Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Music, the Arts, and Spirituality

I'm reading a good book right now called "All in Sync: How Music and Art are Revitalizing American Religion" by Robert Wuthnow. In this work, Wuthnow shows how those who engage in musical and artistic interests have a heightened interest in spirituality. And this flows the other way as well.

Some items of note on this:
  • 61% of Americans say that "listening to music" has been very important or fairly important in developing a closer relationship with God. The same proportion give these responses for "reading literature and poetry."
  • The memory of religious pictures and music from childhood often play a powerful role in helping someone re-connect with God.
  • There is considerable evidence that crisis in one's life, such as divorce, leads one to greater interests in music and the arts. These often have a healing effect, and lead people to greater interest in spirituality.
  • Among those who say they have experienced illness, loneliness, or grief, 70 percent report that music was helpful during this time, and 77 percent say this about activities such as sewing, woodworking, or painting.
  • 30 percent of those in small groups discuss art or music; those that do are better able to connect with young people; art and music seem to foster the small group's ability to grow spiritually
  • Music or art help a great number of people to pray or meditate.

We have underestimated the ability of music and art to impact our lives. This morning I arrived at class about thirty minutes early. I stayed in my car and turned on classical music that was soothing. I have to say that this was a very spiritual experience, allowing me "space" to think about spiritual things.

What role has music and the arts played in your spiritual life?

Here is the link to this book:
http://www.amazon.com/All-Sync-Revitalizing-American-Religion/dp/0520246853/ref=sr_1_1/105-2351964-9998862?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182358338&sr=8-1

4 comments:

The Queen: said...

What you said about classical music is exactly how I feel when I have the opportunity to worship while singing with instruments. It adds a demension that I miss when I sing acappella. I like acappella singing(and some songs are better that way)but sometimes the music adds to the song in such a way that my heart and soul are transported to a higher place... it is difficult for me to describe.

I am one of those people who are moved by art, music, and literature. If it hadn't been for music, I don't know if I would have been able to remain upbeat during the bad periods of my life. I found quotes, music, movies, artwork to all inspire me to look at things in a positive, godly way rather than spiral into a deeper depression.

I just thank God that he uses the tools he does in order to reach out to me and let me know that he is still here with me. Amen.

John said...

I know that the arts - particularly movies/TV, books, and music - have enriched my spiritual life.

The seminal experience was an episode from The Wonder Years that I saw in 1998 when things were going very bad in the youth group and at church. I'm convinced God spoke to me through that show and kept me at Liberty, working with our teens.

If anyone is interested in hearing a summary of the plot and how it related to what I was going through, just ask!

James said...

Cynthia,

Thank you for sharing. I thought that music and the arts might have become particularly important to you through your trials. Do you think that we should consider using music and arts in recovery groups? If these stats are correct, this would seem to be helpful.

James said...

John,

I have heard some of it, but I think that our community would benefit from you sharing your story. I saw some of the Wonder Years episodes. Interesting that this this spoke to you. We would like to hear more.

Thanks for sharing.

James