A Story of Rhythm and Grace: What the Church Can Learn from Rock & Roll about Healing the Racial Divide
A rock musician turned missionary and pastor shares his stories and hope from the world of 1960s and 70s rock music and from the modern American church.
Publisher: Brazos Press
Genre: Memoir/Christian instruction
Jimi Calhoun grew up in the diverse inner-city of San Francisco during the 1950s and 60s. Through his upbringing and experience touring the United States with various rock groups during the 1960s and 70s, he experienced the best and the worst of race relations in the country. He later became a pastor and a missionary, and his eyes were opened to the same troubled relationship between races in the church. This book is his attempt to shed a light on racial disharmony in the church and present practical solutions for resolving it.
The author is an orthodox believer. He deals with the relationships between members of the church in this book. His suggestions may seem liberal or social-gospel based to more conservative believers.
There are some descriptions of violent acts of racism in this book, but nothing is depicted graphically.
Some racial slurs are alluded to, but they are always censored. The author is certainly not promoting the use of these words. He is using them as examples of the problem at hand.
Other Negative Content
Some people who are offended by or averse to rock music may object to Calhoun’s rather positive portrayal of rock music and the surrounding community.
The hope Calhoun has for change in the church is absolutely astounding. He sees a problem, and draws attention to it. Unlike other literature on the subject of racism in the church, this book is gentle in its admonition and detailed in its practical suggestions.
Jimi Calhoun begins by making the case that racism and racial discord still exist within the church. He tells stories from when he was a young man living in a diverse neighborhood, and how people of other ethnicities treated him and his family. He also gives illustrations from his time as a pastor, and how people in the church viewed him due to his skin color. Additionally, he gives more general examples of where racism is visible in our thinking today, such as neighborhood divisions and race-casting. He suggests that the very concept of race is fundamentally flawed, and ought to be cut out of the church’s thinking.
Mr. Calhoun moves on to more redemptive stories from his time as a rock-and-roll musician in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He speaks of the respect that some of the musicians he met had for people regardless of their color, and their willingness to explore different cultures and forms of music together. He also presents stories of hope that the mindset of the church is changing in this regard, and that segregation of different ethnicities will not last for too much longer. These are the stories of people who chose to stop asking which culture was better by finding the similarities between people instead of the differences. The conclusion that Calhoun ultimately comes to is that we ought to stop seeing people as the groups we lump them into and start seeing them as unique individuals.
The heart of this book is Calhoun’s personal stories. He vividly recalls his time in such diverse locales as San Francisco, Belize, and Georgia, and with such diverse characters as Dr. John, Sly Stone, Roy Hicks Jr., and Mick Jagger. He presents the stories he has heard from others with compassion and honesty. The personal style of A Story of Rhythm and Grace gives the impression that the reader is sitting down with Jimi Calhoun for a chat over coffee, listening to him pour out his heart.
The book seemed more stream-of-consciousness than intentionally structured. It was hard to distinguish any set points or particularly strong theses. This did not take away from the impact of the message, however. The issues Calhoun addresses cannot be resolved through three-point sermons and intellectual debate, but must be dealt with by the sharing of stories and compassionate listening. Therefore, it makes sense that the structure of this book is less traditional.
Reading A Story of Rhythm and Grace by Jimi Calhoun feels similar to sitting down and conversing with this musician and pastor, who is wise in the ways of the world, and hearing him express his heart. Jimi Calhoun passionately, sincerely, and hopefully tells stories in order to transform the way the church sees race, and the role that it plays in today’s American church.
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+ Honest storytelling
+ Important and hopeful perspective on a major issue in the church
- May offend readers who have an aversion to rock music and the surrounding community