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This was the original conclusion to my introductory chapter in the recently-published book Secular Music and Sacred Theology. This conclusion was not published in print, but I publish it here:

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I conclude this introduction with a callback to where this chapter started, wondering about what theology is doing when it is doing cultural analysis. Building on the notion of pragmatic rehearsal, I develop a more encompassing metaphor for evaluating theological work on popular music, which means essentially the evaluation of “all” theological work: scorekeeping.

Theological work on music provides an opening into a larger truth about theological work: that it is the striving for “suitable music” through which to comment on individual and social life, on life’s eros as known in texts, practices, and ideas, that are always plugged into the electrical sockets of cultural scenes, actions, events, and surroundings. All theologies are also, though not only, soundtracks to theologians’ circumstances.

To interpret cultural practices theologically, which properly understood is to make any theological claim, is to “score” a cultural event as one would “score” a film—to attribute to it a certain meaning by the way in which you set music to images. But theologians scoring culture as a composer scores a (more…)