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About R&T

Posted in: by admin on September 23, 2008

The Rock and Theology blog explores the relationship between popular music and theology, and related matters of religion, spirituality and culture today. This blog is part of the Rock and Theology Project, directed by Tom Beaudoin ( Both the blog and the project are sponsored by Liturgical Press. A brief background on the Project is here, and a press release for the project is here.


Loye Ashton earned a Ph.D. at Boston University in 2003. He is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS where he serves as Chair of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Department and Director of the Religious Studies Program. A past president of the North American Paul Tillich Society, he has contributed theological commentaries to the Feasting on the Word Lectionary Commentary Series (Westminster John Knox Press) as well as the article on “Religion and Segregation” for the forthcoming Mississippi Encyclopedia. He is also currently working on Faithful Uncertainty: Introducing Contemporary Theology (forthcoming from Westminster John Knox). An avid drummer for 32 years, he has studied percussion across the globe in his quest to learn more about the intersection of religious faith and world music. For six years, he played with Tom Beaudoin in various experimental rock music projects in the greater Boston area. He is ordained in the United Methodist Church and presently assists with music for the metro Jackson College Wesleyan ministry program. He also works closely with Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist communities throughout Mississippi to promote interfaith research and inter-racial reconciliation.

Tom Beaudoin earned his Ph.D. at Boston College in 2001, and is associate professor of theology in the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham University in New York City, where he teaches courses in practice-based theologies. His research explores the relationship between secular and spiritual practices. He is the author of three books, most recently Witness to Dispossession: The Vocation of a Postmodern Theologian (Orbis, 2008), and many chapters, essays, and articles on theology and culture. He is presently editing a book on theology and popular music generated by the Rock and Theology Project. He plays bass with The Raina, based in New York City, and in a band-yet-to-be-named, based in Westchester County. His website is here.

Rachel Bundang earned her Ph.D. in Constructive Theologies, Praxis, and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary (2006).  She is on the Religious Studies faculty at the Marymount School in New York, where she also serves as the director of social justice education.  She teaches and writes in ethics, feminist theologies, and race, religion, and popular culture.  A lifelong musician who still performs when possible, she started as a violinist, then picked up piano, voice, and percussion along the way.  Her tastes are eclectic, but she feels most at home at the intersection of jazz, funk, and hip-hop.

Henry Carrigan dreamed of being a rock ‘n roll star with a life of coast-to-coast tours and wild parties with Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, among others. But books intervened, and instead he went to Emory University to major in Religion and Literature. Later, teaching humanities in college, he took up writing about books—this time to avoid reading students’ papers. Henry soon became Library Journal‘s religion columnist, then religion book editor for Publishers Weekly. While working as editor-in-chief for Northwestern University Press and editing classic books for Paraclete Press, he still continues to write for LJ and PW, as well as the Washington Post Book World, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Charlotte ObserverForeWord magazine—and now, BiblioBuffet. And he still enjoys playing his guitar.

David Dault has a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University (2009), and is assistant professor of Catholic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. He was active in the southeastern U.S. music scene in the 1990s through the mid-2000s. His research focuses on theology in and of the material production of Bibles, literature and theology, and liturgical theology. He is at work on a book for Yale University Press. His website is here.

Andy Edwards is a managing editor at Liturgical Press and a doctoral student at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. Previous graduate studies and research were conducted at the University of St Andrews (M.Phil.) and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (M.Div., Th.M.). He is currently involved in two research projects: (1) a study of theological and popular music criticism (with reference to Charles Wesley and Joseph Ratzinger) and (2) an assessment of types of voluntarism in the thought of Karl Barth. As a bassist he has played in various bands in Virginia and Scotland, ranging from ska through prog rock to bluegrass.

Ian Fowles is working on his PhD in Religious Studies at Claremont Graduate University, focusing on religion in America, with specific interests in media, pop culture, new religious movements, and Mormon studies. Ian is also a professional guitarist and has performed and/or recorded with numerous groups starting in his teenage years. Notable among them are Death By Stereo, Sense Field, and Further Seems Forever. He currently plays guitar for The Aquabats. His personal website on rock and religion is here.

Adrian Hartley, currently based in New York City, is waiting (proactively) for a new occupational calling in or around the field of geology.  As a vocalist she spent 3 years on tour with the Blue Man Group (for their rock show, How To Be a Megastar). She has also previously toured and recorded with electro-pop performance act, Fischerspooner, and piano based singer/songwriter, Josh Dodes. She has a degree in Geology from Bryn Mawr College, and loves Harleys and El Caminos. She dreams of becoming a car mechanic somewhere down the road. Updated information on her work can be found at her website here .

