My favorite American composer is Aaron Copeland. To understand why some may be shocked, you need to know some things about me and some things about Aaron Copeland.
I am a Southerner by birth (or by the grace of God as some would say), a Southern Baptist, a committed evangelical, and a registered Republican voter. I believe that government regulation of the economy should be minimal. I am for a small national government, and I believe most political and social issues are best decided locally. I love the Appalachian Mountains.
Aaron Copeland was born in Brooklyn. He was Jewish. He was also Socialist in his politics and apparently a practicing homosexual who despite the era in which he lived did not seem to worry about hiding that fact. His great work (and my favorite), Appalachian Spring, is not about the Appalachian Mountains.
And he is my favorite American composer. How can that be? His music, to be overly cliché, is awesome. It moves me as no other work by an American composer has.
There are two types of people who would find it shocking that someone like me would love Aaron Copeland’s music so much. On the right, there are conservatives who demand ideological purity, and where there is not purity, they withhold approval. They have to disapprove of every aspect of another person so long as any aspect of who they are does not line up with their views.
On the left, there are those who sneer at someone like me and say, “Obviously you don’t really believe what you say you believe. If you did, you would not like Aaron Copeland.” Their statement reveals more about how they view those who disagree with them than it does about me. They, like their conservative counterparts, demand absolute purity that oddly enough may manifest itself in a COEXIST bumper sticker.
I can picture a socialist Aaron Copeland agreeing with the character in Fiddler on the Roof (the only musical I can stomach by the way) who said that everything is political. To me everything is theological. I can appreciate Aaron Copeland’s music because of the image of God.
God created Adam in His image. Though marred by sin, that image is still present in every human being. I believe that is why, as image-bearers every human being is capable of having a sense of what is moral, a sense of what is glorious, a sense of what is honorable, and a sense of what is beautiful. As an image-bearer Aaron Copeland could write beautiful music. As and image-bearer I can appreciate his music.
I am not suggesting that the image of God within each person warrants a belief in universalism or inclusivism in regards to salvation. Nor am I suggesting that Aaron Copeland was not a sinner in need of salvation through Jesus Christ. Nor am I condoning his sins.
What I am saying is that I can appreciate his music because despite whatever else his life may have been, his music reflected the beauty and majesty of God’s glory. The only reason that any us, follower of Jesus or not, can create that which is beautiful is that we are God’s image-bearers.
This belief in the image of God has two implications for followers of Jesus Christ. One is that we should learn to recognize that others are image-bearers though that image is marred within them. We should appreciate and celebrate the creation of beauty that reflects God’s glory wherever we find it. Second, Christians should live as those whom are having the image of God restored within them. In our work, creativity, and life, we should live to reflect God’s glory. We should strive for excellence in all we do for the sake of God’s glory, because more than others, we should be aware of God’s image within us.