A Playlist for Seekers and Doubters
Music has consistently been a vehicle for my ponderings and prayers about and to the Divine, or lack thereof. These are a few songs that have stuck with me, organized by theme.
“Doubting Thomas” – Nickel Creek
The title is a dead giveaway. This plaintive tune ponders what plagues many when at the crossroads of questioning the religion one was raised in.
“Silence” – Matisyahu
I had the opportunity to see Matisyahu perform this live, and it felt like I was intruding on a deeply private moment. His voice has a tender, soft, almost boy-choir-esque tone in parts of this song, and his use of dynamics is masterful. Your soul might crack when he sings, “Bring my broken heart to an invisible king/With a hope one day you might answer me/So I pray don’t you abandon me, abandon me.”
I’ve found songs that incorporate themes from more than one faith tradition appeal to the part of me that doesn’t want to pick a team.
Just a really lovely intertwining of two sacred tunes of Christianity and Islam. I’ll never tire of hearing this version of “Ave Maria.”
“Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu/Salaam”
When I studied abroad in Jerusalem for a semester, my favorite part of Hebrew lessons was learning Israeli songs. The lyrics translate to “Peace will come to us, and everyone.” I think this is a good fit for times when you’re happy about some interfaith cooperation that you took part in or witnessed.
“Christians and Pagans” – Dar Williams
A common complaint about certain interfaith organizations and advocates is that they ignore key differences between religions, especially during the winter holidays. Dar Williams tells a lovely story of family members negotiating faith differences with grace and hospitality.
Journey and Exploration
“Lech Lecha” – Stereo Sinai
My byline here at Killing the Buddha is Potluck Pilgrim. Journeying and exploration are overarching themes in my own faith journey. “Lech Lecha” tells an important story from the Jewish tradition, but I think it has resonance for those outside that particular community as well.
“Travelin’ Thru” – Dolly Parton
No playlist is complete without Dolly’s dulcet tones. Like “Lech Lecha,” “Travelin’ Thru” is about being on a journey to find your truest self.
“One Day” – Matisyahu
My college church group got really into this song for a few years. It has a strong SBNR vibe to it–it feels religious but there’s only a brief mention of God, and most of the song is about hope for a better world. Easy to sing along to with a bunch of friends.
“It All Comes Down” – Patti Casey
A song for when you’re in an atheist/humanist kind of mood. Lovely harmonies and background vocals.
I’ve also made a Spotify playlist so you can listen at your leisure. Be sure to leave a comment if there’s a song you think I should add.
Carolyn Browender is an activist and seeker living in Washington, D.C. She was raised Lutheran by a practicing Christian mother and secular Jewish father. You can also find her on Twitter.