Maeve Louise Heaney is from Dublin, Ireland, and is currently teaching and researching as the Bannan Fellow at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, in California. As a musician and composer, she develops her ministry and theological work together in the areas of both evangelization and liturgy, working with musicians and composers in placing music at the service of faith transmission. She has produced three CDs of her own music: I Believe in YouStand, and Nel Frattempo. She is a consecrated missionary of a young Catholic community called the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, and as such has lived and worked in Spain, England, Ireland and Italy, working in campus ministry at various institutions of higher education and in the area of evangelization: retreats, spiritual exercises and schools of evangelization. Maeve completed her doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, in the field of Fundamental Theology and Theological Aesthetics, where she taught for two years. Her book: Music as Theology: What Music has to say about the Word will be published soon.

Michael Iafrate is a theology student and musician originally from West Virginia. He has been active in independent music circles for about 15 years, playing in such bands as The Minus Tide, M Iafrate & The Priesthood, Drown Culture and COBRA. The Minus Tide’s releases landed positive reviews from Punk Planet, Heartattack, Metal Maniacs and Revolver magazines. His master’s degree in theology is from Wheeling Jesuit University and he is currently pursuing a doctorate in theology at the University of St. Michael’s College at the Toronto School of Theology. His interests include ecclesiology, political and liberation theologies, religion and social movements, theology and culture, Appalachian studies, and theological method. He also blogs at CatholicAnarchy and Vox Nova.

Jeff Keuss is a professor and associate dean in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University, where he teaches theology and culture courses in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. He received a PhD in English Literature, Theology and Cultural Study from the University of Glasgow, Scotland where he wrote his dissertation on the early works of Victorian novelist George Eliot in light of the nineteenth-century quest for the historical Jesus as a precursor to postmodern literary theory. He has published articles, chapters and reviews on the interdisciplinary engagement of theology, literature and contemporary culture and is the North American general editor for the journal Literature and Theology (Oxford University Press) as well as on the advisory board for The Other Journal. He is the author of A Poetics of Jesus: The search for Christ through writing in the nineteenth centuryThe Sacred and the Profane: Contemporary Issues in Hermeneutics; Freedom of the Self: Kenosis, Cultural Identity and Mission at the Crossroads; and Your Neighbor’s Hymnal: What popular music can teach us about faith, hope and love (Cascade, 2011). He enjoys students visiting his office in Alexander Hall, looking through his vinyl collection of classic rock albums and geeking out on old school comic books and science fiction.  He is a regular blogger on his personal website .

Mary McDonough has a law degree and served as a Legal Aid lawyer for five years. In 1998, she returned to school to study theology, earning her master’s degree from Mount Angel Seminary in 2000 and her Ph.D. in Ethics from the Graduate Theological Union in 2005, where she was affiliated with the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She has taught ethics as an adjunct professor in Montana. Her research interests include bioethics and the relationship between ethics and the arts. She is the author of Can a Health Care Market Be Moral? A Catholic Vision (Georgetown University Press, 2007). Currently she resides in Montana where she continues to pursue her research interests and also write fiction. She plays electric and acoustic guitar.

Gina Messina-Dysert has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in women studies in religion and theology, ethics, and culture, and is an adjunct faculty member in the theology department at Loyola Marymount University.  Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots, experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence, and her personal passion for music. Messina-Dysert brings together theological training, a feminist outlook, and a passion for music, and her research efforts have centered on examining secular music as a resource for marginalized women. Examining music as sacred, as well as its embrace by various populations as a method of offering theological, philosophical, and ethical insight, is central to her overall research. Messina-Dysert has given particular attention to the music of the Dave Matthews Band, examining its theological content and demand for social justice.  Aside from publishing articles on women and theology, she has also offered guest lectures on music, theology, and ethics and has presented papers focused on music as a resource for women in abusive situations. Her website is here.

Monica R. Miller received her Ph.D. in Theology, Ethics, and Human Science from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2010, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She serves as Senior Research Fellow for The Institute for Humanist Studies, Assistant Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), and is Co-Chair of a new American Academy of Religion Consultation, “Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion.” Her research interests are grounded in theory and method in the study of religion and materialist analyses of popular culture, including a wide range of youth subcultural practices. Among other publications, Miller is co-editor and contributor with Anthony B. Pinn of a 2009 special issue of the journal Culture and Religion on “Hip-Hop and Religion.” Her first book, The “Anti-Proper” in the Popular: Redescribing the Religious in Hip Hop Culture is currently under review and she is at work on a second book project entitled Faith in the Flesh: Manufactured Zones of (In)Significance. She has an ongoing research project examining cultural zones of significance among youth subcultures in Habana, Cuba.

Dave Nantais is director of University Ministry at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he also teaches as an adjunct instructor in the Philosophy Department.  His first book, Rock-A My Soul: An Invitation to Rock Your Religion, was published in 2011 by Liturgical Press.  He is also a regular contributor to America, Publishers Weekly, Living Faith, and Dave lives in Detroit, MI with his wife, Carrie, and son, Liam.

