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Posted in: Bible,Christianity,General,Guest Entries by Tom Beaudoin on March 21, 2013
I am pleased to share this guest post from John Gonzalez, a Doctor of Ministry student in Fordham University’s Latino Studies program. He is an associate to a religious community, the Passionists, whose spirituality is based on redemptive suffering and the mission to be with those who are in the midst of suffering in our world. He works for Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Rockville Centre (Long Island) as the Parish Social Ministry (PSM) developer on public policy and social justice issues.
Contemporary spirituality or prayer life does not seem to offer much space for the idea of complaining to God or demanding some form of divine accountability for injustices that we witness or suffer ourselves. We may reverently ask God for our petitions and of course offer prayers of thanksgiving. I certainly encounter the phrase “God is good” sometimes followed by the response “all of the time.” But the human condition is not all about experiencing the good. Everyone experiences suffering; we all know that injustice is part of our social and personal experience, yet somehow it is considered taboo to or spiritually audacious to bring this to the attention of God. I will admit that there has been times when I have been tempted to respond to the “God is good” phrase with my own scandalous response, “not today.”
And yet our scripture offers a number of prayers to God that offer complaints and at times demanding divine accountability. We find many of these in the psalms and lamentations. The book of Job is a complaint to God by one who has experienced a horrible injustice. Jesus himself takes part of this tradition when in the midst of being crucified he cries out the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22 is a cry of deep anguish and desolation, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;” (psalm 22: 14). While towards the end of this psalm there is a recognition that God will vindicate the suffering servant, others like Psalm 88 are not so optimistic. The psalmist here cries out his anguish to God and wonders if God is indeed present. Daniel Harrington, SJ writes:
Psalm 88 is often called a dialogue with an absent God. The psalmist calls out to a God who appears to have abandoned him and to be hiding from him. Yet the absent God is still somehow present – present enough to be addressed in prayer, to be criticized, and to be angry at.
Whereas our contemporary spirituality may not offer us a place to offer today’s lamentations nevertheless this continues to be part of the human condition and we can see this being expressed in areas of popular culture. The Gothic genre of punk music seems to be a place where one can find (more…)
Posted in: Christianity,General by Tom Beaudoin on March 20, 2013
Since I first bought the record Our Time in Eden when it came out in 1992 (I was graduating from college), I have loved the 10,000 Maniacs song “Gold Rush Brides.” I recall that Natalie Merchant (see my “Let Natalie Merchant Write a Mass”) wrote this tune after reading diaries of women pioneers.
I used to play this song when I was a high school history teacher in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and we were studying the “American West.” The lyrics remind me of a mural by Thomas Hart Benton in Independence, Missouri (where I grew up) in the Truman Library: “Dakota on the wall is a white robed woman broad yet maidenly / such power in her hand as she hails the wagon man’s family / I see Indians that crawl through this mural that recalls our history”
Here is the song from the record:
And here are the lyrics:
“Follow the typical signs, the hand-painted lines
Down prairie roads, pass the lone church spire
Pass the talking wire from where to who knows?
There’s no way to divide the beauty of the sky (more…)
Posted in: Bible,Christianity,Fandom,General,Hinduism,News Items by Tom Beaudoin on March 18, 2013
It’s never clear what images count as “religious,” whether inside or outside self-designated religious spaces. However, these are some photos I took at SXSW as I tried to pay attention to “religious” images that were set in the midst of a more or less “secular” music festival. (Readers beware: those terms are very mobile! They have no fixed meaning.) These images show that “secular” music is not done with its relationship to “religion,” that’s for sure.
 Here is the first one: “Is God Really Dead?” These posters were all over downtown Austin in full sight of festivalgoers. I had trouble deciphering it. The symbolism might be a touch too arcane for me. At any rate, it certainly put a theological question right into the everyday wanderings of festival attendees. I assume that by raising the question, the answer is, somehow, “no,” but maybe being stumped about the provocation is the artistic point of the image. (At least one of these posters had a “YES” scrawled on it by the last evening of the festival.)
