Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Common Non-Denominator

This video will be interesting to our readers for many reasons, particularly if they hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, or sing a lot of funerals. I understand from a close Minnesotan friend and nun that Minnesota funerals generally have a great number of jello dishes at the receptions.

But I digress. What intrigues me personally about the video is something Marty Haugen has to say (beginning at the 1:00 mark) about the consciously denominationally non-specific character of his music:
I have several hundred pieces of published music. It's used mostly in Roman Catholic and Lutheran circles, although it's used in other denominations as well. I try and write to those common threads. (Choir sings: "An open hand, a willing heart...) So I say, "What do we share, what can we all sing?"



Haugen's attitude, while laudably genial, should be of concern to Catholic musicians, whose music accompanies words of faith--words that help congregations to make acts of faith.

Faith is content-rich. What Haugen seems to be saying here is that some of this content--that which is not shared among Catholics and non-Catholic Christians--usually does not make its way into his music.

Thankfully, a lot of the Catholic faith does overlap with that of non-Catholic Christians. But some of it doesn't, and Calvin and Luther would be (and were) among the first to insist upon this.

Intriguingly, a lot of what does not overlap has to do with sacramental practice. For example, at Mass.

And overlapping with this difference is a marked distinction in soteriological convictions--of how we are saved. And soteriology is central to how we pray.

Personally I am an ecumenist. I strongly believe that the Lord intended for all Christians to be one, and that our divisions are scandalous. But I as equally strongly believe that pretending that our real differences do not exist does not contribute to our ultimate unity. Instead, they make all of us weak in our Christian faith.

It seems to me that some of the academic disciplines have been led by similar concerns that Haugen mentions regarding his own writing, and that these studies have been weakened by them. Perhaps we are witnessing something of a recovery from this, among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. All the better. It seems to me that true dialogue occurs most fruitfully when each speaks out of his/her own convictions, rather than when we avoid messy or difficult subjects.

Our unity, when it comes, should be one of richness, and not reduction.