Origins of the Abraham Jam

It’s been nearly a year since this idea first started swimming around in my head, and it’s exciting to find that as of today we are only five weeks out. I expect that about five weeks from right now I’ll be at Page Auditorium at Duke University with Dawud, Dan and his band, dialing in the sound check. I’m sure looking forward to that.

It seems like hate speech among many faiths, but the Abrahamic faiths in particular, has been on the rise in the last couple of years. Between the Koran-burning preacher, the Westboro Baptists and Mel Gibson, there’s plenty of bigotry going around.  What is encouraging, though, and much less reported, is how much relationship building has happened in response to those kinds of events. Faith leaders and adherents have been awakened to the fact that we need to know each other better, and have been taking action to address that. The most effective way to oppose bigotry and hatred is not to tear down the haters and bigots, but to build community.

This concert has no more lofty goal than this—to come to know each other better, to support each other and celebrate our common humanity as children of the God that all three faiths worship. It’s easier to hate imaginary people than real ones. When we come to know each other, our common humanity stops being a laudable idea, and begins to be a simple perception.Yes, there are more complicated conversations to be had, but they will go better if we begin with the common respect and compassion that can come out of events like this.

Several Months ago I had some conversation with Duke’s Imam, Abdullah Antepli, about this idea, and he was enthusiastic about it.  Duke’s Muslim Life Center has become a central partner in the effort, and together with a great team of students we’ve begun to flesh out the vision and create the event.

This will not be a night for subtle theological discussion (as much as I love those conversations), nor will it be a pitch session, offering a smorgasbord of options to choose from, nor will it be a Gong Show, competing for a prize. It’s just a time to be together and to celebrate what we have in common.

One way that we hope to embody that unity and mutual respect, rather than just talking about it, is that we will be on stage together throughout the night — trading out songs rather than sets, and possibly even jumping in on an occasional harmony or lead.

There is so much that we share theologically, and musically as well. Of course, there are beliefs we don’t share as well, and we’re not pretending otherwise. In fact, there are many beliefs we don’t share within the faiths as well as between them. Each faith is held together, though, by the centrality and importance of the shared beliefs. The same can be said of the common space between these three faiths. We are bound by many common beliefs and a great deal of shared history and spiritual ancestry. It is appropriate to spend a night celebrating that, as family, as descendents of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, while enjoying some good music and poetry.

Thanks for being interested enough to read this far.  I hope you’ll join us on Nov. 16!  And if your organization or faith community would like to help sponsor the night, please get in touch. If you can help with publicity, I’d love to hear from you too (there are a whole bunch of posters and postcards on their way to my front door)!

Salam & Shalom,



Abraham Jam

The Abraham Jam is all about coming together. It is a collaboration between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim musicians and followers in order to celebrate our oneness and explore our diversity. We invite you to come with us on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7:30pm at the Page Auditorium, Duke University. Admission will be free so bring your friends!

We will hear music from national and international artists: Dan Nichols, Dawud Wharnsby, and David LaMotte as well as poetry from regional performance poets.

It will be a night you cannot miss!