Roundup: Virtual artist residency, song for All Saints’ Day, Sliman Mansour, and more

VIRTUAL ARTIST RESIDENCY: 2023 Inbreak Residency: Led by Dea Jenkins, the organization Inbreak, which promotes social healing through the arts, is hosting its third annual (virtual) residency, open to US-based artists of any discipline interested in exploring the intersections of art, faith, and race in the United States. The residency provides a collaborative environment and opportunities for artistic development and creative leadership growth, with group workshops, group feedback sessions, studio visits, and a curriculum featuring a curated selection of viewings, readings, and dialogue prompts. It culminates in a live or virtual exhibition.

Applications are due by November 20, 2022; you are required to submit work samples, an artist statement and/or short bio, and a community-focused project proposal. Four applicants will be selected for the 2023 cohort, which runs from January to May, and each given a $500 stipend.

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SONG: “Lux Aeterna”: “Lux Aeterna” (Eternal Light) is the Communion antiphon for the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. The traditional Latin text has been set to music by many composers. Recorded at All Hallows’ Gospel Oak in London in May 2021, this performance by the Gesualdo Six is of the setting by Spanish Renaissance composer Cristóbal de Morales. I share it in anticipation of All Saints’ Day on November 1.

The lyrics translate as follows:

May eternal light shine upon them, Lord,
with your saints forever, for you are good.

Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and may light perpetual shine upon them,
with your saints forever, for you are good.

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VIDEO: “A priest, a rabbi, a curator and an artist look at The Finding of Moses: This ten-minute film from the National Gallery in London features interviews with the Rev. Ninus Khako, Rabbi Dr. Deborah Kahn-Harris, Foundling Museum Director Caro Howell MBE, and artist Ali Cherri on The Finding of Moses (early 1630s) by Orazio Gentileschi.

The video came out of the Interfaith Sacred Art Forum and the Sacred Art in Collections pre-1900 Network, both launched last year as part of the National Gallery’s Art and Religion research strand. In their inaugural 2021–22 season, the theme was “Crossing Borders,” and they have used two paintings in the museum’s collection as a foundation for wide-ranging events and activities. The theme for 2022–23 is “The Art of Creation,” and the two paintings around which conversations and activities are based are Rachel Ruysch’s Flowers in a Vase (1685) and Claude Monet’s Flood Waters (1896).

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VIDEO: “Introducing Annie Dillard” by Tish Harrison Warren: In this video from the Trinity Forum, Anglican priest and writer Tish Harrison Warren introduces the forum’s fall reading, the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1975) by Annie Dillard. The book comprises Dillard’s evocative reflections on her time spent wandering about and observing the lively woods, creeks, and natural world of Virginia’s Roanoke Valley while she convalesced from illness.

“She [Dillard] has taught me, in the words of Eugene Peterson, to pray with my eyes open,” Warren says. “She has taught me to notice God at work in the world in ways that I wouldn’t.”

I hear Dillard quoted all the time, but I’m embarrassed to say that I have not yet read this quintessential book of hers! Though I do own it. I have now pulled it off the shelf and put it in my “to read imminently” stack. 😊

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VISUAL MEDITATION: “The Taste of Palestine” by Meryl Doney, on the art of Sliman Mansour: Sliman Mansour is a Palestinian Christian artist whose work centers on the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation. This ArtWay article is a great, concise introduction to his work, spotlighting four of his paintings: Picking Olives; The Flight to Egypt; Hagar; and The Holy Family in an Olive Grove.

Mansour, Sliman_Flight to Egypt
Sliman Mansour (Palestinian, 1947–), The Flight to Egypt, 1984. Oil on canvas.

On two related notes:

Roundup: Religion and Contemporary Art

WEBSITE LAUNCH: The Foundation for Spirituality and the Arts: From a September 20 press release: “The Foundation for Spirituality and the Arts is pleased to announce the debut of our new website, fsa.art. Complementing in-person programming in Charleston and New York City, fsa.art functions as FSA’s online curatorial wing. It hosts both commissioned and curated content as well as a selection of features spotlighting significant artists, scholars, exhibitions, and publications from recent decades. We hope this site will be a valuable and inspiring resource that fosters dialogue, community, and innovation in the field of spirituality and the arts.”

