Last week, we heard about yet another black man killed by police. And immediately after that, we heard about another. As if that wasn’t enough, less than 24 hours later, a sniper killed five police officers who were working a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. A few weeks ago, it was a mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando that left 50 people dead. As I write this, I’m being reminded on the news that one year ago today, a gunman opened fire on military recruiting stations in Chattanooga, killing five military personnel. And before that …
It seems that our lives are punctuated by acts of violence. We are constantly asking ourselves, “How much more? How many more people have to die?” We see politicians stirring up fear and hatred. We see religious folks carrying around signs, spewing hatred at funerals, LGBTQ pride events, and even at the UUA General Assembly. Thankfully, we also see people standing in front of the protesters, dressed as angels and, in their silence, speaking loudly about love. We see a crowd of people assembled at a gay pride parade , shouting “Love, not hate,” overpowering the vile words coming out of megaphones. We see yet another group countering hate by singing hymns like Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me.
My response to the Orlando shooting ran the gamut of emotions, from raging anger to deep sadness. Though I’ve always supported the Black Lives Matter movement, I had never experienced the real import of it until I heard people trying to whitewash the LGBTQ community from our own story. For many of us, there was a feeling of overwhelming powerlessness and a strong desire to lash out at those who had hurt us; not just the shooter, but the culture and institutions that created him.
I turned, as I often do, to music. I searched out songs of peace and love on YouTube. Watching those videos and listening to the music, I found a way of dealing with all that raw emotion. And once again, I was reminded of music’s incredible power. Music speaks to us on a visceral level that words alone cannot. There are all kinds of studies, scientific and otherwise, suggesting that music, particularly singing, causes physical changes resulting in better physical and mental health. The ancient Greeks believed that listening to or playing in different modes led to behavioral patterns, an idea that is still around. For good or ill, music has been used throughout human history to rally people to a cause. Many of the great political movements in our own country have been accompanied by a soundtrack of songs, If I Had a Hammer and We Shall Overcome being just two examples.
As I listened to songs, I decided to put together a playlist that I could share and add to. The songs are in no particular order, other than the order I thought of them, and several friends have suggested additional songs. The songs cover a range of artists and genres, from the Judds to John Lennon. We have sung many of these at church, and I plan to program some of the others in the coming months. What songs speak to you about peace, love, and healing? Let’s keep adding to the list, so that the music of love overpowers the cacophony of fear and hate.
You can find the playlist at: