This weekend, I am giving a presentation about teaching film and religion based on a course I designed and taught approximately one year ago. Even if I knew it before teaching this course, the experience solidified that the public work of theology is being done in open forums through creative media outlets. I mean, I expected to find a dozen or so ‘secular’ songs that deal out theology. But, I found more than enough songs to play one song at the beginning of each class meeting for the entire term. Even then, students began referring to new songs, and it became clear that music is a deep well of spirituality.
I used the playlist to practice literary analysis with my class. I played a song and showed the lyrics, then we observed themes and assessed the content based on, and influencing, our definitions of religion. Many students expressed how surprised they were that so many familiar songs dealt with religious themes. They’d never noticed it before. But now, they can’t shut off the observation. Religion is influencing their beliefs and understanding through popular media.
I have a few favorites among these songs: Spirit in the Sky, by Norman Greenbaum, which incited an interesting theological discussion from my kids when they were young. Him, by Lily Allen, which explicitly explores the nature of God. And possibly my new favorite, Go Go Govinda, a bollywood number from the film OMG!.
All this to say, I am posting my Spotify playlist here for those who want to listen for themselves. Many genres and styles are represented in this list. Enjoy, and let me know your favorites in the comments!
If you are interested in Religion and Popular Culture, check out my new book, So Say We All: Religion, Spirituality, and the Divine in Battlestar Galactica, available for order now. Also, check out blog posts on science fiction and a resource page with more to come, Religion and Pop Culture Resources.