FSA is “devoted to nurturing connections between spirituality and contemporary art. . . . By encouraging a mutual flow of creativity and faith from both artists and scholars, we hope to initiate fresh channels of spiritual enrichment from new depths of artistic expression. Nurturing innovative and experimental collaborations between a wide range of communities, we aspire to integrate estranged voices together in a spirit of harmony, openness, and inquisitiveness.”

At the heart of their programming is their annual series of residencies, open to visual artists, performers, composers, choreographers, curators, writers, and theologians. Visit their website to find out more, and follow them on Instagram @foundation.spirituality.arts. Below are four artworks I’ve encountered through their social media postings.

Kristen, Tom_Gemeinsam
Tom Kristen (German, 1968–), Gemeinsam (Together), 2019. Jewish Synagogue and Community Center, Regensburg, Bavaria. Photo: Marcus Eben. Floating above the center’s atrium, this gilded bronze spiral text is taken from Rose Ausländer’s poem “Gemeinsam”: “Vergesst nicht, Freunde, wir reisen gemeinsam. . . . Es ist unsre gemeinsame Welt.” (“Don’t forget, friends: we travel together. . . . It is our common world.”)

Viola, Bill_Catherine's Room (still)
Bill Viola (American, 1951–), Still from Catherine’s Room, 2001. Color video polyptych on five flat panel displays, 18:39 minutes, performer: Weba Garretson. Photo: Kira Perov, courtesy Bill Viola Studio.

Agha, Anila Quayyum_Intersections
Anila Quayyum Agha (Pakistani American, 1965–), Intersections, 2013. Lacquered wood and halogen bulb, 78 × 78 × 78 in. (cast shadows: 43.5 × 43.5 × 16 ft.). Installation view at Rice Gallery, Houston, Texas, 2015.

Mingwei, Lee_Our Labyrinth
Lee Mingwei (Taiwanese American, 1964–), Our Labyrinth, 2015–present. Photo: Stephanie Berger. In this performance work, single dancers, dressed in floor-length sarongs and wearing ankle bells, take turns sweeping a mound of rice in patterns on the floor in a designated gallery space. This iteration from 2020 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a collaboration with choreographer Bill T. Jones, and the performer in the photo is I-Ling Liu. [Watch on YouTube]

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LECTURE: “The New Visibility of Religion in Contemporary Art” by Jonathan A. Anderson: Religion is becoming more visible in contemporary art and more discussable, says artist, art critic, and theologian Jonathan Anderson in his September 17 talk sponsored by Bridge Projects in Los Angeles. Danh Vo, Kris Martin, Andrea Büttner, Deana Lawson, Arthur Jafa, Genesis Tramaine, Hossein Valamanesh, Theaster Gates, Zarah Hussain, Francis Alÿs, Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Sean Kelly, Gerhard Richter, James Turrell—these are just some of the many contemporary artists who have engaged substantively with religion in their work, either through form or content or through the ways in which they frame the work’s central questions. Curators and art historians are recognizing this more and more, and it’s being reflected in exhibitions and scholarship. Anderson highlights several such instances from the past two decades, celebrating religion’s increased visibility but also pointing out where there’s room for improvement. The talk starts at 6:36:

At 28:58, Anderson outlines four interpretive horizons, or fundamental hermeneutics, within which religion is becoming visible, intelligible, and meaningful in contemporary art: anthropological (31:00), political (37:43), spiritual (42:51), and theological (48:42). He discusses the problems and possibilities of each—ways in which it has been productive or insightful, and ways in which it’s limiting. The fourth horizon, the theological, is the least developed in the art world and the most contested, he says.

He concludes,

A more concentrated and well-developed mode of theological inquiry has much to contribute to the history, theory, and criticism of contemporary art without being reductive, but instead opening much of what’s going on in contemporary art. And so going forward, I do envision a mode of study that keeps all these horizons in view, and a mode of discourse that keeps all these horizons in view, while especially developing the potential for the modes of critical writing capable of addressing theological conceptualities, genealogies, and implications that are in play in so much of the art being made today. And that involves thinking better from both directions, developing concepts and capacities—skills, really—where art criticism might operate with a more agile, historically sensitive understanding of religion and theology (a richer theological intelligence), and theology might operate with a more agile, historically sensitive understanding of art and criticism (a richer art historical intelligence, or visual intelligence).

