ATS Dissertations


Mark W. Lewis



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In recent decades the phenomenon of Black gospel music has diffused throughout much of Western Europe and beyond. Each year new gospel choirs are formed, attracting people of many religious and non-religious backgrounds, who in turn are impacted affectively and spiritually by the music through participation in rehearsal and performance settings. This is also the case in Denmark - a country reputed for being spiritually reserved and where church attendance is among the lowest in the Western world. Since around 1990, the proliferation of gospel choirs and music events, such as gospel festivals, gospel workshops, and gospel worship services has attracted thousands of Danes to this religious and musical expression. Often, participation in gospel choirs and events effectuates a new awareness, openness, and commitment to the re-imaged form of Christianity engendered by the music and the distinct gospel music ethos.

The reasons for gospel music's appeal to many Danes, the effects that gospel music has on participants and concertgoers, and the possibilities that the gospel music movement presents for the evangelization of the Danish unchurched and nominal church members involve several layers of understanding. One facet entails the ethno historical development of gospel music in its African-American context since it engenders themes, such as "liberation" and "good news and bad times," which have universal appeal and provide avenues for catharsis. A second aspect involves gospel music's transference to a “foreign” context, which follows distinct patterns analyzed in accordance with diffusion of innovation theory. A third layer incorporates both micro-cultural analysis of the Danish context, including it's predominate worldview and religiosity, and attention to macro-trends that are impacting the local situation. This would include focus on globalization as related to cultural diffusion, and postmodem implications for protean identity and the dissolution of met narrative. Finally, the impact and appeal of Black gospel music is ultimately understood in terms of meaning construction and identity formation theories. Ideas including the ecology of meaning, constitutive rhetoric, and experiences of the sublime provide a comprehensive picture regarding how and why gospel music participation facilitates the ongoing construction of meanings in association with the predominant Christian semiology in the music. This also includes the solidification of identity in accordance with rite of passage theory.

Drawing primarily from reflections based on a participant-observation methodology and the worldview of gospel music participants, this study presents an example of how Christianity can be re-imaged in a part of the world where historical forms of Christian contextualization ironically have served as a hindrance to vitality in faith. The gospel music movement and its unique ethos portend the emergence of a non-traditional ecclesiology, as well as changes in how the Christian message may be recontextualized by offering an energetic meeting ground where divergent identities and spiritualities converge, and where meanings are constructed.




Thesis (Ph. D.), 2008

Publication Date



George G. Hunter III


2008, Ph., D., 793282090, Gospel, Music, Denmark, Popular, African, Americans, Evangelistic, Work


Musicology | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Thesis (Ph.D.)--Asbury Theological Seminary, 2008.


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 283-307).

Call Number

ML3187 .L48 2008



The Diffusion of Black Gospel Music in Postmodern Denmark: with Implications for Evangelization, Meaning Construction, and Christian Identity