A pipe organ or an electric guitar: which would you expect – or want – to hear in a church service?
This question mattered a lot to many mainline churches around the turn of the millennium, according to music scholar Deborah Justice, contributing to the so-called Worship Wars, intense aesthetic and theological controversies running through much of white Christian America.
In “(White)Washing Our Sins Away: American Mainline Churches, Music, Power, and Diversity” (SUNY Press, 2022) Justice, managing director of the Cornell Concert Series in the Department of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences, analyzes how White American mainline Protestants used the internal musical controversies of the Worship Wars to negotiate their shifting position within the nation’s diversifying religious and sociopolitical ecosystems.
Justice conducted some of the research during her dissertation fieldwork in Nashville, Tennessee, where she carried out extensive participant-observation fieldwork, singing and playing in church worship services and doing interviews. To complete the book, she expanded on this core research by conducting further research around the nation.
The project received support from the Hull Memorial Publication Fund in the College of Arts and Sciences. Justice is also the author of “Middle Eastern Music for Hammered Dulcimer” and co-author of “Klezmer for Hammered Dulcimer” (with Pete Rushefsky). She has taught at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University.