The last half hour is Q&A. What he says at 1:03:59 is fascinating! If you enjoyed this talk, check out, too, the one he gave ten years ago, “The (In)visibility of Theology in Contemporary Art Criticism,” which I published detailed notes on and which became a chapter in the book Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects and Perils, edited by Thomas M. Crisp, Steve L. Porter, and Gregg A. Ten Elshof.

As a side note, Anderson teaches two courses at Duke Divinity School, where he is a postdoctoral associate in the DITA program: “Contemporary Art and Theology” and “Visual Art as Theology.” The latter looks at the history of primarily Christian art as a domain of primary theological reasoning and biblical commentary, done in visual-spatial terms rather than in verbal-written terms. His hope is that divinity students—future biblical scholars, theologians, pastors, etc.—will become more literate in the visual-spatial forms of theology. I mention this because it’s what I’m about too!

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PODCAST EPISODE: “Jacquiline Creswell: Curating in Sacred Spaces,” Exhibiting Faith: Hosted by critic and art historian David Trigg, this is the first episode of a brand-new podcast about the intersection of art and faith, featuring a range of guests for whom those two elements have played a significant role. First up is Jacquiline Creswell, a visual arts adviser and curator who has, since 2009, organized more than forty-five exhibitions in sacred spaces. She has been central to the development of the visual arts programs at Salisbury, Ely, and Chichester Cathedrals. She discusses some of the projects she has worked on and how they’ve been received by the congregation and the wider public, how the setting of an artwork can alter its meaning and the way people engage with it, the logistical challenges of placing art in historic churches, and more.

I was interested to learn that she is from a Jewish background, even though most of her jobs have been with Christian institutions. Check out the eight objectives she lists on her website, which have guided her curatorial work and which I find exciting; the first is “To present artwork which is engaging, that encourages a spiritual response and may at times challenge conventional perceptions.”

Pope, Nicholas_Apostles Speaking in Tongues
Nicholas Pope (British, 1949–), The Apostles Speaking in Tongues Lit By Their Own Lamps, 1996, installed 2014. Thirty-three figures in terracotta, metal, wick, paraffin, and flame. Trinity Chapel, Salisbury Cathedral. Photo: FXP, London.

Haebich, Jayson_Star of Bethlehem
Jayson Haebich (born in Australia, living in Hong Kong and London), Star of Bethlehem, 2016. Interactive laser installation at Salisbury Cathedral, England.

New episodes of Exhibiting Faith are released once a month. The second (and latest) episode is an interview with Dubai-born, Birmingham-based textile artist Farwa Moledina, whose Women of Paradise (2022) scrutinizes the portrayal of Muslim women in the canon of Western art. Moledina also discusses her experience of Ramadan during lockdown and how it resulted in By Your Coming We Are Healed (2020), two sufras (floor mats for communal dining) made up of photographs of plated dishes submitted to her by participants in the virtual iftars she hosted, arranged according to Islamic design principles of symmetry, abstraction, and recurrence.

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SHORT FILM SERIES: At the Threshold: Theology on Film, dir. Sean Dimond: At the Threshold is the latest project from UNTAMED, a documentary film studio in Seattle that “pursue[s] stories of spiritual and narrative depth, with a bias for hope, risk, and redemption.” Filmed in Belgium, Germany, and the UK, it profiles six Christian theologians from Europe, each one humble, open-hearted, and reflective.

