The Book and the Mosaic

Christianity is a religion with an emphasis of taking example by the unfortunate peoples affected by the dynamics involved in social relations. Social justice, when applied to the distribution of opportunities within societies, is a calling embedded deeply into Christian conscience. This calling is formulated by embracing examples of Jesus’ publicized life, [1] establishing frameworks across its’ expressions [2] and approaches to further these humanitarian missions. While there is an afterlife in Christian beliefs, service is commanded towards the wellbeing of people in the present time. The quality of life for humanity takes on greater importance within a mission-oriented approach than what may be experienced in a probable afterlife. While this zealous passion is celebratory throughout the movement of civilized history, [3] the Christian encounter with cultures and social structures is one compounded with many narratives, several views, and countless vantage points. It is inappropriate to depict the unfolding Christian engagement as wide-swept internalized parasitism, and colonialism [4] is not equatable with imperialism. Care may be taken to consider Christian collaborations, influences, and contributions to contemporary social institutions, the sciences, and services regarded as basic rights for universal access. That stated, the ecumenical mandate to incorporate global song must be aware of its contrariety for efficacy’s struggle to balance itself with effectiveness. [5]

[1] Jesus’ life in biblical writings according to New Testament canon that is standard fare across Christianity.

[2] I broadly expand Christianity here to include faiths, traditions, and denominations that are associated with the historical-religious personhood of Jesus. It is improper to refer to faiths and traditions excluded from Protestantism as denominational, and imprecise to characterize Protestantism as the sole expression of Christianity.

[3] See Colin D. Butler, “North And South, The (Global),” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008, http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/north-and-south-global. Describing “civilized history” utilizes the “development” concept in socioeconomics (i.e., capital). This is particularly important when discussing the Global South, as such a term implies categorization. The Global South is “developing” in comparison to the Global North, which is “developed.”

[4] Colonialism explicitly defines the relationship of an identified power upon which a dependent group is reliant. Imperialism is notable for a nation that acquires occupied space and/or influence into social structures.

[5] The former, efficacy, is dependent on the capacity for effect, whereas the latter is concerned with the production of effect’s strength.

In my understanding, a person born into an interfaith family and culture should not subject religion nor religious affiliation(s) to eradicate any person’s humanity. Religion is one of many ways in approaching the task of living, rather than adhering to a monolithic, singularly identifiable in-group. This brings me to one of the tasks set in Klass’ work [6] – the issue of syncretism. [7] I attempt a preliminary proposal of how a country with a different narrative of cultural development can benefit and challenge the understanding of interfaith singing practices at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. Here is the operational definition offered by Klass in which I present towards incorporating songs from the Global South [8] into ecumenical reasoning. “Religion in a given society will be that instituted process of interaction among the members of that society—and between them and the universe at large as they conceive it to be constituted—which provides them with meaning, coherence, direction, unity, easement, and whatever degree of control over events they perceive as possible.” [9]

[6] Morton Klass, Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995).

[7] See Klass, 140. When encountering syncretism, the apparent conundrum is how separate and distinct belief systems coexist within a culture.

[8] See note 3 above. I continue to use the terms “Global North” and “Global South” here as they are without the troublesome political connotations in “First/Second/Third World.” These are the terms of Seminary dialogue preference at this time.

[9] Klass., 38.

Given the above measurable, i.e., applicable for cross-cultural study, definition, I propose that a unity-in-diversity model is possible for interfaith dialogue and approach. Trinidad and Tobago is a two-island country of the southern Caribbean geographical range. Its population was visibly of East Indian and African ethnicities, [10] though there is significant presence of Chinese, Dutch, and other countries’ races. [11] Most, if not all, peoples of this country are descendants of slave and/or indentured persons, or immigrants. The indigenous peoples are considered lost or virtually extinct. [12] Successive waves of foreign peoples to these islands promoted a coherent cultural formation, propagating a sense of the country’s own culture and identity. To reveal oneself as Trini(dadian), Tobagonian, or Trinbagonian, establishes a distinct form of “Caribbean” that may be compared and contrasted with Jamaican identit(y/ies), for example. These two countries, as others in the Caribbean, are unique in expression while retaining commonalities, despite their inclusions in the same grouping by international standardization of territories. [13]

