Saturday, July 14, 2012

Musical Theology for Our Day

Wherever little children are hungry and cry,
Wherever people ain't free
Wherever folks are fightin' for their rights
that's where I'm gonna be, ma...
...that's where I'm gonna be
                                         .....Woody Guthrie

Today July 14 commemorates the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie. He isn't listed among the great theologians of his age yet he sang gospel truth about the human condition. His song, Jesus Christ which I have featured in this clip still stirs the possum among those Catholics who like being "right". Who would expect to find and article titled "Woody Guthrie versus Joseph Ratzinger"  Some of the comments from those last two links should be read while holding a good stiff drink if you have any familiarity with Catholic Social Teachings

In an article celebrating this anniversary  Larry Guthrie writes of Woody's Catholic connections. These aren't the sort of connections that attract a postulator. They are more like a series of dots that remind us of the universal character of Catholicism at its best.

Woody married a Catholic woman, Mary Jennings as a teenager and their seven year marriage ended with the strain of a young singer constantly on the move. Woody then married a Jewish woman, Marjorie Greenblatt, the mother of Arlo Guthrie. Arlo has a colourful Catholic heritage including membership of the Secular Order of St Francis. While 12th century Francis heard a call to "rebuild my Church" Arlo has heard a call to  literally buy a Church and found the Guthrie Centre.

"The Guthrie Center’s mission is to bring individuals together for cultural, educational, and spiritual exchange. The Center is dedicated to meeting the ongoing needs of the community by working together with other non-profit agencies to serve those in need. In doing so we hope to create an environment where individuals can come together to cultivate a deeper awareness of culture, humanity and the environment of which we are all a part."

Larry Guthrie  writes of Woody Guthrie's Social Gospel:

"Woody’s words were a social gospel. Although Woody did not seem to like participating regularly in an organized religion, he did develop a great concern for social justice. Social justice evolved from the “Social Gospel,” a movement in the early 20th century. It developed from Protestant to Baptist to Episcopal and on to Catholic. It believed that all Christians should work to improve social conditions for the poor, the sick and the downtrodden. Many of these who supported the Social Gospel supported the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, and later the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s."

Woody Guthrie was one of my musical mentor's. Today I  also honour his memory as a  man of faith and courage who sang the Gospel truth outside the sanctuary..

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