the other, whether those (more…)
Posted in: General,Interviews,Rock and Theology Project,Ruminatio by Michael Iafrate on May 5, 2013
In the world of Rock and Theology, my interests have hovered around the relationship of underground music cultures, social movements, and religion. In particular, I’ve been interested in the relationship of DIY punk music cultures (broadly defined) and spirituality/religion and have done some writing on this, most recently in an essay in the new Rock and Theology book, Secular Music and Sacred Theology. In my essay on “staying punk” as a theologian, I spend a good deal of time discussing one of the “patron saints” of punk rock, Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat, whose distinct voice within the many discussions of “punk ethics” has made me think not only about my own musical practices but about the practice of theology.
In December of last year, MacKaye and his wife Amy Farina released their third album as The Evens. The album, The Odds, is another great batch of MacKaye and Farina’s “quiet,” but still uncompromisingly political, punk rock. As I was preparing final edits to the chapter I submitted for the book, I was also reading the press’ discussion of MacKaye and The Evens, and I realized that, had I had more space, I could have discussed The Evens as great example of the traditioning of punk, of the way punk evolves — “grows up,” even — but stays true to its commitments.
The Evens’ recent string of interviews contain some discussion that might help to push forward some of the ideas I’ve been tossing about on theology and punk rock. (more…)
Posted in: General,Recommended Reading,Rock and Theology Project by Tom Beaudoin on April 30, 2013
I am very happy to announce that the new book Secular Music and Sacred Theology has just been published by Liturgical Press. We will have a lot to say about this book in the coming months, and we think it is a book that Rock and Theology readers — and all who are interested in creative thinking about the relationship between theology/religion/spirituality and popular/secular music — will enjoy.
Secular Music and Sacred Theology is available in paperback or e-book format, and features many authors that R&T readers will recognize, each of whom write about how to relate theology/religion/spirituality to rock and roll/hip hop/secular/popular music. The authors include: David Dault, Maeve Heaney, Daniel White Hodge, Michael Iafrate, Jeff Keuss, Mary McDonough, Gina Messina-Dysert, Christian Scharen, and Myles Werntz. I edited the book and wrote the opening, introductory chapter.
This book will challenge readers to further clarify our thinking and to examine more deeply our own experience. It continually gets to the question: Why is music spiritually significant?
Please celebrate with us as we send this book out into the world, hoping it will connect!
Posted in: General,Rock and Theology Project by Tom Beaudoin on February 28, 2013
You might be wondering what the most popular posts are at Rock and Theology, over the last 4+ years of our existence. Thanks to WordPress’ statistical info, I can tell you. If you haven’t read them, consider checking them out. In addition to our homepage (our most popular page), these are the most frequently clicked-on posts.
I’m happy to report that R&T has experienced its highest level of readership in the last couple of months, and there’s much more to come. Plus, we have a book coming out later this spring: Secular Music and Sacred Theology.
Thank you to our readers! Thanks for continuing to “Like” R&T on Facebook, leave comments on the blog, and follow R&T on Twitter!
Posted in: Christianity,General,Rock and Theology Project,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on February 25, 2013
In the foreword to the paperback edition of my book Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are With What We Buy (Sheed and Ward, 2006), I suggested that one way forward for Christian theology in the postmodern era is for a “Socratic, psychoanalytic, genealogical Christianity: Christians showing other Christians and the general public what is not known about Christianity, in the hope for a radical Christianity that not only resists America’s Christian capitalisms, but prepares a Christian way of life whose coordinates cannot be found on the theological map today, a Christianity, if nothing else, beyond the desire for spirituality.” (p. xii)
Even though I have moved beyond identifying my theology with Christianity alone, I have tried to affirm here at R&T the other parts of that project: a “Socratic, psychoanalytic, genealogical Christianity.” One way such a project goes forward is when I try to compare, or rather overlay, what has counted as religious experience in “religious traditions” and what has counted as the accessibility of an exceeding-the-world experience in music. Many of my posts at R&T follow this approach. So I am interested in what some others would count as the “profane,” “cheap,” or “frivolous” connections between, for example, an experience of hearing live music and an experience of reading a religious text, a self-questioning evoked by a sermon and a self-questioning evoked by what comes through your headphones. Many of my posts have been like this.
And this was on my mind when I recently taught the work of theologian Marion Grau. In presenting a postcolonial theology of mission, Dr. Grau warns about the dangers of comparing religious claims to truth and systems of practice. “Given the (more…)
Posted in: Christianity,General,Rock and Theology Project by Tom Beaudoin on January 15, 2013
Here is an interesting article by religion scholar Erik Davis about “Jesus Freaks” and their experimental rock and roll. Davis provides a helpful tour of that scene, and hearing some of the tunes is helpful. It seems to have been a movement that both does and doesn’t fit the “Christian rock” stereotypes: while there seems to be a lot of the predictable sing-about-Christian-things-to-established-rock-sounds format that later plagued Christian rock and the larger Contemporary Christian Music genre, Mr. Davis showed me that the “Jesus Freaks” era of the 1960s-70s was more experimental. It reminds me of the spirit going on in Fr. Pat Berkery’s music of the time, discussed by Michael Iafrate here at R&T.
