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Rockish Pluralism and the Right to Theology

Posted in: General by Tom Beaudoin on January 6, 2009

Any contemporary project on rock and theology will eventually need to show not only why theological orientations are not potential parochializations for rock, but why rock music itself is not the name for a narrow band of cultural experience for the colonization of others aesthetically, culturally, religiously; in other words, a regular attention to, as the popular perception goes, whether rock’s truest audiences are adolescent, American(ized), white, male, middle-class suburbanites.

There will no doubt be considerable evidence for the truism. Substantial—but neither exclusive nor exhaustive. The power of newsy occasionality allows me to call as my witness a recent article in the New York Times that describes the influence of a novel (by a now-30something Catholic convert to Islam) called The Taqwacores on the lives of young American Muslims. The musical key to the novel, apparently, is punk rock. The novel has, according to reporter Christopher Maag “inspired disaffected young Muslims in the United States to form real Muslim punk bands and build their own subculture.” There is a welter of thoughtwork to be done unpacking Maag’s deceptively straightforward (and strongly theological) claim that for “many young American Muslims, the merger of Islam and rebellion resonated.”

I suspect that the future will only show us more fully how no single culture has proprietary rights over what rock is becoming, and for those of us who find our theology run through rock, that means a continued cultural dispossession over the “rights” to theological experience as well. It is just here, in this present, that I hope that we are on the cusp of something genuinely new, theologically.

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

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