Jennifer K. Otter grew up in the small beach town of Santa Cruz, CA. From a young age, she carried a Fisher-Price record player around with her instead of a doll. By age 18, she had her first paid position in the music industry, as College Marketing Representative for Sony Music, touring with Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine and a little band called Nirvana. At 25, she went on to be the West Coast Marketing Director for Interscope Geffen A & M Records, creating branding and marketing campaigns for artists such as No Doubt, Sting, U2 and Eminem. In 2003, she left to start her own marketing company, working with a variety of culture industry tastemakers, including L.A.M.B., Facebook and Quannum Projects, while lecturing at San Francisco State University and writing her M.A. in Humanities on Morrissey fandom as religion. Currently, Jennifer is an associate lecturer at several Universities, including SAE Institute in London and Oxford as well as the University of East London. She is finishing her PhD at Goldsmiths University of London in Cultural Studies. Her thesis work examines the evolution of cultural myth and image, focusing on Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.

Brian Robinette earned his Ph.D. at Notre Dame in 2003, and is associate professor of theology at Saint Louis University. He is the author of Grammars of Resurrection: A Christian Theology of Presence and Absence (Herder and Herder/Crossroad, 2009) and several articles on christology and mysticism. His academic homepage can be found here.

Christian Scharen teaches worship and practical theology at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, MN, having previously taught at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven. Originally trained in theological ethics, ethnography, and social theory in Berkeley and Atlanta, Scharen’s work brings a lively Christian imagination to critical engagement with culture. His writings have appeared in many academic and pastoral publications, including The CressetBooks & CultureThe Christian CenturyDialog, the Scottish Journal of Theology, the Journal of the American Academy of ReligionGenerate and others. He is married to Sonja, a nurse-midwife and has two children, Isaiah and Grace. He loves old churches, “A Prairie Home Companion” (a must, he says, for Lutherans in diaspora), and dark beer. He plays bass for The Fleshpots, and his website is here.

Natalie Kertes Weaver is Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. She is also the director of the Humanities program at Ursuline College. Natalie has presented research on an array of topics in theology at regional, national, and international conferences.  She has published Marriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009) and Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2011). Her areas of interest and expertise include feminist theology, theology of suffering, theology of family, intersex and sexual ethics, and religion and violence.  Natalie’s hobbies include creative writing and painting, and she has self-published two non-academic works: Baby’s First Latin (Booksurge, 2009) and Interior Design (CreateSpace, 2011). Natalie is married and has two sons.

Myles Werntz is a doctoral candidate in Religion at Baylor University, and  is currently writing a dissertation entitled Ontology, Ecclesiology, Nonviolence, in which he explores the interrelationship of ontological grounding of nonviolence through ecclesial bodies in the work of John Howard Yoder, Dorothy Day, and William Stringfellow. He is the co-editor of Nonviolence: A Brief History (Baylor University Press, 2010), a set of lectures by the late John Howard Yoder, and writes on issues of ecclesiology, war, and poverty. His musical pilgrimage began in the throes of the Contemporary Christian Music world of Whitecross and Whiteheart, which was followed by a conversion to Pearl Jam in the early 1990s, a calling he continues to work out in the works of diverse conversation partners such as Bruce Springsteen, Frightened Rabbit, and Talib Kweli. Musically, he plays acoustic guitar badly, and drives fast when Alice in Chains comes on the radio. In his spare time, he blogs on film over at The Three Hands, when not teaching, writing, reading, running, or hanging out with his wife Sarah.

Daniel White Hodge received his Ph.D. from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, with a dissertation focused on the life, theology, and spiritual message of Tupac Amaru Shakur. He is a lecturer in the Pan African Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles and at Citrus College in the Sociology Department. He is also a national speaker for the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UYWI). Dan has been involved with Hip Hop culture all his life. As a former music producer, Dan helped mix Bone Thugs & Harmony’s first album “E 1999 Eternal,” along with The Beastie Boys’ DJ Hurricane’s album. Dan also helped in the formation of different background tracks for the first two seasons of “New York Undercover.” He continues to remain closely tuned into the music of Hip Hop. As a social activist, Dan co-founded the youth organization “Youth On The Move,” which worked with pregnant teen moms, helped juvenile offenders find employment, and developed life skills for urban youth. This program went on to partner with Urban Young Life in the Bay Area of California. Dan has worked on a number of different community-based campaigns and programs using Hip Hop to address issues of race/ethnicity, gender-based violence, literacy and immigration. Dr. White Hodge is the author of The Soul Of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs, & The Soul of a Culture (InterVarsity Press, 2010), and Heaven Has A Ghetto: The Missiological Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur (VDM Academic, 2009).



