It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book or music review, so I wanted to share my thoughts on a book I just finished and thought was a remarkable read. Now don’t let the title prompt you to think that this book is only for those that either like music, particularly blues or soul, or even those that are preachers or in ministry. There is a broad-reaching audience that this book has the potential to impact.
In these ominous times of community and police shootings, the school to prison pipeline, the inequality and failing performance of our education system, the financial struggles of cities, communities and families, and much more, Blue Note Preaching In A Post-Soul World: Finding Hope In An Age Of Despair by Otis Moss, III, addresses not only what is needed in our communities and the current state of our world, but also in Moss’ own words “rescues us from acceptance and dares us to move from the couch of apathy to the position of work”.(1)
Whether or not you understand, like, or even really listen to it, many people have a sense of the soul-stirring sound of blues music, created out of the African-American tradition in the 19th century, which incorporates a call-and-response pattern, specific chord progression, notes typically flatter in pitch, as well as spirituals, shouts, and chants. Moss initially discusses the connection of other music forms like jazz, soul, and Hip-Hop, as well as, preaching, our history, and even our current state of the world, to the blues or blue note.
As we know, there are many who can and do speak to the problems and challenges of the world today. We can talk about it, complain about it, cry about it, shake our heads, and the like, however, what Moss does is dare us not to continue to hem and haw in a “blues moan”, but to envision and focus on the “gospel shout”.
For those that are pastors, ministers, people who seek to touch and inspire others in the world, Moss challenges us not to simply talk and preach. As he states, “We are called to place a word in people.”(2) And yet, this book challenges a variety of different people; from those who have been wearing pain and abuse while allowing that to define them; to being able to listen, discern and learn how others receive things and consider how to communicate, in order to relate to them and still be authentic; to those who have been given a gift and have yet to give it over to God and allow it to be used for greater things.
In Blue Note Preaching In A Post-Soul World, Moss beautifully connects styles, generations, messaging and mediums, allowing us to see how all can relate and come together in a profound way.
The inclusion of sermons depicts and give us a further understanding of “blue note preaching” while giving what I feel is desperately needed to uplift our communities and this world.
You might expect references to scandals in the Bible, however, references to Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, as well as a breakdown of dating versus courting from the sermon entitled, “Loving You Is Killing Me” in the book, is exactly what’s needed to address the shift in our culture and its relation to relationships, our family unit, and our values that further diminish our communities and feed our current struggles. And yet in that same sermon, an epiphany that despite our mistakes, often God can do more with us and we can greatly impact the communities and world around us after those pitfalls. (A gospel shout for those of us: such as individuals who have been incarcerated, homeless, or otherwise failed in some way.)
Moss even speaks to those who feel that the church has not been there for our communities, particularly with recent events. To those who question and doubt that the church has not been fighting or leading the fight in the issues our communities have been dealing with, he eloquently explains 2 key points that really hit home. The first is that rather than waiting for anyone to lead, we all have in us the capacity to start, contribute, and lead in the work that we see needs to be done. And the other key point is that, it is not that the church has not been doing many things, but that their work is not often what you see in the paper, hear on the radio, see on the news. This is such a redeeming point for many that continue to criticize and attack the biggest and most enduring historically foundation the Black community has ever had. I hope that Moss’ clarification of this can serve to once and for all silence the attackers of the church and help them focus on working together.
You have to love how Moss connects and uses the depictions of current media and social references, especially in the book’s section and sermon entitled “How To Get Away With Murder”. The link between scripture and the story of Herod and Mary & Joseph to the slavery and peonage systems and our current justice system demonstrates the gift that Moss has not only connecting history, but our relationship to it. The details that he breaks down serve to depict various things we see in our communities, how people like Dr. King and W.E.B. Dubois served to liberate our communities, and how we can use those examples to charge ahead.
When he states, “there’s got to be some point in our moment and in our lives where some brothers stand up and adopt some children who are not your own, if we are to change this situation in our community”(3), Moss sets before us a challenge on things we must all start to do and things we have to look at differently if we want to see that beautiful world of which we dream.
As we are living in what can be considered desperate and disheartening times, Blue Note Preaching In A Post-Soul World: Finding Hope In An Age Of Despair serves to relate our history and spiritual roots, to our current state, while meeting us where we are in an effort to plant seeds of possibility, renew dreams and hope, and insight into what we can do individually and collectively to create and work towards that world we envision.
(1). Page 7. Blue Note Preaching In A Post-Soul World: Finding Hope In An Age Of Despair
(2). Page 25. Blue Note Preaching In A Post-Soul World: Finding Hope In An Age Of Despair
(3). Page 120. Blue Note Preaching In A Post-Soul World: Finding Hope In An Age Of Despair