Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Music and Spirituality


As I inquired in yesterday's post, how can a self-respecting Goddess-worshipping pagan love the musical monument to patriarchal Christianity that is Handel's Messiah?

Although I have not been a believing or practising Christian for 35 years, I still often find great beauty, spiritual meaning and emotional poignancy in selected Christian stories, music and art. Even if I am no longer a literal believer, Christianity will always remain my cultural heritage. It is inextricably tied up with my childhood memories and personal spiritual development. When the right note is struck, it can still have profound resonance for me.

Sam Keen, in his book Hymns to an Unknown God, really captured this lingering connection of the heart when he wrote:

The truth of the spirit . . . is better conveyed in song and poetry than by propositions. The best of the Christian tradition, which continues to nourish me, is expressed in the music it inspired. Often, my mind is uncomforted by any set of beliefs that can stand the test of doubt, but when I listen to Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze," my soul lies down beside still waters and a mysterious Lord is still my shepherd.

28 comments:

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

I am the same way. No longer a believer, but raised in the Lutheran church as a child. The songs are ingrained in me. :)

Snap said...

Agreed! I go to church during the holy days (Holidays) just to hear the music. A good chorus can still give me goose bumps.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

when i was young i prayed for years to become a nun. i am glad those prayers were not heard!

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

At this time of year, I always recall the beauty of High Mass on Christmas Eve. The songs, the tradition, the incense.....so many visual delights to soak in.
Maybe, in the end, it truly is the best of us. That once a year at least, the majority can behave and come together as one.
Wouldn't it be lovely if that was so ALL YEAR.....
And yes, left the Catholic Church years ago.
Lovely post.

XXOO~~
Anne

mxtodis123 said...

This time of year awakens fond memories of Christmas past for me. Raised an Episcopalian, in my later years I became an ordained Interfaith minister, but I do not practice in a church. Spirituality is all around us.
Mary

Jeanne said...

A powerfully written poem or song can resonate across religious/cultural boundaries. Often I have run across a saying, a proverb, a chant, a hymn from another culture or another religion that gives me goosebumps. I think a person should not condemn but keep an open mind and an open heart to the beauty and wisdom found in song.

Adam said...

I used to be a moderate believer with many questions, but I've eventually diluted into a non-religious agnostic if I had to give myself a label.

I do like Christmas, and almost all christmas songs

Lois said...

I can call it Yule or Solstice, but I need my Christmas tunes at times!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

My heritage is also Christian, although I've moulded it over the years to suit me; I've added touches from different religions, and some touches of non-religious ideas (my own and others). I consider myself more of a spiritual individual than a religious one. I don't actually belong to any one type, but feel that all religions, and cultures, have something beautiful to offer.

Linda Wildenstein said...

So many of us left the trappings of the "church" long ago, but as you said hold the magic of the gatherings and ritual, song and celebration deep in our being. I have had to recreate that very thing for my grands so that they can a least be aware of what the church has contributed to life. They are still newbies when it comes to some things that for me and my daughter are "natural parts of the season". I want them to know the whys and what fors so they too can be atuned. Thanks for this post. Very good reminder for us all of the cultural impact of Christianity and Judaism on our lives. Oma Linda

Wendy S. said...

I love some of the traditional "Christmas Music" like you because it is beautiful and inspires my spirit. Art is art for it's own sake. I think W. Shakespeare said it best. If he didn't say it, then someone else did and that's how I feel. I'll have to go listen to The Messiah now.

Professor Chaos said...

Sure, just like you don't have to be an anti-Semite to love Wagner. Beautiful music is beautiful music.

Laurie said...

I think we should all be able to enjoy the beauty and ritual of all churches and not feel committed or uncomfortable with our own personal belief, I love the ritual of the catholic church, I love the music of the Baptist, I belong to non, but I know where my heart lays,

mrsduncanmahogany said...

There is something soothing about ritual, no matter what the base. I too grew up in a house filled to the brim with Catholicism. Turned out, we just didn't agree! :)

Blueberry said...

I *love* so much music and art that came from the church or maybe as a result of its funding - without loving the Church itself. The whole spectrum of styles are wonderful, from gospel to Gregorian chants. I am a real sap for boy's choir.

sophie...^5 said...

You have a special way with words, Debra...many thanks!

Robin Larkspur said...

This post resonates with me. I sang in the Episcopal church choir fro the age of 6 to age 14. So many hymns I love. And Christmas carols are so special to me.

Jane of The Jewels said...

Appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us. I'm not sure how I feel about Christmas music - some of it makes me want to cringe, remembering how naive and brain-washed I once was - and some of it makes me want to 'believe' again... !!

Riot Kitty said...

I think cultural heritage is a good way to put it. I have a problem with dogma but like some of the ceremony.

Jim said...

I so agree Debra, my sentiments exactly.Christian music can do the same to me and I do no longer identify as Christian.

Guillaume said...

The Godless heathen I am thinks there is one reason why anyone should enjoy Handel's Messiah: because it is great music. And so much better than the rubbish written for Christian songwriters.

jadedj said...

For me, the music transcends the man-made "requirements" that taint and cheapen the myth (eternal damnation...a vengeful god, etc...if you DON'T "believe"). If you/one take the story of Jesus philosophically, then the myth of Christianity becomes beautiful again. So I listen with this in mind...and it is indeed beautiful. The idea of "believing", ruins it for me, just as it would if I were required to believe in Zeus, or Medusa or any other mythical character.

G. B. Miller said...

I like very little Christmas music nowadays.

About the only Christmas music I can listen to is the tradition stuff done by non-traditional (i.e. commercial) singers.

Still resonates even now for this non-church going person.

laughingwolf said...

great songs/tunes are great, in and of themselves, regardless of what 'religion' inspired them :)

Laeli said...

I feel the same way about churches and church bells:)

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

I think music like that is part of the public domain. You can like it regardless, thanks to the heritage factor.

Francie M said...

Beautifully said, Debra!

Magic Love Crow said...

Well written Debra! I know for myself, I love Christmas music. I don't know why, but I always get very mushy and feel like crying!