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October 2017
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Part 1 is here, introducing the idea of relating reading scripture to hearing music, searching for what is spiritually significant in both. My last post pasted in my appendix on reading scripture from my 2003 book, Consuming Faith. My writing of that appendix already signaled my realization that I needed to account theologically for my use of the Bible in that book. But I was not done thinking about what kind of reading produced what kind of theological knowledge, especially in this case of consumerism/branding and spirituality. So when it came time to write an updated preface for the paperback edition of that book (2006), I wrote this:


Preface to the Paperback Edition

The need for a paperback edition of Consuming Faith is a reminder that unbridled global American capitalism remains devastating news for much of the world’s poor, and that Christians and all people of good will have yet to feel this stranglehold for the violence that it is, not to mention voicing sufficient protest against it and imagining different worlds in the face of it. The occasion of this edition is but one tiny index of the absence of economic apocalypse toward which Christians, anyway, should be leading the United States.

This book was my attempt to show that corporate branding, a major feature of the young adult cultural landscape, should be a profound offense to those who hope to be worthy of the name Christian. Branding provides a structure for living similar to that of spiritual disciplines, and branding does so through an attempted and continually renewed psychological violence toward us, the “consumers.” And though the most ironic and media-literate among us may in some measure avoid this corporate address, no one can contest that branding depends to a monstrous degree on physical and other (more…)

What is the relationship between reading and hearing? How about the relationship between reading theologically ‘overcharged’ texts, like scripture, and hearing theologically ‘undercharged’ music, like popular music? In other words, how is theological material extracted from reading and hearing, by readers and hearers?

I was thinking about this recently as I reflected on some shifts in my own thinking about reading scripture. For my book Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are With What We Buy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), I had written an appendix for the first printing about reading scripture, because by the time I had written the book, I realized how much I was relying on interpretations of scripture to carry the argument, and that was already becoming a place of puzzlement for me. By the time of the paperback, I had written a new preface revising my take not only on the appendix but what was in the book, as well. In one sense, these were my ongoing reconsiderations about reading scripture. I wonder what lessons they give, if any, about hearing music.

It may take me a few posts to being to open this up. Here is the “Appendix: On Reading Scripture” from Consuming Faith:


Appendix: On Reading Scripture

The one precondition for reading the Bible fruitfully is knowing how to read it.

I long ago gave up the idea that the Bible has one answer for anything. I confess to nausea at any mention of “a biblical worldview,” which has for many years now seemed to me like something between intellectual dishonesty and spiritual manipulation.

The Bible is a motley assortment of stories, poems, myths, hymns, letters, histories, and aphorisms that submit to no single controlling principle. Despite all attempts to smooth over the tensions, discrepancies, and contradictions in it, the heterogeneity of the Bible defies all attempts to reduce it to one program, theology, perspective, or worldview. Even calling it “the Bible” (literally, “the book”) can be the beginning of idolatry. (I much prefer (more…)

This post is part 2 to the part 1 recently posted on Lacuna Coil’s “My Spirit.”

This song is striking in being written from the vantage of the dead person. It is a bold move. In religious traditions, it is rare to take the vantage of the deceased when rendering an account of beyond-death. Lacuna Coil’s “My Spirit” communicates something significant about death: a sense of encompassing indifference, and of a profound relativization of life (“the fate, the hate, it’s all the same”) and of whatever comes next (“the gates of hell are waiting, let them wait a little more”). There is a certain insouciance, the song seems to say, in death.

What I like about this song theologically is its delicately agnostic/majestic and perhaps even mystical refrain, which can create a space for a wonder about the difference between life and death, but does not alight on any single interpretation about what lies beyond death. This is effected through the remarkable phraseology  that both indicates a direction and outlines a suspension: “Where, where I go….” These seem to me to be the key words in this song’s theology of post-death.

The compelling melody of the verse is, in a way, the whole message: “Where, where I go / My spirit is free, I’m coming home”. The home is not specified, neither is the endpoint of this freedom. “Where, where I go…” This event language is barely even that. But it is also a way of saying, as Cristina Scabbia essentially said in her introductory remarks: it is not as if nothing survives. “My spirit” is the incomprehensible language fitting to this experience of post-death.

And then, after these words, the lyrics shift to address those not yet dead, giving the admonition: “Remember me, but let me go.” In other words, do not think that you comprehend what happens next!

“Let me go” means not only “release me,” but surrender what you think “me” means. Dispossess yourself of “me” — into …. “go.”

And then there Scabbia’s beckoning background vocal, “You will become who you are.” Is it a gloss on the post-death testimony? Is it the blessing of (more…)