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Using R&T for Teaching

Posted in: General,Teaching by Tom Beaudoin on March 22, 2013

From time to time, we get messages from teachers who are using Rock and Theology for their classes. These are mostly religion teachers in high school, or college professors of religion or theology. Dr. Aaron Kerr of Gannon University, in Erie, Pennsylvania (who wrote a guest post for R&T in 2010), recently let me know that he assigned R&T to his Philosophy of Religion class. I thought I would share with you, with Dr. Kerr’s permission, the assignment:

“Having examined the Rock and Theology blog, choose a song from popular culture or history (can be a Christian hymn) and evaluate its structure and meaning. Provide a synopsis of its overall theme and thrust. Analyze the religious philosophy expressed in the lyric. Apply philosophical reflection. Conclude by articulating the coherence or lack of coherence to the religious philosophy presented.”

Many of the assignments that involve R&T are assignments by which I would be challenged! If others have R&T-related assignments to share, please send them our way. It’s good to know that Rock and Theology is being used for learning in school settings.

Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

The Grateful Dead and Rock’s Religious Significance

Posted in: Fandom,General,Guest Entries by Tom Beaudoin on November 24, 2010

The following is a guest entry from Aaron Kerr, lecturer in philosophy and theology at Gannon University, with a Ph.D. from Duquesne and a dissertation on “the Eucharistic lyrical poetry of Charles Wesley.” In his own words, he is “a student of rock and former United Methodist minister converting to Catholicism.” In just the kind of claim we like to knead here at R&T, he has suggested that “Methodist hymnody shares rock’s populist strains.” Here is Dr. Kerr on the Grateful Dead:


I wrote a paper in seminary for Ruth Duck (hymn writer, liturgics scholar) on the use of rock in the liturgy.  I turned in the paper along with a cassette full of music and my own commentary. I got an ‘A’ on the paper, but Professor Duck had a problem with rock in general, the way it cultivates an unhealthy attitude toward women, among other attitudes. I have since changed my mind about using rock in liturgy for other reasons, mostly because the particular form and language of the music in the Mass specifically integrates a profound fusion of prayer as embodiment.

But I have become more convinced of rock’s religious import. Its religious significance can be seen (and heard!) most vividly, I believe, in an enigmatic band, the Grateful Dead. Everyone has heard of the Dead, yet their capacity to “tradition” variant genres, their communitarian ethos, their artistic integrity — all pertaining to the religious quest — have remained under-resourced in theological discussions of rock.

My biblical scholar colleagues tell me that there is no Hebrew word for “religion.”  This may be because, for the Hebrew people and the ancient Jewish consciousness, there was no objectification of practice. (Is this not true of Native American perception as well?)  The Grateful Dead fuse music and mystical awareness, story and the energies of community into an “environment” fit for discovery. It is difficult to theologize (objectivize) when participating in a theological environment. The experience of the live concert, no matter who is playing, has religious significance for that reason alone.

The Grateful Dead’s primary lyricists are religious people.