[10] Infobase Learning, “Country Profile: Trinidad and Tobago,” World News Digest, 2018, http://wnd.infobaselearning.com.libproxy.wlu.ca/recordurl.aspx?wid=98462&nid=477161&umbtype=0. It is curious that this site does not list Spanish alongside English as an official language. Ethnicity is also not an equatable term with race. Ethnicity relies upon social judgment while race implies appearance-based categorization.

[11] Timothy Rommen, “Landscape of Diaspora,” The Cambridge History of World Music, (2013): 560, doi: 10.1017/CHO9781139029476.031.

[12] See Rommen, 557. I was told stories about the natives dwelling in the deeper rainforests, though one was deemed foolish to venture off established pathways. One of my grandmothers’ estates is proximal to a Spanish trade route, though everyone was warned to not veer from clearly distinguishable roads.

[13] See Rommen, 574. An excellent example here presents “Caribbean Medley” and elucidates a picture of this commonality and difference. The track, presented in a Jamaican view, is relatable and shared by other Caribbean-based attendees.

While racial dominion carried through into government-level politics, [14] the people of Trinidad and Tobago held identity as a country of descent and/or cultural origin(s). [15] Demography, as the problem extends in terms of describing this country’s groupings, assumed that a land’s inhabitants should parse themselves into identifiable ethnicities/races without consideration for the territory’s history and development. While this lends to social justice activities digestible for Global North acculturation, it is inappropriate to assume all members of any broadly defined group, including the Global North, internally use this system of demographics when describing their identit(y/ies). As was sketched simplistically above, the people of Trinidad and Tobago may choose to speak of their origin as country-specific instead of separating by assumptions of racial backgrounds, without affront to others accepted as their equivalents. This is unlike Canadian multiculturalism, in which ethnicity is grouped by previous national ties. Canada, as a mosaic model, bears nationality as several ethnicities under a country label. Trinidad and Tobago has had a different approach, as a chapter (country origin) contains paragraphs (the slave, indentured, immigrants, and descendants), which composes a book (geographical identity). Paragraphs are distinct in a chapter, as chapters are in a book. This model permits a person of Trinidad and Tobago to move across origin classifications without loss of what they deem as their identifiable labelling schema(ta). [16]

[14] See note 3 above.

[15] See Rommen, 574, 566. In this diaspora, Hindu and Muslim workers shared in community creation. This is an example of how interfaith and interculturalism could emerge in such conditions. Rommen does not go on to explicate how the various groupings established a workable harmony, yet the example provided serves an intimate snapshot of Trinidad and Tobago’s ethnic/racial sense of identity.

[16] I was exposed to an experimental “salad bowl” analogy of interculturalism by a faculty candidate in a formal interview procedure. I rejected it upon belated reflection as suitable for my understanding, and revised its conceptual framework into a “book” analogy instead. A book worked better for my viewing of the unlikeness of interculturalism to multiculturalism. If another analogy or this was (already) developed, I did not know of such at the time of this paper’s composition.

This observation is pertinent to the stress I place upon the Global South as not a cohesive corpus from which broadest cultural generalizations discuss Christianity’s impact by global song. It is tempting for Seminary [17] discussion to oversimplify the Global North and Global South [18] when speaking of cultural differences; inclusiveness by Christianity, and exclusivity of Christianity. Yet, I ask the reader to attend to such classifications as socioeconomic, not cultural, nor ethnic. The question proposed by Inshallah’s work [19] – what does the singing of other peoples’ stories and songs mean for those persons – bears another opportunity in colloquies for alternative voicing.

[17] Shorthand term in this paper for Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

[18] Butler, “North And South.”