  1. “The Open Narrative of Love” with Lieven Boeve, Leuven, Belgium: Boeve reflects on how God interrupts people’s self-enclosed stories. Christianity, he says, is itself an open narrative, not a closed one, and it leads us not away from the world but right into it. One of the filming locations in this short is a rural landscape in Borgloon where Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout van Vaerenbergh built Reading between the Lines, an open-air chapel created to imagine a church inseparable from the world around it.
  2. “The Greater Part” with David Brown, St Andrews, Scotland: Brown talks about prayer, the Bible as part of a living tradition, the church’s call to be creatively other, and the only time he ever saw his father cry. He also cites some of the poets, novelists, and composers/singer-songwriters he admires.
  3. “The Radiance” with Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Muenster, Germany: “The fractcal structure of religious diversity” is of deep interest to Schmidt-Leukel, a Christian who draws insights from Buddhism and who was criticized by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for doing so.
  4. “Danseuse” with Ann Loades, Durham, England: A feminist theologian, Loades is one of only two people ever to be awarded a CBE for services to theology. The Christian tradition is responsible for the devaluation of women, she says, but that tradition also contains resources for its own transformation. She also discusses dance as prefiguring the resurrection body.
  5. “To Imagine That” with Garrick Allen, Glasgow, Scotland: Allen sees the book of Revelation as being about how to live in a system that is unjust. “This is John’s response to an oppressive system, and it gives us space to rethink what a just system would look like in our world—to begin to imagine that.”
  6. “Begin with the End” with Judith Wolfe, St Andrews, Scotland: “We have to take seriously the claim that we do not yet live in the world as it will be, and as we will be, and that we have to live towards an eschaton, a presence of God in the world, which is not only not yet apparent, but is not even comprehensible to us. So how do we live authentically in this life?”

From the studio: “Theology offers a home for the vast and the intimate. No question is foreclosed. Visually immersive, poetic, and global in scale, these narrative and theological short films invite viewers into a conversation about life and its limits which is as vibrant as it is challenging. This series isn’t about promoting theological ideas we necessarily agree with, but rather we are exploring the connections between vulnerable life, big questions, and the diversity of theological work being done today. It’s not that we are on the threshold of discovering God, but that perhaps God is already on the threshold of our lives, knocking to enter through our wounds, deepest desires, and questions.”

Tokens: Nashville’s theological variety show

Tokens Show

Update, 10/27/22: Two weeks after this article was published, Tokens Show rebranded and relaunched with a new name, No Small Endeavor; learn the inspiration behind the original title here, and the reason for the change here. Their mission remains the same but with a renewed commitment to greater diversity of guests, and their new tagline is “Exploring what it means to live a good life.” They also announced that starting in 2023, their radio show will be nationally syndicated.

“Public theology” is a term I’ve been seeing more and more—in people’s professional titles, in books, in taglines, etc. Public theology is theology that talks with and not just to society, write Sebastian Kim and Katie Day in their introduction to A Companion to Public Theology (2017); it ventures outside the ivory tower and the walls of the church, engaging issues of common interest to build the common good. It’s incarnational and touches all aspects of life, which means it’s interdisciplinary, addressing economics, politics, healthcare, criminal justice, the arts, and so on.

One media entity that does public theology really well is Tokens Media, which encompasses live events (Tokens Show), a podcast, a radio show, and online courses. Sponsored by Lipscomb University in Nashville with funding from the Lilly Endowment and the John Templeton Foundation, the shows are hosted and produced by Lee C. Camp, a professor of theology and ethics at Lipscomb.

Tokens Show blends music, theology, comedy, and social issues, bringing together a host of talent and thought from the local Nashville scene and the country at large for evenings of conversation and fun. See a trailer below, followed by a blurb from the Tokens press materials.

Called Nashville’s best variety show, our philosophical and theological events imagine a world governed by hospitality, graciousness, and joy; life marked by beauty, wonder, and truthfulness; and social conditions ordered by justice, mercy, and peace-making. We exhibit tokens of such a world in music-making, song-singing, and conversations about things that matter.

Unapologetically Christian but casting a wide net, Tokens Show spotlights poets, pastors, theologians, ethicists, historians, singer-songwriters, psychologists, journalists, politicians, activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and other scholars and practitioners. Its long list of distinguished guests includes James Cone, Rachel Held Evans, Stanley Hauerwas, Miroslav Volf, Francis Collins, Jim Wallis, Tracy K. Smith, Keb’ Mo’, Christian Wiman, Naomi Shihab Nye, Walter Brueggemann, Amy-Jill Levine, Willie James Jennings, Pádraig Ó Tuama, Barbara Brown Taylor, Ricky Skaggs, Over the Rhine, and many more.

