Getting the Blues
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Getting the Blues : What Blues Music Teaches Us About Suffering and Salvation

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In Getting the Blues, Stephen Nichols shows how blues music offers powerful insight into the biblical narrative and the life of Jesus. Weaving Bible stories together with intriguing details of the lives of blues musicians, he leads readers in a vivid exploration of how blues music teaches about sin, suffering, alienation, and worship. Nichols unpacks the Psalms, portions of the prophets, and Paul's writings in this unique way, revealing new facets of Scripture. Getting the Blues will resonate with all readers interested in Christianity and culture. In the end they will emerge with a greater understanding of the value of "theology in a minor key"--a theology that embraces suffering as well as joy. EXCERPT This book attempts a theology in a minor key, a theology that lingers, however uncomfortably, over Good Friday. It takes its cue from the blues, harmonizing narratives of Scripture with narratives of the Mississippi Delta, the land of cotton fields and Cyprus swamps and the moaning slide guitar. This is not a book by a musician, however, but by a theologian. And so I offer a theological interpretation of the blues. Cambridge theologian Jeremy Begbie has argued for music's intrinsic ability to teach theology. As an improvisation on Begbie's thesis, I take the blues to be intrinsically suited to teach a particular theology, a theology in a minor key. This is not to suggest that a theology in a minor key, or the blues for that matter, utterly sounds out despair like the torrents of a spinning hurricane. A theology in a minor key is no mere existential scream. In fact, a theology in a minor key sounds a rather hopeful melody. Good Friday yearns for Easter, and eventually Easter comes. Blues singers, even when groaning of the worst of times, know to cry out for mercy because they know that, despite appearances, Sunday's coming. . . . The blues, like the writings of Flannery O'Connor, need not mention him [Christ] in every line, or in every song, but he haunts the music just the same. At the end of the day, he serves as the resolution to the conflict churning throughout the blues, the conflict that keeps the music surging like the floodwaters of the Mississippi River.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 137.16 x 213.36 x 15.24mm | 204.12g
  • Baker Publishing Group
  • Brazos Press, Div of Baker Publishing Group
  • Ada, MI, United States
  • English
  • 1587432129
  • 9781587432125
  • 1,099,230

Back cover copy

From the Promised Land to the Mississippi Delta David expresses his dark side in the Psalms. The prophets cry out in anguish and condemn social injustices. And Paul bemoans his frailty as a man. In Getting the Blues, Stephen Nichols examines this dissonance in the Bible--what he calls "theology in a minor key"--and leads readers in a vivid exploration of how blues music offers powerful insight into the biblical narrative and the life of Jesus. Subtly weaving Bible stories together with intriguing details of the lives of blues musicians such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Nichols reveals what blues music teaches about sin, suffering, alienation, and worship. He delves into how the blues can intensify our understanding of bondage to sin and redemption and how the blues encourage us to strive for justice and righteousness. In the end, readers will emerge with a deeper understanding of the value of a theology that lingers on the dark side and embraces Good Friday as well as Easter, suffering as well as joy. "In the current cultural climate, surrounded by so much sentimentality, we need blues music and its Christian resonances as perhaps never before. Nichols's book should go a long way to putting this art form back on the theological agenda."--Jeremy Begbie, Duke University "Too often the Blues is put in opposition to Spirituals. But when the church's songs stray too far from the cries of a broken humanity, they lose their truth, depth, and power. In Getting the Blues, Stephen Nichols compellingly shows how the minor key of the Blues resonates with the minor keys in scripture and theology. By attending closely to these 'blue notes' Nichols writes truthfully and wisely about God's ways with wayward children--not only famous ones like Muddy Waters and Ma Rainey, but also the likes of you and me."--Christian Scharen, Yale Center for Faith & Culture; author of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking Godshow more

About Stephen J. Nichols

Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College. He is the author of several books, including "Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ "and "The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World." Nichols lives with his wife and children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.show more

Rating details

41 ratings
3.53 out of 5 stars
5 22% (9)
4 27% (11)
3 37% (15)
2 12% (5)
1 2% (1)
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