Sinner’s Crossroads: Finding Faith through Song

Woman standing in sun with arms raised up“Sinner’s Crossroads” is my favorite show on WFMU, a listener-sponsored radio station that broadcasts out of one of the Oranges in New Jersey. To all who are unfamiliar with the show, I highly recommend tuning in (you can even stream it live online). In addition, Sinner’s Crossroads is available on Podcasts.

It’s my favorite show because DJ Rev. Kevin Nutt plays old gospel music from as early as 1910 to as late as the 1980s. – the sort of music that gets recorded on off-labels and is found later in attics and out-of-the-way record collections. Some of the music has been rereleased on CD, but not most. There’s a lot of vinyl in his library.

Unlike modern gospel music that sounds to me more and more like R&B, with glitz and gloss and fancy productions, the music played on Sinner’s Crossroads is down-home, deeply moving, soulful, pain-filled, joy-filled and heart-grabbing. To hear these groups and soloists sing of their belief in Jesus, their desire to be forgiven, their wish for comfort, their wish for acceptance… I cannot help but move me to dance about with joy or weep with empathy and identification, and I always sing along (either the lead or the chorus). It doesn’t matter that I don’t accept Jesus as my personal savior. In those moments, I do.

Music plays an important role in most religions. Listening to Gregorian Chant, I feel the direct connection to God. Listening to some of Bach’s liturgical music, I am moved to tears. As a nonreligious person until fairly recently, I always knew there was a power greater than myself whenever I listened to religious music of any faith.

It was music and dance that led me to my current faith — the Yoruba tradition. We, like many believers, dance and sing to the Orisas (the divinities we worship). We use music and dance to call them down to us. We use music and dance to open ourselves to messages for us individually and for our community.

I know there are lots of scientific studies about how music and dance affect us physiologically and biochemically. I don’t doubt that there are changes in our bodies and brains that occur when we sing and dance. But this information only goes to support what I and many of you already have experienced and know on a visceral and spiritual level.

This is not to minimize the power of prayer that is also effective in connecting with God and spirit. Either individually or as part of a group, the words are a powerful link. But singing and dancing, to me, is on a way more powerful level.

Before I became part of the Yoruba religion, I rarely sang (although I did dance). It was at a Bembe (singing and dancing ritual for Orisa) that I first really opened my mouth in song. I was standing next to one of my Godbrothers and just kind of humming along. He turned to me and said in a very loud voice, “Sing!” Even though I didn’t know most of the words, I sang.

I’ve been singing ever since.

I was told by a Babalawo (a high priest in the Yoruba religion) that if I ever feel depressed I should sing to the ancestors and Orisa. It was one of the most immediately effective pieces of advice I’ve ever received.

These days I sing when I feel sad and I sing when I feel happy and sometimes I just sing because it feels right. It helps me open my heart, not only on a spiritual level, but also to my fellow travelers in this life.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kalila Borghini, LCSW, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Simon

    April 30th, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Music helps beat depression sadness and loneliness If it can help a hurt soul find his way to God then even better Never does music and dancing serve a better purpose than when doing it to relate to God to connect with Him in a way we are comfortable and in a way where we are free of any stress or tension

  • Jackie Davis

    May 1st, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    It’s such a shame because I love music, but since my daughter passed away (she was 31 years old) I cry when I hear most songs.

  • richard

    April 30th, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    to me some forms of music will always be about connecting with all that is around you and with yourself…first thing that comes to my mind is reggae…the older reggae that is…there is so much meaning and life lesson in so many songs.

    would love to be able to explore more kinds of music and discover some gems from the past…will look for the podcast you have mentioned…thank you for this.

  • Gabe

    May 1st, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    Thanks for the podcast tip, gonna check this out. I have always known just how uplifting music has been in my own life. It is my stress reliever and it helps me put my own feelings and thoughts into words and movements when I can’t verbalize them all myself. I know that there is healing power in a ny music that touches your soul, such as the gospel music that you describe here touches here. There is something universal and calming with most music, and for me there is nothing else that can ever top that.

  • Harry

    May 3rd, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    Music has never quite touched me in the way that you talk about here.
    I guess maybe I haven’t found the right genre for me yet?

  • Christopher Smith

    Christopher Smith

    May 4th, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Kalila,

    This is a good exploration of this topic. Even in traditional Christian religion, music can often be misunderstood. Many hymns are in fact prayers, while others are declarations about God and the people of God gathered. The goal is to be one other form of connecting us to God and what is spiritual.

    Of course, there are religious traditions that limit the role of music (for example vocal only with no or little accompaniment) and there are even ones that exclude music. Personally, this limits what I am leaving open to allow myself to be connected spiritually.

  • Kalila Borghini

    Kalila Borghini

    May 5th, 2013 at 5:51 AM

    Thank you all for your comments. Hope I got some of you listening and expanding your selections. Even though you may cry for your losses when you listen, that’s not a bad thing but can be very cathartic and healing.

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