Tokens was launched in February 2008 as a quarterly event, generally held in Lipscomb’s Collins Alumni Auditorium, with its annual Thanksgiving show, a major bash, held at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium since 2010. (This year’s is November 20—and I’ll be there! See more info at bottom of post.) The Tokens house band, the Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys, consists of much-sought-after Nashville session players Byron House (upright bass), Pete Huttlinger (guitar), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle, mandolin), Chris Brown (drums), and Buddy Greene (harmonica, vocals), led by music director Jeff Taylor (piano, accordion).

Sojourners magazine praised Tokens Show for its substantive entertainment and overall playful tone:

If A Prairie Home Companion ever moved south and got religion—or at least went to divinity school—it might look a lot like TOKENS. While Camp and his cast deal with theology, they are after something bigger—glimpses of God’s action in the world . . . tokens of grace. . . . Camp knows the power of a pregnant pause, and how to switch from a song about environmental degradation to a radio skit without missing a beat. And the cast never seems to take itself too seriously.

One of Tokens Show’s regular segments is “Class and Grass,” where the house band plays a medley of classical music and bluegrass arranged by bandleader Jeff Taylor. For example, for Tokens’ 2019 Thanksgiving show, Taylor built a ruckus-raising medley around “Orange Blossom Special,” a fiddle tune from the 1930s named after a luxury passenger train of the same name, weaving in excerpts from Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 5, Bizet’s “Habanera,” Offenbach’s “Galop infernal,” and Rossini’s William Tell overture:

For their 2018 Thanksgiving show, they mashed up the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” with Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and “Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?”:

“Für Elise and the Prophetic Imagination,” from “The Prophetic Ethic” show on June 6, 2014, features jazz, tango, and bluegrass variations on Beethoven’s famous, posthumously discovered bagatelle:

And the “Class and Grass” segment of Tokens’ April 13, 2010, show, “Back to Green,” combines a piano piece (anyone know what this is? Bach? Mozart?) and “Billy in the Lowground,” a popular fiddle tune among Kentucky musicians that has been known in Scotland for centuries:

Though several musical styles are represented on the Tokens stage—bluegrass, country, gospel, folk, blues, rock, classical—bluegrass predominates. Here’s a bluegrass version of the African American spiritual “My Lord Is a Rock in a Weary Land,” led by Buddy Greene:

And “Crying Holy Unto the Lord,” a song by Irene Amburgey that’s performed here by Bryan Sutton and Company:

One of the show’s past musical guests was Nefesh Mountain, a Jewish bluegrass band fronted by married couple Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg. Here they sing “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Esa Einai,” an original setting of Psalm 121:1 (“I lift my eyes to the mountains . . .”) in English and Hebrew.

Tokens Show also regularly features hymns, a significant part of Christian heritage, especially in the US. In the following video, Audrey Assad describes growing up in a Plymouth Brethren church that forbade the use of musical instruments but placed a high value on four-part a cappella singing. She then leads a vocal quartet in one of my favorite hymns, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (the other singers are Michael Gungor, Buddy Greene, and Lee C. Camp):

Here’s an instrumental bluegrass hymn medley comprising “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies,” “Are You Washed in the Blood,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”:

For some hymns, the audience is invited to sing along, as with “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” featuring soloist Jason Eskridge:

The show highlights new musical works as well, like singer-songwriter and upright bassist Scott Mulvahill’s “The Lord Is Coming”:

And Gungor’s “God and Country,” an antiwar anthem performed by Michael Gungor, Audrey Assad, and friends:

From their “Singing Down the Pain” show, I learned that the tune of Elvis’s “Love Me Tender” was taken from the American Civil War ballad “Aura Lee,” adopted by soldiers on both sides. I also learned about a historic music-sharing experience that happened outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 30, 1862, when, on the eve of a major military battle, Confederate and Union brass bands exchanged songs, Battle of the Bands–style, across enemy lines. Winding down, the Confederates started playing the familiar “Home, Sweet Home,” and the Union joined in, with soldiers from both North and South singing in unison their mutual longing for home.

Despite this bonding, the Battle of Stones River commenced early the next morning, resulting in 24,000 casualties.

As you can see from that video, Tokens Show is largely story-driven.

