Theology has the responsibility of explaining how God, absolute in essence, encounters humans within their own experiences and cultures. In other words, we cannot simply approach theology as the philosophical discipline that determines how God views creation but we must also show how the human being encounters and understands God through experiences. Theology necessarily becomes: "Faith, seeking understanding."
I attempt to engage this blog from a theological perspective because of the influence the church seems to have as an agent of socialisation. Whether or not it uses this influence for the common good is a separate issue that may be addressed in another blog.
The church has been the moral and spiritual conscience of many modern-western societies. Its tentacles have reached into and influenced policy makers; the establishment of NGOs and other special interest groups and has even led in crusades against others who seemed or dared to be revolutionary or reformist. Because of the church's influence in society, there has been this constant tension between that which is perceived as sacred and that which is perceived to be secular. There is sacred music (music deemed appropriate for the worship of a most Holy God) and secular music (music that glorifies Satan and therefore must NEVER be used in our solemn assemblies...[all sarcasms very much intended]). But does this tension between the secular and the sacred reflect a real conflict?
I am a Caribbean man, of African ancestry. I am very much appreciative of the eclectic cultural heritage that is represented here. What we accept as our indigenous culture is really a melting pot of world cultures - that is the Caribbean distinctive. Somehow, growing up in church, some of these cultural representations were obviously treated as superior to others. We sang very slow, mournful hymns (that is what they sounded like to me at the time), a sharp contrast to the high energy soca and groovy calypso (kaiso) that I was so drawn to. The church was very adamant that such music (which glorifies Satan) should never be played in a church.
Secular versus Sacred
So often there are people who are exempt from our worship experience because they are asked to bring a self that does not encapsulate who they really are, into the experience. I was expected to always bring my European self while my African self was stifled and denigrated. Certainly this kind of environment is not conducive for worship in truth (since people cannot be true to themselves). There are many who can relate to the Dancehall and Kumina sounds and it may augur well for the Jamaican church to cater to those who feel drawn to that form of expression. This is not to say that there is not room for the hymns. I am only humbly suggesting that in order to bring all of who we are into an encounter with all of who God is, we must be allowed to embrace all that our culture fundamentally represents.