Singing Doo Wop
The Christian as Backup Singer
A good backing singer should be experienced in harmonizing and keeping in time with both the lead vocalist and fellow backing vocalists...The backing vocals on a song can consist of anything from repeating a word, passage or chorus of the song to providing a continuing harmony in time with the lead vocalist.
-- The Vocalist, retrieved 5/10/2016:
Sometimes the best form of background singing is listening with a loving heart. You stand back and help others by hearing them into song. They sense your presence, your listening; and it empowers them to sing their blues, or their funk, or their joys. Silent listening is a form of harmony, too.
-- Jay McDaniel, Fat Soul Band
BBC on the Art of Backing Vocals
"A voice on its own was never enough for me…it took off when we all came in on the second verse…many a dreary song gets that extra lift when we all join in on the chorus.” (from the BBC audio on The Art of Backing Vocals)
Doo Wop Theology
God is a Doo Wop in the Heart
‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ (Mark 9: 35)
Backup vocalists know that music-making is not about being in the spotlight or needing to be flattered. It's about finding your voice and making music with others. Of course, if you are part of a musical group, you may need to sing lead sometimes and do backup vocals sometimes. The point is that you can also stand in the background and let someone else sing lead. Witness the Beatles the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, and CNSY. They alternated leads and backup vocals. Or, better, witness the Doo Wop artists: The Flamingos, The Drifters, The Platters, the Shirelles.
God does not seek flattery
This kind of flexibility, this willingness to be a backup singer, is part of what process theologians call relational power. They propose that even the Soul of the universe, even God, is about this kind of power. God is not dictator. God does not need to be flattered or even to be "believed in." What God needs is for us to hear the still small voice within our hearts, the indwelling call to cooperation and love, and to respond in our own way. This voice is God's voice. God is a Doo Wop in the heart.
Jesus sings backup vocals
Jesus was a window into God's power. He was a backup vocalist for the forgotten and forsaken, the marginalized and powerless. That's how he was radical in his time: a radical Palestinian Jew. He offered an alternative to the way of flattery and coercion. See Reverend Teri Daily's Why Be Christian? A Paradigm Shift from Force and Competition to Relational Power.
Christians are a people who seek to follow Jesus. Their purpose is not to have the "best religion" but rather to help the world make music. The voices of people of other faiths and no faith are among those to be empowered. If some religions offer music that is better for the world than Christianity, that is great! It is good news, not bad news, the spirit of God is found in many religions, not Christianity alone.
No need to be the "best" religion
There is no need to be Number 1 or even Number 2. In some contexts it may be best to be number 18, letting others have the limelight. See Practicing the Presence of God: Interfaith Cooperation in a Religiously Diverse World. The aim of Christianity is not to impose its will on the world. The aim of Christianity is to play a small role in helping the world make music. This music as compassionate community, with ecology added. It is the better hope of the world and the only hope...well worth enriching with backup harmonies.
Cooperation is most important form of power
Substance thinking leads to the idea that if one institution increases in power, other institutions must lose power. Process thinking argues instead that no one can have any significant power except through cooperation. Increasing the power of the agencies of cooperation increases the power of those who cooperate through them. The most important form of power is that which empowers others. A world in which that is deeply understood can be a sustainable world."
-- John Cobb, Ten Ideas for Saving the Planet
My Father who art in the Background
It is often the person who stands in the background - called the fifth business in drama - who becomes a crucial figure for change. My mother was the person who got called a saint. Yet I see my father in the Joseph role - a role of hospitality. My mother had cancer and the doctor told her not to marry. But my father was insistent - thank God - live fully now, let us marry. My house was full of aunts and uncles and cousins who came from the farm to go to school. It was the quiet patience and support of my father who made this possible. It was the thing to do, to offer hospitality that was part of his identity. His openness supported my mother’s compassion for an open house where all were welcome.
-- George Hermanson, No Need to be Center Stage: The Strength and Goodness of Joseph