[19] Inshallah, Sing the Circle Wide: Songs of Faith from Around the World, (Waterloo, Ontario: Kanata Centre, 2017), 10.

Global song is Christian music influenced or originated by the Global South. Church participatory demographics show a progressive shift in Christian flourishing to the world beyond the immediate familiarities of a disparaged West, [20] incorporated into the term “Global North” as of the early 1970s. [21] Developed civilization continues as illustrated into Caucasian basis and Eurocentric, despite changes in ethnic densities, global passage, and diasporas. Per Harling [22] bemoaned Christianity is losing meaning for the peoples of the Global North. Harling opened with a sense of expressing wonder by the Christian face of the Global South. The author’s memorandum expressed a great deal to forward and speak of the enrichment by Christianity in the Global South, requesting traditional theology be open for reinterpretation.

[20] Per Harling, “Global Song and Theology: Background and Context,” Music & Mission: Toward a Theology and Practice of Global Song, ed. S. T. Kimbrough, Jr. (New York, New York: United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, 2007), 65.

[21] See 18 above.

[22] See note 20 above.

Harling’s article [23] could be adapted to reduce its author’s view by its introductory emphasis on a singular “white, rich face” that could revitalize their Christianity by looking to the Global South’s “dark, poor face.” Our class’ examination of Iris Young [24] focused on how her recontextualization of Marxist theory could provide a selection of five independent criteria to identify oppressed groups. Young narrows upon the predominant oppressor as a typified white male as perpetuator and propagator of the Other as definable by indicators. Her activist essay speaks to injustice founded in capitalism by a specific picture of patriarchy. It is not Harling’s rich/poor dichotomy concerning this paper. Nor is the white/dark dichotomy of highest importance. Rather, Harling’s introductory assessment that the Global North requires intervention into the Global South to restore evidence of life and purpose is the assumed problem. While Young’s essay could direct a critique of Harling’s theological memorandum towards that problem, I turn Young’s immediacy aside by reminding the reader that I am not speaking of a representative figurine, nor am I investigating distributive justice in her oppression model.

[23] See note 20 above.

[24] Iris Young, “Five Faces of Oppression,” (1979), 37-63.

In this potential viewing of Harling, promoting global song within such a motive may be opening a way further to dissuasion and disengagement from Christianity in the Global North. This lens is vulnerable to persuasive-style essays based in appropriation discussions and reviews of history focused on dualistic (i.e., us versus them; the Other) stances. I consider the ideals of social justice movements that seek to uplift the Global South while breaking the Global North may contribute to fracturing reconciliatory dialogue. As globalization grapples with polyvocality, this paper holds to my conviction that perpetuating a two-sided conversation with little room to explore more possibilities and approaches is disruptive. While it agrees and holds to an ideal that groups must answer for the testaments set via history, [25] in this paper I do not accept that a reply nor may a response based in oppressor-oppressed dualistic conversation is sufficient to move through these controversies for interfaith orientations.

[25] See note 4 above. Cultures may encounter their participation in colonialism and/or imperialism.

Is the idea of conceiving a space for interculturalism possible within the Seminary’s mandate for inclusiveness? I suggest it may be so. We explored antecedents for interfaith practice in forum-style and immersive learning experiences by Inshallah’s class. With experiential learning pedagogy for the course, my classmates and I tested a simulation that I liken to Trinidad and Tobago. With small membership, less than ten students and one instructor often had little else to bring beside us as firm strongholds. Small groups where not every member can partner with someone closest to our construed selves presented challenges that could not be emulated by the Caribbean experience. Still, we had the same materials (textbooks, choir practices as included in our tutorial and assignment components), and each member did as we would. In a simile’s fashion, the tasks for all were identical and lent to us the ability to engage our perceptions, experiences, and identity shaping in unique, though interconnected, approaches. In the first lecture session, all participants were asked to share their previous familiarity with music and faith-as-defined by the participant. Music was our conversation, and our Inshallah course challenged us by/with the idea that music could be a universal communicator for interfaith and intercultural relations. By employment of this paper’s glimpse at my birth land, I suggest an avenue for reverse missions.

