Beliefnet
The Jazz Theologian

To talk about jazz is to talk about race and race relations in America. Jazz initially arose out of the pain of America’s original sin of slavery. Inspite of its’ emergence from such conditions, it proved to be convergent. Even as the KKK was on the rise and lynchings were commonplace, blacks and whites would find themselves in the same rooms because of jazz.

There was a problem, the big band jazz being performed by African-American’s was more about how jazz could be more classical than European classical music. In short, jazz emerged a second time in 1959 (more on this in later postings), breaking away from the constraints of classical methods, into the art of a skilled set of musicians so in tune with each other that they can play the same song night after night while never sounding the same. Jazz became all about the moment when musical standards, the audience and musicians converge into something that has never existed before. And even today, one can go to a jazz club and experience this emergence and convergence of sounds, styles, and people.

Jazz theology is richly soaked with race as well. It understands that classical theology is good and needed but also recognizes that when one takes a theology textbook off the shelf it almost always has a European bent. Once a jazz theologian has conformed to classical theology, the yearning to improvise becomes unbearable and an emergence takes place…the result is not a rejection of the old but a convergence of moments–What I’m calling Theomoments.

What about your theology? From whom does it come? Why is race not discussed along with our theology? Have you ever noticed that the people who tell you about God all look the same? Are you ready for an emergence? For a convergence?

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