More on church disagreements: 10-11-11
Christians take to the streets: 10-13-11

Celebrating a faith "Superstar': 10-12-11

Sometimes it takes music to deliver a spiritual message. No other medium can do it in the way that music can.

JC-Superstar And today is a good day to be thinking about music and faith because it was on this date in 1971 that "Jesus Christ Superstar" had its broadway debut. Forty years later it's still among my favorite pieces of pop culture faith music, despite criticism of it from some Christians who considered it sacrilegious.

The opera -- and why not call it that? -- had been performed in various places around the country and the album had sold 2.5 million copies before it hit Broadway. But there's something about making it to Broadway that gives a work authority and visibility that it would not otherwise have.

Andrew Lloyd Weber and Timothy Rice turned our some extraordinarily memorable and moving music for this work -- songs that still are listened to by a large audience.

Here's a link to a YouTube version of the lead song from the musical as it appeared in the movie version. Notice the key question: "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed?"

It's the old question from the New Testament that Jesus asks Peter: "But who do you say that I am?"

In the end, that's the question that anyone who hears about Jesus must answer, whether the person answering decides to be a follower or not.

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Speaking of music, I don't usually review music here or point readers to good new music, but today I want to introduce you to an intriguing new CD, "Everything Is Everywhere," by Carrie Newcomer. She has combined here American folk tradition with the music traditions of India (where I lived for two years as a boy and where I learned to love Indian music).  I received the CD several weeks ago but hadn't had a chance to write about it until today. In the meantime, my friends over at recently did a piece about Carrie Newcomer and her spiritual music. To read about that, click here.

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Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, by Fr. James Martin. This past Sunday at my church we sang a hymn in which the words include a plea for the appreciation of "laughter's healing art." In effect, that's what this author, a Jesuit priest, is asking for in this attractive and useful book. He argues that many people of faith was way, way too serious, even though he acknowledges that the life-and-death issues with which religion deals can be deeply serious. But, he says, we need not take ourselves so seriously. We can, instead, engage in laughter's healing art. And a light-hearted approach to spiritual matters is not just for Christians. Martin is wise enough to include other traditions in his treatment, too. For instance, he quotes the Qur'an as saying this: "It is God who causes your laughter and your tears." Islam even has a tradition in which it is said that Allah laughs. From personal experience, we know laughter can heal. So why don't we allow more laughter into our spiritual lives? (I try to do that here now and then by devoting a day to religious jokes. It's been awhile since I've done that, so this book is a helpful reminder that I owe you some yuks.


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