The implications for a reverse missions’ voice is not further contributive, in my view, to the concerns raised at the beginning of this paper by the Global North seeking the Global South for rejuvenating their Christianity. A reverse mission appears in the person of another, unfamiliar view bringing in their perspectives of global song. However, the mission aspect is not to revive another’s Christianity by presenting alternative interpretations and frameworks for adoption nor assimilation. A reverse mission proposes to reawaken the Christianity of the observer-participant that is theirs, in what capability and capacity may be accessible. Two examples of these are demonstrable by Hawn’s chapters [26] on Pablo Sosa and John Bell.

[26] C. Michael Hawn, Gather into One: Praying and Singing Globally. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B Eerdmas Publishing Co, 2003).

Sosa’s vantage spot experimented with adapting Christianity and the injustices abound in Latin America in a bidirectional relationship through recontextualization. He engendered a reverse mission by inspiring Inshallah to consider our stories as Canadians. [27] Not were we to sing only of the world’s peoples, but to consider our involvement and the shaping of our stories, spaces, and places. [28] Each encounter with music as new and/or familiar is a sharing with human living. [29] In other words, Sosa’s work was an example in Hawn’s text [30] that functioned as bidirectional to pair ethnicity and culture with Christianity, and Christianity with culture and ethnicity. Another exemplar model in reverse missions is Hawn’s chapter on John Bell, with Graham Maule and the Wild Goose Resource/Worship Group(s), forwarded and expressed the Iona Community’s invocations to St Columba’s peace as back-and-forth to discourse, [31] and George MacLeod’s entirety of human living as spiritual. [32] As such, their collaborations and pilgrim movements fluidized singing as people’s involvement and returning evocation of feeling as important in one’s spirituality. How are these two persons significant for a reverse mission stance for global song by Trinidad and Tobago?

[27] Inshallah, 11.

[28] Inshallah, 7.

[29] See note 19 above.

[30] See note 26 above.

[31] Hawn, 194.

[32] Hawn, 196-97.

Trinidad and Tobago’s songs bear a rich musical heritage by the country’s interculturalism. Dominant genres of which I carry some familiarity include: Chutney, soca, calypso, parang, and chutney-soca. Parang is my particular interest for enrichment and benefit of the Inshallah course for three reasons: (1) parang can be voiced in Spanish combined with Patois, (2) developed from Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago encounters, and (3) most visible during Christmastime. The first is important due to sharing in cultural shaping with language. The second is illustrative of a cross-cultural synthesis. [33] The third is one that permits conversancy by peers and colleagues into what may be a foreign musical genre. With sub-genres that embrace a variety within parang, different themes and styles may be open to dialogue, when established by the traits of parang that embraces its Caribbean intercultural and musical meeting place.

[33] Lutheran World Federation, “Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities” (document, 1996).

Bringing parang into Inshallah’s work presents a challenge and two benefits for the Seminary. The first is that parang, founded by a form of hybridization, defies the Global North’s simplified and generalizable presumptions for the Global South’s cultures. For Trinidad and Tobago, interculturalism thrives on identity as not based in ancestry. Identity is personhood in the contemporary. This is one method of how individuals do not have to hold to ethnic ancestry to establish validity in an intercultural community. Brushed upon in this paper is the notion that the people of the country define Trinbagonian identity, not by conceptualizations that enforce Otherness and human separation by projected virtue of ancestral origin(s). The book analogy I devised earlier in this paper takes an argumentative format instead of a narrative, i.e., the book is closer by conceptualization to an organized collection of essays rather than a thematic anthology of short stories. This is not a model in which multiculturalism’s mosaic may assimilate readily, given that the individual/group as person(s)/people are evaluated by humanity, unlike an evaluation that may select density and/or presence as weight for inclusion.

