Duke Ellington And Biblical Equality -- By: Douglas Groothuis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 28:2 (Spring 2014)
Article: Duke Ellington And Biblical Equality
Author: Douglas Groothuis

Duke Ellington And Biblical Equality

Douglas Groothuis

Douglas Groothuis , PhD, is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary in Colorado. He is the author most recently of Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (2011) and has published numerous articles in academic and popular journals.

It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.

—Duke Ellington

The rational case for biblical equality has been made many times by theologically conservative evangelicals in the past several decades.1 But no one quotation summarizes the essential egalitarian position better than Dorothy Sayers’s remark on how Jesus treated women:

They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized . . . who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious.2

Instead of giving yet another argument, let us consider the matter of strategy. I am both a jazz lover and evangelical egalitarian. As I was preparing a talk to the Denver chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality, it came to me that the approach to race taken by composer, big-band leader, and pianist Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974) has much to teach egalitarians on how to shape a rhetoric that fits our difficult and often vexing cause. The man who was arguably America’s greatest composer and unarguably its superlative band leader may also be a model for many of us weary of the effort to show that women are, after all, fully human—with all the gifts, responsibilities, and woes that involves. Duke Ellington, the musical hero, may be, in addition, a rhetorical hero worthy of emulation by emissaries of egalitarianism.3 The argument is one of analogy. Although Duke Ellington did not directly take up the case of women’s rights, his approach to race exhibited virtues, values, and strategies that are felicitous for contemporary egalitarians.

By “rhetoric,” I do not mean propaganda, trickery, psychological legerdemain, or emotional manipulation. I refer to the historical and classical meaning: the art of persuasion. This includes, according to Aristotle, ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos broadly takes in the character of the speaker or writer. One must establish a presence, an ...

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