It occasionally features spoken-word pieces, as in their October 4, 2016, episode, “God Songs.” Leslie Garcia, one of Camp’s students at the time (now a digital product designer in New York), delivers a poetic reflection on the Latin American immigrant journey, drawing on her own family history. It opens, “My mother came to this country in the back of a pickup truck . . .”

Real-life questions and issues are met with the best of theological reflection at Tokens events, with Camp as emcee providing the connective tissue that links the various acts.

One thing I like about Tokens Show is how it recognizes the complexities of American Christianity’s past and present, painting neither as entirely good or entirely bad. It addresses some of the lamentable aspects of US and church history and culture, but it also speaks hope, confronting these realities with gospel truth so that we might humbly allow that truth to drive us to confession, action, and anticipation. And while it does acknowledge the ways in which sin has marked systems, it also celebrates those places within those systems where virtue or redemption can be found.

Tokens Show has a healthy relationship to tradition, which for them is a wellspring of creativity. In terms of music especially, Tokens showcases vibrant works from earlier eras but also, often, innovates on them or draws them into new contexts. In their theology, too, they adhere to the orthodox creeds while being open to what happens when those traditional tenets of belief are brought into so-called secular arenas of contemporary life, further unfolding their meaning. In the root sense of the words, Tokens is both conservative and progressive—conserving what’s worth conserving, leaving behind what’s not (such as cultural accretions that diminish the gospel), recovering and progressing toward the good, semper reformanda.

While some of the song selections may prompt nostalgia for some, Tokens Show is not all warm and cozy. There can be a bite and a challenge as we hear wrenching personal stories or encounter new facts. Tokens does not shy away from provocation for God’s sake. But it is to the show’s credit that the tone is never haranguing, always invitational.

The gospel calls us out of our bubbles and into the world. Our faith should have an impact on how we think about public issues and relate to others in the public square. Tokens Show models this kind of engagement.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when live shows had to be shut down, Tokens launched a podcast, its first episode airing May 21, 2020. Its tagline is “Public theology. Human flourishing. The good life.” Even though live shows have resumed, the podcast continues to be active. I have enjoyed every single episode, but let me share just a few in particular:

>> “The Art of Conversation: Heather Holleman,” September 22, 2022: Creating warm connections with others might be as simple as learning how to converse, says Heather Hollemann, author of The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility. She draws on the social sciences to suggest practical tips for how to move beyond small talk into deep and meaningful conversations with friends, family, a romantic partner, coworkers, clients, neighbors—whomever!

>> “The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: Bill McKibben,” September 15, 2022: Environmentalist Bill McKibben, author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened, speaks on racial justice, environmental justice, and the relationship between America and Christianity.

>> “God and Guns: Chris Hays and Carly Crouch,” August 12, 2021: In this interview, Old Testament scholars Christopher B. Hays and Carly L. Crouch, the editors of God and Guns: The Bible Against American Gun Culture, challenge the too-easy progun rhetoric of many American Christians, addressing violence in the Old Testament, the Second Amendment, armed church security, and some surprising statistics.

>> “The Making of Biblical Womanhood: Beth Allison Barr,” June 3, 2021: Controversially, historian Beth Allison Barr defines “complementarianism,” the theological view that promotes male headship and female subordination, as “Christian patriarchy.” Hear her unpack that and other ideas from her book The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth in this episode. She offers a unique reading of 1 Corinthians 14 (bringing it into conversation with ancient Roman law codes); reminds us of the oft-neglected Romans 16 (which names a woman apostle and a woman deacon, among other early church leaders who were female, though several English translations obscure the fact); notes how the 1980s revival of the Arian heresy coincided with the explosion of “biblical womanhood”; and shares her and her husband’s personal connection to the topic in their ministerial life.

Shorter interviews of this nature also take place during the live shows, even though this blog article highlights the music.

You can subscribe to the Tokens podcast through the app of your choice, and episodes (audio only) are also posted on YouTube, though there’s a bit of a lag there. You can also find video excerpts from Tokens events on the Tokens YouTube channel.

