Monday, June 26, 2017

How to lose your audience

What if each time you tuned into watch Downton Abbey you got a blow by blow detailed history of how the English Reformation under King Henry VIII destroyed the Roman Catholic monasteries and nunneries and turned them over to private owners who were the King’s buddies? With all the death and cruelty involved and the poor who were devastated by the loss of support from the church?  Or what if when looking for appropriate comments to use at a musical ecumenical memorial for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation all you could find is a blow by blow account of the brutal Peasants’ War in which 100,000 German peasants who thought Luther would support them instead met a bloody end?   Whose mind would be changed? Would you want the Catholic, Lutheran or Marxist view with your music?

Trapped. That’s how I felt when I attended what would be a wonderful  program of choral music, and instead got lectures (called “reflections”) so inappropriate for a lovely summer Sunday evening I thought I’d walked into a micro-aggression workshop for hate whitey or black lives matter rally. Most people love the black gospel and spiritual contributions to the American religious and choral tradition, and yes, they do know the history of the pain and suffering from which they came, but please don’t use them to club us into staying away from the concerts. I'm not sure how, but even "I'll fly away" by Alfred Brumley, a white Oklahoma sharecropper, seemed to have been roped into this meme of slavery. Perhaps I misunderstood, or dozed off.

We are living in an era of unprecedented human slavery. There is more slavery today than during the 18th century Atlantic slave trade. Children are used as soldiers, women and girls are taken as sex slaves, men are forced to work in mines.  In some countries like Haiti and the Philippines household slavery is just part of the culture and many don’t even recognize it.  Most of this happens in Africa, with heavy Muslim involvement, but what church program today would discuss that hot topic?  Very little of it, unlike Boko Haram stealing Church of the Brethren school girls for sex slaves from a school in Nigeria, makes it into the evening news. 

To compulsively return to a period of history when Europeans bought slaves from African Muslims and tribal chiefs and sold them to the colonies which later became the United States which  fought an ugly war to end it, is just not good commentary for a program of music celebrating freedom in Christ.

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