interreligious dialogue, modern nation-state, music, political theology

Music, Social Force, and Interreligious Dialogue

I’ve been told that in the 60s and 70s, it was music that changed things. It was music that stopped the war. Now whether this is true or not doesn’t particularly matter to me. The point is, and I believe it was Dylan saying this in the documentary No Direction Home, that music has lost its power. The ability for music to change things is gone for now, or it has been significantly diminished.

Being something of a youngster, having not lived through the 60s and 70s, I have a hard time understanding this idea that music has been diminished. For me, it has always been that way. The notion that music could bring world leaders to their knees seems impossible, they seem too well insulated — or simply do not care. Even today, with the Foo Fighters singing of conflict with the state for speaking out seems entirely plausible, not because music today will provoke such a response (after all, this is a mainstream band who lives a comfortable life while playing to an image of revolution), but because the state naturally responds with tactical force. Its as if the revolutionary songs of today are a lament or a dream. The world is not as it was.

With music diminished and blunted, by capitalistic forces that commodifies revolutionary change, where do social forces lie? Where is the power to change, to halt the army in its tracts as it rattles its sabers and moves toward war? I am beginning to believe it is in interreligious dialogue.

It is no secret, for anyone paying attention to the news, that the current American administration was and continues to saber rattle against Iran. The rhetoric has picked up, even while there is a certain shift toward diplomacy. In fact I remember a month or two back reading an article comparing the rhetoric before this Iraq war and the rhetoric today on Iran. The comparisons were striking.

One might say, the democrats would never let such a thing happen. And my answer would be, you really want to risk that? After all, Bush is still in office. They feed off one another. However, religions do not have to feed off the state. In fact, discussion between religions can show us how human we all are, as opposed to how powerful we are.

The point here is not to use interreligious dialogue to convert, or even to change others (this is afterall dialogue), but merely for the idea of exposure and connection. Globalization is in itself an ambiguous thing, however right now it is run by those who think of money first. What if religion, or at least Christianity, were to take the connections that globalization makes available and rub shoulders with everyone else. The more connections we make, the more the reality of other people’s humanity is made evident, and the harder I think it would be for us to wage an electronic war on a demonized people because our government wants us to.

At the same time, we can give the finger to the enlightenment story that religion is the cause of war and conflict. We could effectively bring home the idea that people around the globe are people and they are our neighbors. In a very real sense, the church would be fulfilling its role as a peace maker and keeping at least our warring state in check, which music did, while also living with those people of other colors, which music did not seem to move us towards.

Oh, and for grins, here is a great link from the BBC of a Capuchin monk heading up a heavy metal band. Who says monks don’t rock?


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