By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
Recently, a friend e-mailed a link about a fun, wonderful dance routine choreographed to the music of “Rock of My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” My friend, a very committed Episcopalian, wrote in the e-mail regarding the YouTube video clip, “Pure gold for my southern gay Christian soul!”
It is gold and you don’t have to be Christian, Episcopalian, or Southern to enjoy the clip. Although as a spiritual being (even if you are an atheist), this Christian expression will resonate. It’s about liberation and empowerment while channeling and nurturing positive spiritual energy.
Two handsome gents from theatre company Theaterhaus Stuttgart in yellow shirts, bluish-purple socks, white checkered-shorts, and perfectly polished light brown shoes dance in an organic, yet disciplined manner. They are exhaustingly talented.
Why is the Theaterhaus Stuttgart interpretation of “Rock of My Soul” relevant to every LGBTQ person regardless of his or her belief? This gospel-spiritual is about love and LGBTQ justice.
In the Hebrew Scriptures the bosom of Abraham is a place of safety and comfort in a cold, harsh world where the righteous dead await judgement before joining God. Abraham was known for his love of God and for hospitality to strangers, including outcasts.
In the Gospel of Luke (16:22-23) Lazarus the beggar dies and is “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.” In contrast, the rich man dies and is buried reflecting his attachment to materialism. The unnamed rich man is forgotten. God never forgets Lazarus.
Abraham can mean heaven or a loving parental figure. Abraham’s bosom is like a parent who rocks and cradles a baby in his or her arms. It’s a place where the sick or frightened can go and be comforted.
Many years ago, I heard a recording of “Rock of My Soul.” There are many versions and interpretations of this African-gospel masterpiece.
Legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong did a great rendition. My chain-smoking Aunt Pauline and her yelping mousey dogs loved Louis. It’s probably when I first heard “Rock of My Soul” as a kid.
By the way, Aunt Pauline did impersonations of another legendary jazz musician, Cab Calloway, often without her teeth, with a “record” playing Minnie the Moocher. It was rather memorable. Her ankle-nipping dogs sang back up and walked with her as she pranced back and forth as if on stage. Surprisingly, I didn’t get frightened away from Cab and other jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater does an amazing version of “Rock of My Soul.” It encompasses the full company. Elvis Presley sang a modest, very painful version of it. Peter, Paul and Mary did a sweet rendition using this and other pieces to advance social justice through music.
The dance from the Theaterhaus Stuttgard guys is pure gold. Their movements are fun, brilliant, and their energy from dance reflect hope and connection to a higher, all-inclusive power. There is joy in seeing and experiencing the soul and spirit in a tangible way through dance.
Experience the joy in this music and dance and know you’re loved unconditionally by the Creator and there is a place waiting for you in a higher, better spiritual place.
Live your truth. Try to love your neighbor. Make an effort to be an instrument for kindness, empathy, and compassion, especially to those who would not reciprocate, and the bosom of Abraham awaits.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”