  1. Brian and Tom,

    This is a very, very, very interesting project similar to a thousand and one conversations I’ve had over the years from my time at University of Texas in Austin to Yale Divinity School (where I studied a bit under Dr. Christian Scharen.)

    Thanks for doing it…someone had to.

    Expect a word or two from this guy down here in Austin.


    Comment by Josh — January 27, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  2. You guys should check out a band named FLOREZ. Their music is mostly rock (some of it pretty hard) with influences of flamenco, rap, and country (sounds wierd I know). But their lyrics are full of theology, really good stuff. I suggest the album “In Flight.”

    just found your blog and i’m enjoying it, Thanks! I’m a high school theology teacher and a guitarist in a rock band so this is right up my alley.


    Comment by Mike — January 29, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  3. Regarding modern music, the “Motu proprio” says: “The Church has always recognized and honoured progress in the arts, admitting to the service of religion everything good and beautiful discovered by genius in the course of ages — always, however, with due regard to the liturgical laws. Consequently, modern music is also admitted in the Church, since it, too, furnishes compositions of such excellence, sobriety, and gravity, that they are in no way unworthy of the liturgical functions. Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, care must be taken that musical compositions in this style admitted to the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of theatrical motives, and be not fashioned, even in their external forms, after the manner of profane pieces.”

    Comment by Francis — May 12, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  4. Tom. I came across this web site and wish you and your colleagues continued success. I took one of your graduate courses at Boston College back in 2002. I am currently teaching a class called “Quest for God @ an all boys school in New Jersey. All the best.

    Comment by William Granieri — June 2, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  5. Enjoy the blog! I’m a Catholic and play guitar in the Kansas City indie rock band The Sexy Accident.

    Comment by Chad Toney — September 4, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  6. As someone active in Lifeteen back in high school, who was an avid listener of rock music, who wrote and performed rock songs on electric guitar, and who earned a degree in Philosophy with many theology courses from Notre Dame, you might expect that I’d be enthusiastic about this project. However, several months ago, I had something of a conversion, realizing that there’s more to music than rock and there’s more to liturgy than Lifeteen. In fact, I even went so far as to realize that listening to lots of rock music, especially heavier rock, actually took away from my inner calm and lead me to simply become something of a slave to my passions. I think that those who are slaves to their passions are actually more under the influence of Satan, than of God. It may seem a hackneyed arguement that rock music is from Hell, but I really find that the case for some of it, at least. So, I’m not burning any Beatles records, but I HAVE liberated myself from rock and Lifeteen and now enjoy the finer things in life, such as Bach and the Tridentine Mass.

    Comment by Chris — October 17, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

  7. I too am a product of the Life Teen process, both as a student and a youth minister, and I want to echo the same experience concerning the beauty of traditional music, and traditional liturgy. Speaking as someone on the front lines, I can testify to the amazing divisveness that contemporary music, particularly rock music, can have on people, particularly the young that we are often trying to “pull in” through the use of rock in the liturgy.

    Just looking at my very first year of teens in my youth group, I see a teen who is currently a theology major who attends the Tridentine Rite every chance she can go and constantly points out the inappropriateness of many of the songs at her “good” Catholic college, another who is currently a Sacred Music Major and a member of her college’s Schola Gregoriana, while I have another who currently is a model (in rarely appropriate attire or poses) for album art and promotional materials for satanic hevy metal bands.

    I really leave it up to everyone to decide, but I think the clear risks are there. Those who have grownin their faith through that program, have in a sense “grown out” of those things, and find that despite them still not being old enough to drink legally, prefer hymns that have stood the liturgical test of time, for centuries, and rarely attend contemporary/rock/Life Teen Masses anymore, while others have immersed themselves so much in the culture that the liturgy encouraged, that they’ve rejected their faith and embraced Satanism.

    While my experience might be unique, and dramatic, I believe it is a necessary consideration on this issue, because very clearly the idea of “lex orandi, lex credendi” is alive and well.

    Comment by JoshD — October 20, 2009 @ 11:07 am

  8. Hi,
    I just discovered this website and I wish I had started it! I was looking for any advice on grad studies centered on theology and culture, especially music culture. I have a MA in theology already. I live in St. Louis. Would be interested in any “long-distance” or internet programs you might know of as well. Thank you!
    John Powell
    Ferguson, MO
    Tom-I read your book “Virtual Faith” several years ago and loved it. Look forward to perusing this website more.

    Comment by John Powell — May 17, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  9. Just found your blog… as a christian I LOVE the idea of a blog about theology and rock music… I find it sad that some people equate rock music with the devil’s music. I don’t know that God rocks out but I do think it’s somewhat narrow to assume that God approves only classical music or hymns.

    Comment by Karen — June 2, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

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