Their annual Thanksgiving show this year is “No Small Endeavor”—Sunday, November 20, 7:30 p.m., at Ryman Auditorium—with musical guest Johnnyswim, a husband-wife folk duo comprising Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano. As I mentioned, I’ll be going; I paid $137 for two tickets last week, including taxes and fees, and it looks like the house is already more than half-full. (There is also a $20 virtual option available, or a $47 virtual membership that gives you streaming access to four shows.) It will be my first Tokens Show and my first time in Nashville, and I’m making a long weekend of it with my husband. Let me know what we should do/see there, and if you have any tips on where to stay. We’re not country music fans, but bluegrass, gospel, blues, and folk—yes, please! We’re foodies too.

Besides catching one of Tokens’ live events, if you live in the Nashville area, you might also want to tune in to their radio show, which airs Sundays at 2 p.m. Central on WPLN Nashville Public Radio.

Music Roundup

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: October 2022 by Victoria Emily Jones: This month’s thirty-track assortment includes the jaunty “Now I’m on My Way” by Howard Smith and Frederick D. Fuller, performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir under the direction of Carol Cymbala, and the recently released “Good Tree” by the Hillbilly Thomists, a bluegrass band of Dominican friars.

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GOSPEL PERFORMANCE: “I’ve Got the Joy / It Is Summertime in My Heart / Give Me Oil in My Lamp” and “Do Lord” by The Four Girls: Did you know that Hollywood Golden Age actress Jane Russell was part of a traveling gospel music quartet, The Four Girls? In 1954, a year after starring with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she sang this medley on an Easter Sunday broadcast alongside fellow group members Connie Haines, Beryl Davis, and Rhonda Fleming (replacing Della Russell), who were Baptist, Episcopalian, and Mormon, respectively. Quite the interdenominational group! All four were active in the Hollywood Christian Group, founded in 1947 by Henrietta Mears.

That choreo, haha! And boy are they aggressive in their evangelism/catechesis of that little girl in the last number!

The Four Girls grew out of an impromptu performance at a fundraising event for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Los Angeles in fall 1953. A representative of Coral Records was in the audience, and he signed the women immediately. Their recording of the spiritual “Do Lord” sold over 2 million copies.

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I get a kick out of Jack Black’s hammy character performances, especially the ones that involve singing. In each of the last two movies I saw him in, he plays a strangely likeable Christian criminal based on a real-life person.

In the dark comedy Bernie (2011) by Richard Linklater, Black plays Bernie Tiede, a small-town Texas mortician who befriends a wealthy widow but, when the emotional toll of her possessiveness and persistent nagging becomes too much, ends up killing her. The opening credit sequence (which comes after a scene of Bernie teaching a class, with great tenderness, on how to prepare a deceased body for viewing) shows him driving in his Lincoln Town Car, jamming to the Florida Boys’ “Love Lifted Me” on the radio. Millennium Entertainment has released a singalong version on YouTube, featuring a take from the movie with added lyrics and a bouncing Jack Black head!

Six years after this Golden Globe–nominated performance, Black starred in The Polka King (2017) as Polish American polka legend Jan Lewan, who was imprisoned in 2004 for running a Ponzi scheme. Although he’s a con artist, the movie portrays him as sympathetic—bright-eyed, kind, gentle—and devoutly Catholic. (Yes, he really did meet the pope!) The end credits feature Black as Lewan singing “Thank You So Much, Jesus,” written by Stephen Kaminski, Maya Forbes, and Wallace Wolodarsky for the movie. The repeated “dziekuje” is Polish for “thank you.” Enjoy the accent.

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SONG: “Morning Star Rise” by Josh White: Josh White is a singer-songwriter, the founding pastor of Door of Hope church in Portland, Oregon, and cofounder, with Evan Way, of Deeper Well Records. In the early 2010s he formed the neo-gospel collective The Followers, and encouraged one of his parishioners, Liz Vice, to get involved as a vocalist. She is featured on Deeper Well’s first record, Wounded Healer (2012), including on the song “Morning Star Rise”—performed live in 2012 in the video below, with White on lead. (Vice is on the left; Holly Ann is on the right.)

White recognized Vice’s musical talent and wrote a batch of songs for her to record on her own, which became her debut solo album, There’s a Light (2015)—an immense hit. Yay for pastors who notice and nurture the gifts of their people!