P4: Progressive/Panentheist Praise Project

P4: Progressive/Panentheist Praise Project May 6, 2010

I made a remark in a comment, as seriously as I ever am about anything, but merely in passing, curious whether anyone would find the idea interesting. Since someone did, I decided to post about it and see if I can get a sense of just how much interest there is, and whether a blog can facilitate collaboration on something like this.

The idea is for a Progressive/Panentheist Praise Project, an endeavor for Christians whose theological outlook is rarely expressed through contemporary Christian music, and sometimes profoundly at odds with it, to produce music and lyrics that does reflect where we are coming from and how we view things.

I expect that this will be a topic for further discussion here. For now, I just want to float the idea in a post of its own, rather than as a passing remark in a comment, and see what readers have to say! But let me add that I am aware that in the more progressive and creative versions of Christianity there are multiple viewpoints, imagery, concepts, metaphors, not to mention stylistic preferences and other differences that are always there. And so the aim is not to express one particular other group or movement’s views, but simply to express views and ways of being Christian that are not usually represented in contemporary Christian music.

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  • There was the old question that predates our "contemporary" music, attributed to Wesley or someone like that which was: Why should the devil get all the good music?". One could now well ask, "Why should the conservatives get all the good music?". Additionally, some of the "newer" music in the hymnals of more progressive denominations really suck, un-singable for the most part. I like the idea.

  • I just to be able to follow the conversation. I am interested in the Panentheist aspect of theology and faith, so this might be a learning experience.

  • good art is the natural expression of the artist, and evangelicalism, the fastest growing, most energetic branch of Christianity hasn't done so well bringing in the artistic types. Todays talented artist prefer dope, smack, blow, and grass. In my opinion there is no way to quickly generate good new music to fit a new theology. Better to look though songs already made and see which ones uphold your ideals.

  • Austin

    This is an interesting point James. I used to work in Christian music in Nashville, but my move away from mainstream evangelicalism has made it hard to continue there. So much bad theology in the CCM world (so much of it is oriented around penal substitutionary atonement!), and very little artistically great music either. Still, the enthusiasm for their faith results in a ton of musical output that is very usable in churches, and progressives are lacking in that. Honestly, I would love someone to start making progressive Christian music that reflects our theology and can be incorporated in progressive Christian churches. I'm a musician, not a writer – otherwise I would jump on this myself!

  • What would make music progressive theologically? Presumably, progressive theology / praise would be predominantly in the lyrics. So, maybe you should start with the question, which texts progressive Christians would like to put to music? Then, people gifted in composition could produce the corresponding music. Any texts which particularly strike a cord in progressive hearts?

  • My experience of modern Christian music (and older music too, I guess) is that it is written from a point of victory. Either we are the victors or God is the victor. There seems to be little written from the point of view of the oppressed or the loser.When I look through the Psalms I see a much broader variety of experience. I couldn't imagine Psalm 42/43 being sung in today's church in it's entirety. And the imprecatory psalms just ask for legal trouble!My favourite band these days would probably be the Sons of Korah, an Australian outfit who sing exclusively from the Psalms. They don't seem to shy away from the 'nastier' bits of the Psalter, which I have found quite human.

  • Owl

    I would say that Derek Webb does a good job of displaying a progressive Christian viewpoint through his music. Also, the "alternative rock" band mewithoutyou is fantastic, although their views are more in the realm of Sufism than Panentheism.

  • Anonymous

    Next to all these knowledgeable comments I will leave my simple plea: yes! please! Let's get past those 'Jesus is my boyfriend' songs!

  • another vote here for derek webb and caedmons call too.don't know if he is panenteist, what is that by the way? but he does sing about issues that make your typical fundie squirm 😉

  • Anonymous

    I've always liked Mick Jagger's song "God Gave Me Everything I Want" for this.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6d2S-JG0lg

  • Oliver, it would indeed be primarily the lyrics that would be progressive – although as a fan of progressive rock, it would certainly be possible to make music that fit nicely into the category "progressive" both musically and theologically!I hope to listen to some of the recommended music that I'm not familiar with.There are musicians and lyricists chiming in, by the sound of it, and so there is plenty of room for collaboration. As for me, if and when I write something I'll try to record it and share it. It may be just an instrumental track as am mp3 without vocals (singing isn't my strong point) and lyrics posted separately. I encourage others to do the same.But it sounds like there are people who would find this valuable, and so I'm encouraged!

  • Peter Robinson

    Some might find the work of Canadians Gretta Vosper and Scott Kearns of interest. Gretta is founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity, and Scott, a talented songwriter. Gretta is author of the best-seller 'With or without God;Why the Way we Live is more important than What we Believe'. Scott has published 'The Wonder of Life',47 original songs with full music score; and Gretta and Scott have compiled 'Sing it Forward', traditional hymns rewritten for non-exclusive communities(words only but with the tunes named).Gretta and Scott showcased some of these at a recent international conference of progressives in Melbourne Australia.

  • Thanks for mentioning these resources. I remember now Gretta sharing at least one example of a rewritten hymn in her book. I should probably mention her book again on the blog – I reviewed it here back in 2008.

  • You might want to check out, maybe, 'When will I ever learn to live in God' Van Morrison.

  • Hi James,Delighted to advise that Scott Kearns, my partner and the musician at my church, has written a collection of songs that fit with a non-theistic perspective. that is, there is no reference to god, jesus, miracles, or supernatural power systems. It is written in a contemporary Christian style as that's his background, but absolutely acceptable for schools, community groups, etc. The collection is called "The Wonder of Life" and is available at http://www.progressivechristianity.ca. Also, we've compiled a collection of songs, rewritten or adapted, that are also acceptable. It is called "Sing it Forward". All are either in the public domain or pieces by Scott or I. Hope this helps!gretta vosper (With or Without God)p.s., if anyone wants a pdf. sample, you can find me on the web

  • Thank you for sharing this, Gretta! I just listened to some of the samples of his music on the West Hill Podcast and encourage others to do the same!

  • Sara and Brian

    Please let me know how this project goes. I'd love to connect with more musicians that write this kind of music. My wife, Sara Kay, just recorded a CD of progressive Christian music. It can be hear at her website for free:http://www.reverbnation.com/sarakay#!/artist/artist_songs/569424

  • Thanks for letting me and others know about your new CD! I'll have a listen and then hopefully blog about it!