Eight Sessions Examining the Theological
Dimensions of American Popular Music
In this eight-session course, Sam Coker will lead a discussion on music and theology that will include a survey of many artists and styles of popular (so-called “secular”) music. These discussions will consider the common impulse toward the transcendental, or what Rudolf Otto referred to as the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans,” that lies at the heart of the music we love.
Attend the live class sessions
or work at your own pace.
This course is an examination of the ways that we can speak theologically about various forms of American popular music. We will survey many artists and styles of “secular” music, including, but not limited to, rock, jazz, folk, hip-hop/rap, country, metal, punk, and pop, considering the common impulse toward the transcendent, or what Rudolf Otto called the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.”
Open and relational theologies commonly affirm the inherent spiritual and religious character of those parts of our lives and culture outside of institutional religion. Pop culture is an especially fertile ground for considering the ways we engage with the world theologically. Music, especially, reflects our deepest desires, needs, traumas, and joys as human beings. Much of the process world, especially, is concerned with how God/the Spirit/the Divine appears in our everyday lives, in all our humanity. This course will interrogate how the Divine appears in popular culture in the form of music.
Subjects covered will include but not be limited to: the spiritual yearning of jazz masterworks like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, the transgressive sonics and lyrics of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, invocations of the Divine in hip-hop, and how God shows up in the exuberance of pop and electronic music.
It is this invisible power of music to stir that which is deep within us, to manipulate emotion, which has made it both peculiarly conducive to a cultivation of the sense of the otherworldly and also…peculiarly suspect as a force of profanation.”
–Christopher Partridge, The Lyre of Orpheus
About the Instructor
Sam Coker is a student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois where he is pursuing both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theological Studies. He plans for the focus of his thesis to be on the intersection of music and theology. He is currently on the ordination track for Elder in the United Methodist Church. Though he has lived in the Chicago area for nearly three years, Sam has lived most of his life in central Arkansas. It was during his studies there at Hendrix College, under the teaching of Dr. Jay McDaniel, that he first became interested in music and theology. When he isn’t studying, student-pastoring, or serving as a barista at an Evanston coffee shop, Sam enjoys listening to a lot of music, collecting records, and going to concerts in the Chicago area. He is very excited to be teaching his first course at the Cobb Institute.
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$15.00 Per Session
- Lifetime access to session recordings
- Receive early notification of future courses
- Watch live or follow your own schedule
- Interact with class members via discussion forums
- * Discounts available for financial hardship. Contact the Learning Lab to obtain a coupon code.