Benefits intertwine with the presented challenge. As an academic, ecumenical, and interfaith-based institution, the Seminary’s mission to be inclusive may discover yet another source and avenue for human and faith relations. I would welcome further examination of this book image as an intercultural analogy. While I do not argue this model for accommodation, I am curious to develop this prototype with peers and colleagues. Parang is what I may assist in contributing to the musical space of the Seminary, and if music were the meeting place, story, and theology of the people, [34] then this intercultural book would begin its composition here.

[33] Harling, 75.

January 31, 2018.
Butler, Colin D. “North And South, The (Global).” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences: Encyclopedia.com, 2008. Accessed December 30, 2017. http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/north-and-south-global.
Butler explains the change of West and East into Global North and Global South, placing the weight of term shifting as economic development. Helpful for one who was not accustomed to these newer terms, and the political reflection is of interest.

Harling, Per. “Global Song and Theology: Background and Context.” Music & Mission: Toward a Theology and Practice of Global Song. Edited by S. T. Kimbrough, Jr. New York, New York: United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, March 19, 2007.
Harling is a contributor to Protestant ecumenism. This work, while potentially offensive by its idealistic tone in embracing theologies of the Global South, is an important discussion to navigate when considering one’s interpretation when considering recontextualization.

Hawn, C. Michael. Gather into One: Praying and Singing Globally. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B Eerdmas Publishing Co., 2003.
A bedrock-like stratum for global song in worship, Hawn introduces five individuals as interlocutors for stressing the importance and caution when a church incorporates music beyond its usual repertoire. I recommend this work for readability and willingness to ease a Christian into this conversation who may have little musical knowledge.

Infobase Learning. ”Country Profile: Trinidad and Tobago.” World News Digest, 2018. Accessed January 30, 2018. http://wnd.infobaselearning.com.libproxy.wlu.ca/recordurl.aspx?wid=98462&nid=477161&umbtype=0.
Demographical synopsis of Trinidad and Tobago’s racial/ethnic groups, includes a section of population level descriptive statistical reporting. The summary of racial/ethnic history is succinct as a snapshot.

Inshallah. Sing the Circle Wide: Songs of Faith from Around the World. Waterloo, Ontario: Kanata Centre, 2017.
This songbook for the Inshallah: Worship and Global Song course is a curation of global song from a myriad of locations, times, and situations. Available for public purchase and considered as standard repertoire for this community interfaith choir.

Klass, Morton. Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995.
A thorough and concise work, Klass features religion as a subject for anthropological studies. Each chapter considers a topic in an essay format, and presents other ways to examine religion without delving as a theologian may. Klass’ operational definition of religion was a gem to this paper, and would do well to gain relevancy to theological study. It is useful for studying religions as culturally constructed.

Lutheran World Federation. “Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities.” Document, 1996.
This outline serves Christian ecumenism an opportunity to delineate moral and ethical guidelines when considering cultural integration beyond tradition. Recommended for its summaries of Christianity and culture as a dynamic relationship, this work complimented Hawn’s book for this paper’s research.

Rommen, Timothy. “Landscapes of Diaspora.” The Cambridge History of World Music. Edited by Philip V. Bohlman, 557-83. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. doi: 10.1017/CHO9781139029476.031.
Well-adjusted piece for the interweaving of Caribbean culture(s) and identit(y/ies), Rommen interweaves with musical genres and expressions. More in-depth than geographical nor demographic sketches, Rommen’s article may be a next resource to review after the country profile consulted by this paper.

Young, Iris. “Five Faces of Oppression.” 1979.
While of little use for this paper’s immediate scope, Young outlines oppression criteria in an excellent identification procedure. The introduction depicted good research methodology and would be contributive to further studies. The body onwards read as more anecdotal than constructive, and the article neglects to own its processes. The detailed preliminary for capitalist socioeconomic theory was most illuminating, though there was little to advance for application as the body regressed into a poor conclusion. Its strengths remain confined to the introduction.

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