I have a soft spot for some of this music, although I was too young to appreciate the Jesus Freaks era. My Christian rock tastes were shaped by Stryper. I played in a Christian rock band in high school. That ice began to break when the drummer and I jammed a few measures of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” and a member of the church band (at a Pentecostal church where we rehearsed) heard it and expressed his disapproval. Before too long, I had traded Christian rock for garage and bar bands, and was playing in a college band and covering “Sunshine” guilt-free. At the time I was torn between Stryper and Cream, between Jesus and…
Maybe, for me, that’s where the Rock and Theology project was born, back in the late 1980s. I suppose I’m still asking whether Cream belongs in church. Or in which church Cream belongs. Or what it takes to belong to Cream’s church.
Tommy Beaudoin, New York City
Posted in: General,Hinduism,Musical Performance,Rock and Theology Project by Tom Beaudoin on January 10, 2013
This brief note is a followup to my recent post on Mata Amritanandamayi and her influence on rock musicians J Mascis and Jason Becker.
I vividly remember Jon Anderson of Yes introducing his “spiritual teacher,” Divine Mother Audrey Kitagawa, at a show in Madison Square Garden in New York City in May 2004. (I have blogged here at R&T about meeting band members on the train the next day.)
Toward the end of the show, Mr. Anderson invited Divine Mother Audrey up to the stage.
High-quality video of the moment is here, but I cannot embed it in this post. A lower-quality version is here:
Lots of things are happening here. I think the band must be a little surprised. I think the band was not fully briefed, but then again they must expect this from Mr. Anderson. You can see bassist Chris Squire walk across the front of the kit, maybe going to sit offstage once he realizes that this is going to take awhile. (The next day, I helped him carry his bags off the train onto the platform at South Station in Boston.) You can hear keyboardist Rick Wakeman in the background trying to keep up with the Divine Mother, and he does an admirable job by starting off with mood music, and then trying to urge her along by offering an assertive orchestral swell when he thinks she is getting to the end of her speech.
The band members must know that they were in danger of losing the audience — which they were. You can hear the catcalls, impatient yelps, and random “WTF” sorts of expressions
as she leads the crowd wait —- did I mention that this was happening in front of tens of thousands of fans at Madison Square Garden?!
So she led us through the Gayatri Mantra — a very interesting excerpt, with an important history, from the Rig Veda. (See the wiki discussion here.) She gets a fair amount of the fans to chant “Om” and “Peace” at the end. And then she announces, while Mr. (more…)
Posted in: Practices,Rock and Theology Project by David Dault on January 5, 2013
This is not a post about rock or theology per se. Rather it is a sort of “meta-post,” arising from a recent discussion I had with Tom Beaudoin, who suggested I share this with our colleagues (and readers) here on the blog.
For a couple of years, I have minimally maintained a page over at Academia.edu. It’s a social networking site for — you guessed it — academics. I set it up back in 2010 or so, uploaded a picture, added a CV, and then just let it sit there.
Anyway, over the past couple weeks, I took another look at it, and started playing with it. It is actually pretty simple to use and robust in its features. There is one feature, in particular, that made Tom suggest I bring it to your attention.
In addition to allowing you links to articles and other print publications you have authored, the site also allows you to add customizable categories. I added one for “Online Articles,” and I am working on linking my various blog posts there.
If you are like me, you have some Rock and Theology posts you are proud of, and that show off your scholarship in a different light than the “normal” avenues of academic publishing might highlight. Setting up an academia.edu page can help you showcase those posts beyond the readership of this or other blogs.
If you want to check out how I am using it, look here. I’d also love suggestions from other folks about different ways to use academia.edu (or reasons why you don’t want to use it), as well as other sites that might be useful for nerds like us.
Posted in: General,Rock and Theology Project by Tom Beaudoin on October 8, 2012
Rock and Theology has been active since January 2009, and if you are reading at our blog page, you can find on the right hand side a log of posts, by month, dating to that time (under “Archives”). You can also access our back catalogue by browsing under the “Categories” on the left-hand side of the page, or by typing something into the “Search” box at the top. There are many ways to dip into the nearly 1000 posts from the last 45 months of R&T. While you’re at it, post a comment and keep the conversation going.
Thank you to our many readers who keep up with us through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, or the blog directly. We’ll have some other good announcements about R&T before long.
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