Every movement and empire has an anthem or anthems! From the Star Spangled Banner to Lift Every Voice and sing, music has been a key part of reinforcing and poetically contextualizing ideas and motifs. They can work to reinforce and push an agenda. A catchy rhyme here and syncopated beat there mixed with stanzas and verses of meaningful lyrics can work to burn these ideas into our memory more and more each time we hear them.
It’s no secret that worship music is no different! Are our songs we sing in the modern American church anthems of empire or are they sounds of liberation? Are they demonic discographies or melodies from heaven? With all of this recent fervor over AnaBlacktivism and Rod’s impactful series on the matter, I have thought that perhaps this theological movement could use its own anthems and musical context!
I’ve drafted a list of songs that could be on a sample track-listing for a AnaBlacktivist/BLT – inspired CD! GET YOUR COPY NOW WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!
1. My Liberty
Every great empire on the planet has its processional march – an upbeat, spirited siren of sorts to their politic! Often reserved for times of war and struggles major strongholds, these marches are to instill fear and reverence in the opponent. Heck, even the Israelites were told to make a loud, triumphant sound to see the walls of Jericho come tumbling down! For the AnaBlacktivist Church, this song could serve as this purpose with its steady tempo, meek yet strong lead singer ( a young Yolanda Adamds), and its old black church musical aesthetic.
2. Black Jesus
Where to begin with this song? Not only did Tupac & the Outlawz construct an anthem for the Black Liberation Theology, they made one of the most fierce interrogations of the modern White American Constantinian Church in music history! No other song captures the mood of the despised/”evil” yet divine quite like this track. This song is so important to AnaBlacktivism and BLT that I’ve actually done a post on just this song that you ought to check out here: Tupac And Black Jesus
3. Melodies from Heaven
This gospel classic from Kirk Franklin and the Family has always been a favorite of mine. And when I think of its message within the context of AnaBlacktivist theology, I love it all the more! This song essentially features down-trodden , lowly voices asking for “melodies form heaven” – i.e. a “touch” of Divinity. I’m convinced however that “melodies” needn’t be musical melodies – good theology that is actually good news to the oppressed (i.e. AnaBlacktivist theology) is “music to our ears” and serve as “melodies from heaven”. Any great news of political/institutional reform for the better can be “melodies from heaven”. But one thing is clear in this song- these melodies coming from heaven represent the hope that any of these “melodies” will have to come from God – almost invoking a pentecostal/charismatic theme
This song is rather self-explanatory. Another favorite by Tupac, this song serves as sort of the “lamentations” of the AnaBlacktivist movement. With its cataloguing of issues that effect the oppressed and disrupt true fraternity, the human condition is seemingly hopeless, hence ” that’s just the way it is…” Though AnaBlacktivist theology is a theology of hope in the Divine, this song is a reminder of how healthy and Christ-like it is to take time to lament and mourn over our situation
5. Scattered Sheep
In the same vain as Tupac’s “Black Jesus” , this rap song is yet another swfit, hard-hitting critique of ‘modern day Babylon’. The idea of Christ gathering ‘scattered sheep’ – people from many different walks of life , who all oppose empire yet are confessing to their own trasngressions is not unlike what’s happening in the Christian blogosphere – this song is a reminder that we were/are all scattered sheep now united and organized in the collective church body – the fact that we’re even organized through the interwebz via blog networks, FB groups, etc. is itself God working in our midst! Furthermore this song tells of the personal demons that Corey Red and Precise go through ( confessing) while living in an age of empire (resisting empire!) – doesn’t get more AnaBlacktivist than this!
6. Come and Listen
I first heard this song when I was a sophomore or so in college still involved with the campus ministry Cru. Along with my introduction to Calvinism was my intro to popular Christian rock and white Christian artists. Out of all the one’s I’ve heard, this one has always been and still is my favorite. David Crowder’s ‘Come and Listen’ is a simplistic yet soul-stirring song. In it, he states “come and listen to what He’s done” – and it comes across as a call to laying down all of our weapons, our egos/prides, our lusts, our quests and endeavors for empire to “come to the water’s edge” and simply listen to the far greater thing that Christ has done.
I’ve recently done a post about this song and what it means to be “lukewarm” within the context of AnaBlacktivist , post-colonial theology. At risk of repeating what I’ve already stated in the post, the song is included in this soundtrack because of the impossibility of one truly calling themselves a Child of YAHWEH yet also a child of empire and White Supremacy, or *gasp* MONEY (captialism, yo?). Having these young, talented voices sing this song on a beach ( a landscape void of any signs of empire) is an aesthetic call to Christ’s anti-imperial , simply, child-like (but not childish) gospel
8. Break Every Chain
Yet another song I have done a post on before that must be included on this soundtrack. Why have I included it? – it gets no simpler than the lyric “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain” – the vocals are passionate and the song is all-encompassing – EVERY chain, not just personal but institutional chains as well. This song is very popular in black charismatic circles.
9. Teach Me
This song I decided to include because it’s a reminder of the importance of a confessing church – even while resisting empire. Spensha Baker reminds us
“Teach me how to love
Teach me how to trust
teach me how to give even when I don’t get enough
Teach me how to pray
Tell me what to say
cause I know without your love I can’t get love so teach me love
Reminds of the MLK Jr’s quote “Let no man bring you so low as to hate him”
10. A Time to Love
I only recently discovered this gem a couple months ago – this soulful duet by Stevie Wonder and India Arie is a tremendous, poignant, yet gentle opposition to tendencies to empire. It is stated in Scripture that “we are but a mist” – and you’d think with our time being so limited, we’d make better use of our time than promoting empire. Their constant haunting question – “when will there be a time for love?” This song’s gentle,non-violent pre-modern aesthetic is an echoing of AnaBlacktivist theology!
Of course there are many songs that could be included on this list! Maybe we could end up with a whole new litany of hymns for the emerging AnaBlacktivist church – feel free to suggest more!