 The posters below were up all over downtown Austin on the morning of Friday 15 March. A variation on it had the same image but “PAPA” at the bottom. Small type at the bottom read papaemeritus.com. The site was down when I tried it a few days ago(probably too many hits at once), but I just discovered that it is a link to a band and their new album. (more…)
Posted in: Christianity,General,Grace,Guitarwork,Practices by Tom Beaudoin on March 9, 2013
The renowned Cambridge academic theologian and philosopher of religion Rev. Dr. Sarah Coakley has written at length about theology of prayer, spiritual experience, and spiritual knowing. In a recent 2-part interview for The Other Journal with SueJeanne Koh, Coakley discusses the cost and implications of becoming open in silent prayer. She emphasizes the surrender of perplexing and even disturbing material that arises in the disciplined practice of silent prayer, and commends communal prayer as an important support for the courageous, and literally en-couraging, submissions involved in silent prayer.
What occurs to me, on reading the interview (and the followup, part two, here), is how, in addition to the experience of silence, the experience of music shows up in people’s lives as a way that the self is handed over to something more, to an excessive “call” from a generous and generative beyond. Silence is perhaps profitably thought of not as the absence or opposite of sound, but of noise. Musical experience can generate an experience of internal silence and a contemplative mein. I do not know of studies that compare silence and musical sound as comparative practices of meditation or contemplation, but the question is an important one for contemporary persons who probably need more silence in our lives and who also might need a deeper spiritual appreciation of the (musical) sounds we value.
Silence is certainly a way that lives are spiritually transformed, as she argues, but so is music, which sometimes does not cancel silence but deepens it. This notion seems particularly connected to Coakley’s understanding that “prayer has everything to do with the erotic,” to which she adds, (more…)
Posted in: Christianity,General by Tom Beaudoin on March 7, 2013
Since writing a post in January titled From Jesus Freaks to Cream, I’ve been thinking about the Jesus-hippies and the intersections between music and theology that happened in that era.
I found this documentary (below), from the early 1970s, on YouTube. As I watched it, I was thinking about how little has changed between then and now in Christian ministers’ appropriation of secular music culture for preaching/pastoral purposes. R&T readers feel free to disagree, but as I watched these scenes from four decades ago, I thought of the “Christian rock” of the 1980s and the Emergent/Emerging churches of recent years. I don’t want to fold them all together in a way that collapses all differences, but the common denominator seemed to be a repackaging of a Christian core that is taken to be essential — usually an evangelical-inspired conviction about the unique divine saving presence of Jesus Christ in the lives of individuals — wrapped up in edgy musical garb. That will seem patently unfair as a generalization, but I am only attempting to make a general statement here about the drift of such rock/theology encounters. How difficult it is to genuinely rethink Christianity, even though, effectively, what counts as the gospel in each of these movements is somewhat different because of the social/personal situations in which it is taking place. So Christianity is being rethought almost in spite of itself, or under cover of the furtherance of an “essence” of the gospel.
Finally, as I watched this documentary, I wondered — where are all these people now, and what do they think of this era of their faith? If you are in this documentary or know someone who is, it would be remarkable to hear from you.
Here are the 4 parts: (more…)
With all the current attention to the transition from one pope to the next, the important question of women in ministry has resurfaced in the news. It has been an important question among Catholics in everyday life, and among Catholic theologians, for decades. Most Catholics in most, if not all, industrialized countries support greater roles for women in all forms of ministry.
As recently discussed here at R&T (see “Ordain a Lady“), expansion of roles for women in Catholic ministry is unlikely in the near term (where “near” may mean many decades). But the popular support for women in ministry will only continue to grow. It has not yet reached its ceiling. And one important reason for that growth of support is the influence and example of women in creative/leadership positions in contemporary society. I had this in mind as I watched this recent PBS special on women in rock and roll, “Women Who Rock”.
Who knows how many baptized Catholics of younger generations, where support for women in ministry is strongest, have been positively persuaded by women exemplars on the music scene, toward affirming the importance and the possibility of women’s roles in all positions in the church?
Here is a preview of the PBS show:
And an excerpt from the special:
Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Posted in: Agnosticism,Christianity,General,Lyrics,Theological Production,Voicework by Tom Beaudoin on March 3, 2013
One of my favorite new rock bands is Dead Sara. This is the rare sort of rock music that just explodes out of the speakers. Is lead singer Emily Armstrong the new Janis Joplin?
