Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Henry Lawson Fringe act as biographical theology

James McClendon wrote the fabulous Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology. He took four lives – Dag Hammarskjold, Martin Luther King, Jr, Clarence Jordan, and Charles Ives – and used them to consider church doctrine: how theology is illuminated and improvised throughout their lives.

On Saturday, I went to the Adelaide Fringe Festival show – Henry Lawson goes to Princeton – and saw a modern day version of McClendon’s biographical theology.

Ian Coats, one of our adjunct Faculty, completed his PhD at Princeton. He’s also a musician. He’s taken Henry Lawson, Australian storyteller and poet and put his work to music. Supported by a hard working band – violin, drums, double bass, mandolin – over an evening, it was a wonderfully rich musical event.

But alongside the music was the narrative. The songs were carefully arranged by Ian to tell the story of Lawson’s life. It was at this point that the biographical theology emerged, as Lawson’s life was plumbed for wisdom. While Lawson ended his life an alcoholic, other possible pathways were explored – mysticism, friendship, nostalgia, political engagement.

This gave hope. It was authentic, vulnerable and rich.

It also offered choices – how then will we live? And at this point, it became a superb example of biographical theology, of exploring a live listening for wisdom for living. Not through books, but through song.

Well done Ian Coats. Check it out – there are still two more shows, Sunday March 2 and Saturday March 8.


Posted by steve at 09:13 AM

1 Comment

  1. It’s on facebook so doesn’t show here – So I’m cutting and pasting a response by Ian Coats :)

    Steve – I am most grateful for the sensitive and appreciative way in which you review the show. It’s a tough gig (and ultimately a spiritual gift rather than an achievement) trying to combine music, poetry, philosophy/theology, and narrative in such a way that deeper meanings can come forth and speak to us. I’m having a go here and you get it, so thanks brother. I’m looking forward to turning this soil over a bit with fertilizer at the seminar next week.

    Comment by steve — February 25, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

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