Monday, July 21, 2008
"To have a Buddhist chant at an Anglican sermon does not reflect the God we believe in." Bishop Robert Duncan
Well, it turns out that the tune is Buddhist but the text is Orthodox and Trinitarian and actually a kind of doxology. How did Bishop Duncan know that it was a "Buddhist chant?" I read the text of the sermon and he didn't announce "And now, a Buddhist chant!" From what I understand he simply chanted at the end of his sermon. Did the words Om, mani pad-me hum ring through the air? Or is it because a person from Asia chanted something in an unfamiliar language and tune that caused one to fear that Buddhism had reared its head within the sacred confines of Canterbury Cathedral? As a musician, I know that there are several hymn tunes in the Hymnal 1982 from sources Which-May-Not-Be-Christian; I hold all "folk tunes" under suspicion, and we know that some tunes were actually the pop songs of their day, later "holied-up" to sing in church. I wonder how many tunes sung in the churches of the Global South are of purely Christian origin?
Last week I wrote about Jesu Maha Darsana at my own blog. A Hindu woman, Latha Rajasekhar, has written an epic poem along the lines of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. She said that this work is the result of her devotion to Jesus the Christ. However, she self-identifies as Hindu, not Christian. I suspect that Bishop Duncan and his fellow FOCAs may reject Mrs. Rajasekhar's devotional work just as he rejected Bishop Duleep de Chickera's chant.
I'm not one for having Shinto ceremonies in Christian Cathedrals or the Holy Eucharist being celebrated in a Shinto Temple, and I'm not too fond of churches holding Seders during Holy Week. However, I don't have a problem with adapting local traditions or music into Christian practice as long as it doesn't endanger the integrity of the tradition from which it is taken. I know that some reasserters disagree with me on this subject, as I have had several discussions with folks at a Site Which Will Be Unnamed who seem to believe that all Native American traditions are fraught with demonic influences. I think they're nuts and have told them so.
So my questions to you, Gentle Reader, are: is it wrong for Christians to use tunes from other than Christian sources? Does spiritual danger lurk in the music and literature of non-Christians?