Their song “Monumental Holiday” contains two mentions of a provocative
phrase scream: “Save Jesus!” The relevant verses are:
“It’s just a matter your violence
Laugh loud, pretend to let go
Live your life like an Eskimo!”
“Slow down children, save Jesus!
Your body clock, tick-tick-tock
Abstinence and contraceptives”
I’d like to think out loud a little more about the song, especially the lyrics. Here is the video for the song:
I can’t help wondering about this saving of Jesus business — what an evocative and provocative term. (more…)
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,Recommended Reading by Tom Beaudoin on February 18, 2013
This week, a book is being published that features an array of authors writing about how their relationship to certain saints helps them navigate the Catholic Church and its crises today. The book is titled Not Less Than Everything: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience, from Joan of Arc to Oscar Romero (HarperCollins, 2013), and is edited by Catherine Wolff.
In it, you will find chapters by renowned theologians Lisa Sowle Cahill (on Mary Magdelene) and Charles Curran (on Bernard Haering), respected Catholic public intellectuals like Joan Chittister (on Hildegard von Bingen) and Cathleen Kaveny (Mother Mary MacKillop), and some very well-known Catholic writers, like Mary Gordon (on Simone Weil), James Carroll (Isaac Hecker), and Colm Toibin (Gerard Manley Hopkins).
My chapter in the collection is on Ignatius of Loyola, and is titled “Curated Free-Fall.” Here is the opening of my essay:
Some twenty years ago, in Kansas City, Missouri, I was on a religious quest in young adulthood, trying to reconnect with the Catholicism of my youth while tasting other religious fruits. The beginning of my attempt to reconstruct my faith was playing in a Christian rock band sponsored by a Pentecostal church. In that band, the women outnumbered the men, and as I look back, women were crucial traveling companions on my quest, although I never dated Catholics. Protestants, Jews, agnostics, atheists, yes. A Jewish girlfriend challenged me that I knew nothing about Jesus if I had not been to Israel and studied the Torah. So I traveled to Israel, hoping that getting close to the monotheistic “source” would help me figure out what was true about religion as much as which religion was true. Two other girlfriends took me to two different Southern Baptist churches (this was Missouri, remember), and I started to learn about the Bible and a personal Jesus. Just for good measure, my most influential professors in college were robust atheists. For a suburban Catholic, this was a lot of re-sorting in just a few years. A new stage of my religious education was underway, but I was confused about where this left my Catholicism.
The religious part of my life has for a long time been complemented by the rock and roll part. The conclusion of my childhood (more…)
Posted in: Christianity,General,Is This The New Face of Religion?,News Items,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on February 17, 2013
Thanks to Nicole’s recent comment here at R&T, I recently watched “Ordain a Lady.” This video was apparently put together by the Women’s Ordination Conference, a group that has been advocating for decades for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church. The song is a feminist theological parody of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
Here is “Ordain a Lady”:
Women’s ordination is back in the (inter)national conversation as the Roman Catholic Church undergoes a transition of leadership in the wake of the recent announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement. Although Catholic teaching forbids the ordination of women, many scholars, indeed I would say most scholars, and theologians in particular, are not persuaded by this teaching. And certainly, in the West, support for the ordination of women among Catholics is now consistently in the majority in survey after survey. In other words, the Catholic Church has a widespread crisis of credibility about its restriction of ordination to men.
The decision to make a music video to further the case for women’s ordination is an interesting one, and it is a decision that I support. I think the song/video, overall, is surprisingly good given that it was created by a church-related organization.
(Popular culture creations — whether songs, videos, films, cartoons, comics, and more — are, let’s be frank, often (but of course not always!) second-rate when produced by religious organizations. Religious groups making popular art often do not have the technical expertise to compete with more sophisticated “secular” works, and their didactic style frequently renders pedantic an otherwise aesthetically appealing creation.)
In Christian tradition, despite popular perception that men with Roman collars, taking orders from Peter or his successor, were walking around the Middle East (or Rome!) in the first century, ordination itself does not seem to go all the way back to the Jesus movement. The Christian/Catholic “priesthood” is a later creation. (more…)« Previous Page — Next Page »