Our Reply to Violence

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We have experienced some difficult days following election 2016. Violence was a part of the process, at least a violence of words. And violence takes its toll on the human spirit. The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked 892 hate groups operating in the United States. The civil rights organization has also cited over 300 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the United States since Election Day.

For me, few things have helped ease the struggle of my spirit. The one thing that has helped the most is music. I have found myself singing hymns to myself several times a day and have been comforted by the familiar melodies and sacred texts.

Music has that kind of healing power for so many people during times of trial. Protestant Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands out among the Christian leaders during the Nazi era, for he was one of the few to actively resist the racist actions of the Nazi regime. He said this about music.

Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.

In the days that followed the assassination of President Kennedy, there were many heart-wrenching musical moments, like the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony. During that dark time, music director Leonard Bernstein gave an unforgettable speech at Madison Square Garden. His remarks include these words:

This sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather it will inflame our art … This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly, than ever before.

May it be so … that music is our reply to violence.

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