Reviewed by Paul Poulton
How on earth did black African slaves ever embrace the religion of their captors? Maybe it's another example of God being able to turn bad situations into good. It was because of that turning towards Christianity that we now have such a strong body of songs that have encouraged the world. These days we hear a lot about prophetic songwriting; it's not new. The spirituals were written by unknown slaves who were moved by God's Spirit to sing songs that spoke and still speak to the world. In this book and CD package Marsha Hansen points out that it's been claimed that one can make a journey from Genesis to Revelation by listening to the spirituals. Music was part of the medicine that God used to help the African American people through one of the most traumatic periods of their history, and through their suffering all peoples can be blessed. This book explores the history and philosophy of the spirituals. Marsha, herself a singer, is married to Rodney Hansen a Lutheran pastor, but it's not Rodney who is the well known relative but Keith Richards, who is Marsha's brother-in-law. Keith played guitar on the accompanying CD. The Stones have always had that gritty edge to their music, so it's fitting that he should be close to this story of the spirituals. Which, as Marsha points out, are "messages of faith and of life's experiences laid bare." Indeed the Stones' song "Brown Sugar" can itself be seen to show the stupidity and selfishness of the slave trade. Keith wrote about the slave trade before Marsha did! Marsha also raises some excellent points about how the Bible was used to support slavery, her rejoinder to that argument is a pleasure to read. There are a good handful of very readable quotes, she has chosen her sources carefully. Including St Augustine who said, "(God) did not intend that his rational creature, who was made in his image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation - not man over man, but man over beasts." Simon Bolivar said, "I ask you: a man owning another man! A man, an object! One in the image of God yoked like an animal!" Marsha has done a fine job. A beautifully presented book. There are 14 spirituals on the CD, but don't expect too much from the CD.
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