The Prophetic Power of Popular Music
The image of God in humanity is the image of the creator, the capacity for imagination, made manifest in our ability to understand, and reflect on God’s image in creation, and in our own imaginations. Art, therefore, is a boon to a life of faith – opening up channels of imagination and truth-telling.
The same argument could be made for various forms of popular culture, particularly popular music. Popular culture offers a space for theological reflection and an element of prophetic witness. Theological reflection connects to the truth of one’s lived experience; out of that experience, voices of prophetic witness speak truth to power, out of and in solidarity with lived experiences.
Relying on Brueggemann’s articulation of the prophetic imagination, I will illustrate how popular music – particularly music that follows in the protest music traditions – serves the prophetic task. Brueggemann identifies the three main tasks of the prophetic imagination as protest, dissent ,and proclamation. Using his framework, I will utilize examples of popular music from previous social movements, and more contemporary music to demonstrate these tasks. I define the prophetic witness as any message – given or received – that speaks honestly out of human experience, relating authentic human struggle, pain, hope, and love, and that denounces injustice and despair.