For those of you who haven’t figured it out by now, I am a heathen. I am (almost) entirely without religious affiliation, unless you want to count my intermittent Buddhism. I am quite spiritual; I just don’t like other people telling me what I’m supposed to believe. I resent the implication that if I don’t pray a certain way or act a certain way, then I’m going to hell. I don’t believe in hell, and I’ve certainly never believed that the deity of my choice would damn me just because I forgot to bring a hot dish to the church supper. (Note: I don’t think churches are really like this. I’m exaggerating for effect.) And my relationship with whatever I want to call my god is absolutely none of anyone’s business.
Music trumps a lot in my book. If I can forgive the Rolling Stones for decades of sexism, then I can pretend to be Christian long enough to enjoy some gospel music. There isn’t much that beats good gospel music. It is transcendent, the way religion and spirituality are supposed to be. Now Natalie Merchant isn’t exactly Mahalia Jackson, but she’s got a strong voice. Her version of this African-American spiritual classic appeared on A Very Special Christmas 3. When I hear this song, I find myself swaying and clapping. I find myself believing. I am moved, literally and metaphorically.
I always feel at peace when I’m listening to good music. I smile more, and I think that maybe things aren’t so bad. If we can still make music like this, then there’s still hope.