Music

Soul Food

Author Annie Dillard, standing in her writing shed, 1987. By Getty Images.

Author Annie Dillard, standing in her writing shed, 1987. By Getty Images.

When Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis departed on his three-month sabbatical at the beginning of January, I sent him a list of books, films and music that I thought would nourish his mind and spirit in, perhaps, different ways than the media he normally consumes do.

Jim's sabbatical — a true Sabbath in the literal sense — is designed to be a time of rest and, more importantly, rejuvenation. It will also be a creative time when he will be working on a new book.

Jim is a creative. A writer. A visionary. He regularly digs deep into his heart and soul, breaks himself open and pours out his passion, hope and faith for the edification of others. If creatives aren't diligent, though, we can work ourselves into the ground. Our wells can run dry.

In sending Jim this list of what I like to think of as "soul food," I hoped to inspire his imagination and give him new fuel for the fire, if you will.

Soundtrack for the #Occupation Grows

It's always encouraging to see musicians using their unique platform to inspire social change.

When it comes to an indie supergroup such as  New Party Systems — compirsed of members from TV on the Radio, Notekillers, and Liturgy — disparate audiences are drawn together for common purpose: economic justice.

New Party Systems's song "We Are," which dropped on the web yesterday, draws attention back to what the Occupy Movement is: A place of rising consciousness, full of energy and passion to bring about change.

While it may seem that the Occupy Movement is losing its steam, this expression reminds us its the spirit is alive — and growing.

The Gospel According to Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga. Image via http://bit.ly/AjdhWA

Lady Gaga. Image via http://bit.ly/AjdhWA

During all my reading about Robyn and Lady Gaga I came across some stuff about Lady Gaga that I found interesting, theologically speaking. As I told Jana over the summer, "I'm sort of developing a theological curiosity about Lady Gaga." Jana asked, "How so?"

Well, Lady Gaga calls her fans "monsters." Or "little monsters." And by that she means freaks--the odd, the weird, the lonely, the rejects, the nerds, the castoffs. And you can't help but wonder, in light of the gospels, about that demographic. In my book Unclean I have a chapter on monsters. And I've written about the theology of monsters on this blog. Consequently, Lady Gaga's use of the label "monsters" caught my attention.

Because as I've written, the category "monster" is charged with ambivalence. On the surface the monster is a normative threat--a defilement, a degradation, a location of moral and communal harm. Thus, monsters are expelled from community. And yet, most monster stories suggest that the monster is often a scapegoat. That the monster is more victim than victimizer. Underneath, if we could but see it, the monster is one of us.

So it's theologically apt that Lady Gaga uses the category monster for her fans. Because she's targeting a group that has been cast out of society. Again, she's explicitly embracing the freaks, weirdos and social outcasts. But Gaga, like in the monster stories, has flipped this and made the label "monster" a term of affection, welcome, embrace, community, inclusion and hospitality. (The diminutive "little" signals the playful affection.) This parallels my own interests in Unclean--Can we show hospitality toward monsters? So I'm intrigued by Gaga's community of "little monsters."

God, PBS and Paul Simon, The "God Chronicler By Accident"

Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

"How was all of this created? If the answer to that question is God created everything, there was a creator, than I say, great! What a great job. And I like the idea. I find it very, I don’t know, I find it comforting in some way. But if the answer to that is there is no God, I don’t feel like, well, what a jerk I’ve been. I feel, oh fine, so there’s another answer. I don’t know the answer. I’m just a speck of dust here for a nanosecond, and I’m very grateful." — Paul Simon in an interview that will air this weekend on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Watch the interview in its entirety inside ...

Hit the Hallelujah Button: With the Cathedral Choir from New Jersey

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's entry is a traditional orchestration and performance of Handel's famed chorus by The Cathedral Choir of New Jersey. The video is taken from the 66th rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by the choir on Dec. 5, 2009 at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.

Hallelujah Chorus from RVR Video Productions on Vimeo.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: From the Junior High Lunch Table

Cafeteria tray and food. Via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2033876359

Cafeteria tray and food. Via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2033876359

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today Handel's "Hallelujah" is brought to you by the junior high students from Oostburg Christian School in Oostburg, Wisconsin.

Oost!

The OCS kids stated their own tween version of a "Hallelujah" flash mob in the school cafeteria. The resulting video of their impromptu-ish performance is heartwarmingly earnest and awkward. Just like junior high itself (in its best moments.)

Watch the video inside...

 

 

A Christmas Gift

I love the lights and the love, which somehow seems a little easier during this season. Most of all I love the message: God made flesh, becoming human, and dwelling among us.

Our giving and receiving of gifts is most of all a reminder of the good gifts that God has already given to us. There is an old Sunday School saying that goes, "You can’t out give God."

No matter how much we give to those around us, it can never match the Light of the World entering into the darkness to be with us. Emmanuel, God with us, is the gift that can’t be out given.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, don’t forget that. And don’t forget the people that you are especially thankful for.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: Kuwa na Krismasi njema!

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4489992140

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4489992140

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from the POTS Chorus of Kenya who performed Handel's famous chorus on the African choral music competition, Kwaya.

See them take "Hallelujah" for a spin inside....

 

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Karen Peris of the Innocence Mission

Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.

Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.com

I can name any Innocence Mission in two notes or less. Half a second if the song begins with Karen Peris' voice. If you're a fan of the Innocence Mission, which is comprised of Karen Peris, her husband, Don Peris, and bassist Mike Bitts, you know precisely what I'm on about.
 
Karen Peris' voice is what I would imagine one of the Sirens (the nice one) might sound like, or perhaps the voice of a selkie — those mythological beings the Celts believed were seals who could shed their skins and become human for a time. Karen's voice is sweet, but never saccharine. Earnest, certainly, but never straining toward pathos or reaching for an emotional response.

It's light and full of delight. Simply (and it's simplicity is part of its great charms) beautiful.

The Innocence Mission's rendition of "Away in a Manger" is a prime example of what Karen Peris' voice can do. It's in high rotation in my Christmas 2011 mix on iTunes and rarely fails to put a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye — signs that the Holy is drawing nigh, according to the great sage of Vermont, Frederick Buechner.

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