Joshua Busman on “Religious Listening”

Avid Listener fans might remember Andrew Dell’Antonio’s essay on “Spiritual Listening,” one of the first essays we published. This week we bring you a new framework, a new way to think about listening: Religious Listening. This essay (and three that will follow) come to us from Joshua Busman. I like this guy and his writing. Full disclosure: Josh was one of my students many moons ago, but I’m sure I’m not biased at all. 🙂

Here’s a teaser from the beginning of the essay: “A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 40 percent of religiously unaffiliated people identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” In 2010, USA Today reported that nearly 72 percent of millennials would describe themselves as “more spiritual than religious.” By all accounts, the “spiritual, but not religious” trend (“SBNR” in Internet shorthand) is an important aspect of contemporary religious life. Writer Matthew Becklo has argued that SBNR has a uniquely strong hold in the musical sphere, becoming “the boring new normal” among contemporary pop musicians. Citing quotes from a laundry list of the biggest names in popular music, Becklo argues that SBNR creates a “middle way” that allows artists to avoid the shallow hedonism of materialism while simultaneously side-stepping the specificity of any particular religious tradition.”

Josh uses his own research on Evangelical Christian music-making as a backdrop for his exploration of Religious Listening: “When asked about my research on evangelical Christian music-making in the United States or about my personal relationship to the Christian tradition in which I was raised, I often like to identify myself as “religious, but not spiritual.” That is to say, I think it’s important to get together and sing or break Eucharistic bread with one another once a week even if there isn’t a spiritual being that guarantees the cosmic efficacy of such an event (which I believe there probably isn’t). The religious rituals themselves are powerful systems of meaning-making that ought not be ignored.”

There are lots of possible angles to this mode of listening, as you’ll see in his upcoming essays. Read the entire essay here, and stay tuned for the series!

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

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