soul

Alex Nava 07-05-2016
Maurizio De Mattei / Shutterstock

Maurizio De Mattei / Shutterstock

NIETZCHE GOT SOMETHING RIGHT about the soul: namely, that music is essential to its survival. In reacting to philosophical tendencies to marginalize or ignore the place of music, dance, poetry, and painting, Nietzsche would insist on the central importance of the arts in any philosophical investigation.

In my own discipline of theology, a similar concern is justified: When theology has taken its cue from modern philosophy, it, too, has slighted the role of music in considering the question of God. The result is a portrait of soul in monotone pitches, without color, without polyphony. Instead of a guiding rhythm in one’s reflections, music is often relegated to a footnote or to an echo that reaches one’s ear in barely perceptible, muffled sounds.

The most glaring exception to this general rule is the portrait of soul in black and Latin traditions. As James Baldwin famously noted, it is almost solely through music that black people have been able to tell their story. The same can be said about Latin cultures: Music has been a crucial medium for communicating with the modern world, with one’s ancestors, and with God. It has been a defining feature of black and Latin-American identities—a key ingredient in the stew and spice of these cultures.

Given the storytelling capacity of music in these cases, I believe that any theology worthy of the Christian conviction of incarnation—where God is embodied in the vast rainbow of human cultures—might want to begin by calibrating its body and soul to the frequencies of music. With music booming in our ears, we might get an alternative history of religion and culture, told at a sonic level, in the beats of a drum, a bass line, chant, or grunt. We might learn about cultural styles and struggles left off the written record of modern European accounts of the West, that exist only as oral and folk traditions.

Jeffrey Salkin 05-06-2015
Photo via Random House / RNS

Author David Brooks at home in Bethesda, Md. Photo via Random House / RNS

Is David Brooks becoming a Christian?

That’s the question that some people have been asking about The New York Times’ op-ed columnist, especially in the wake of his new book, The Road to Character.

As Jonathan Merritt wrote, “Brooks claims to have written his latest book ‘to save my soul,’ and he told NPR that reading books by authors such as Christian convert C.S. Lewis has ‘produced a lot of religious upsurge in my heart.’”

LaVonne Neff 09-26-2013
Rodin's 'Le Baiser.' Courtesy of LaVonne Neff.

Rodin's 'Le Baiser.' Courtesy of LaVonne Neff.

It's odd that Christians — people who claim to believe that God created the earth, sustains it day by day, and intends to create a new earth — are often so mixed up about sex and food. How long would the earth's inhabitants last without coupling and eating?

And yet most Christian writers right up to the 16th century praised celibacy, sexless marriages, and arduous fasting. Bless Martin Luther for loving his wife (and the beer she brewed), but lots of us still seem to think that good sex and good food — if not actually sinful — are at least pretty low on the religious values hierarchy.

Has it escaped our attention that, according to our most sacred literature, God made a naked male and a naked female, put them in the midst of grain fields and orchards, and told them to multiply?

Julie Polter 08-02-2013

The March by PBS / Secular Days, Sacred Moments edited by David Cooper / One True Vine by Mavis Staples / The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dale Hanson Bourke

Gene Fox 06-05-2013

Detail from "The Sea Stopped Raging," by Barry Moser, from Pennyroyal-Caxton Bible, 1999, used with permission.

From the midst of the nether
world I cried for help.
 —from the Book of Jonah

A gray whale blows off Cardiff Beach,
just beyond the glamour homes,
boutiques, and drive-thru windows,
valet service and all-u-can-eat sushi.
I want to swim out and be swallowed.

 
Jonah’s whale wasn’t Ahab’s, all
tripey white and peg-toothed, but
a strainer of phosphorescent shrimp,
which lamped the reeking gut, like
fireflies we swallowed once, in jars.

Tripp Hudgins 04-01-2013
Young woman meditating, Luna Vandoorne / Shutterstock.com

Young woman meditating, Luna Vandoorne / Shutterstock.com

It's the Monday after Easter, and I couldn't think of a better day to talk about God being with us. Adam Ericksen wrote about the dance of doubt and faith on Good Friday, the challenge and beauty of embracing the fullness of the journey. Rob takes that all one step further in this chapter: With.

There is, I believe, another way to see God, a way in which we see God with us— with us, right here, right now. This isn’t just an idea to me; this is an urgent, passionate, ecstatic invitation to wake up, to see the world as it truly is. 
(Kindle Locations 1201-1203)

Suddenly I have “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones playing in my head. Excuse me for being a child of the 80s.

My take-away? This God doesn't choose sides like we do.

Betsy Sholl 03-14-2013

Blindfolded and gagged, tossed in the back / of a car -- it's how they gather up young men /

Mark Eddy Smith 08-28-2012

As a fiction writer, I tend to think of God as a novelist writing this epic story wherein every bureaucrat, cicada, and horsehead nebula could accurately be described as the main character. As a novelist, it's God's job to bring all things together toward a happy (or at least satisfying) end, but that doesn't mean that we the characters are mere puppets.

Novelists who write about their craft often speak of characters taking on "a life of their own" and thereby taking the novel to different places than the author intended to visit.

So this "soul" that we speak of — this part of our selves that isn't grounded in physical being but is spiritual (whatever that means) that we expect or hope will live on after our mortal coils shuffle off — what if it's simply God's memory of us? What if the afterlife takes place in God's heart?

If God's memory were like human memory, that too would feel like a cheat, but I suspect that God's memories are not dissimilar to God's prose. In other words, as real as spiders. As real as continents.

Daniel Burke 08-10-2012
Candles photo, Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

Candles photo, Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

Funeral services will be held today for the six Sikhs killed at a Wisconsin temple last Sunday. The bodies of the deceased will later be cremated —  but their souls will live on, Sikh tradition teaches.

Sikh scriptures don't dwell on what happens after death. Instead, the faith focuses on earthly duties, such as honoring God, performing charity and promoting justice.

"The afterlife is not a primary concern," said Gurinder Singh Mann, a religious studies professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. "It's a very life-affirming belief system."

Still, like many religions, Sikhism includes intimations of immortality.

Founded in 15th-century India, Sikhism was born in the same cradle as Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which posit reincarnation. Like those faiths, Sikhism teaches that the goal is to escape from the cycle of death and rebirth.

But unlike Hindus and Buddhists, Sikhs believe that humans can't liberate themselves through meditation and virtuous living — only God's grace offers freedom from rebirth.

"We don't think that, 'Well, I've done these wonderful things, I get a ticket to heaven,'" said Mann. "That's a divine decision."

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