This week as I was sitting in on Lina Thompson’s course in our Urban Youth Ministry certificate program, she shared some thoughts about “jazz theology” from Carl F. Ellis, Jr. in Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience. All kinds of jazz-faith-leadership comparisons have been made in recent years, but I appreciated this layer in thinking about doing theology “from below,” in particular when serving in inner-city settings.
In a nutshell, classical music is formal, carefully structured, and finds its beauty in accurately presenting the original intentions of the composer. On the other hand, jazz is dynamic, improvisational, and finds its beauty in the soul of the performers and in the act of performance. Jazz theology, then, is participatory theology. It is concerned with the transformation of the soul and the impact of the communication (performance) of the message—especially upon the lives of the oppressed.
In jazz theology, what God is doing now in the midst of the neighborhood matters tremendously alongside all we learn from classical theology. It’s not that we should put classical approaches aside, but as we pay attention to what God is doing on the margins, we have the opportunity to read the Bible alongside people for whom its words open up new layers of meaning.
That’s worth listening to.
Posted May 04 2011 by