This week I’m taking a little different tack by spotlighting an interview with Peter Scholtes, best known as the composer of “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” Conducted by his stepdaughter Jenna, it’s a fascinating trip through his life, career as a priest in the South Side of Chicago, involvement in the civil rights movement, thoughts on Barack Obama (the interview was done before his run for president), and his thoughts on family life and other topics.
Scholtes lived long enough to see Obama exceed his expectations, as he passed away the year after Obama was elected president. But he also highlights something that is easily forgotten in the current American climate: that a good deal of the output of the “Jesus Music” era came from what we would call the “religious left”. The interview also shows Scholtes to be a more humble and self-effacing figure in the 1960’s than many of his contemporaries (and those who came after him on the Chicago scene). Although he doesn’t discuss this in his interview, Scholtes used his music to inspire people within his congregation to do better things and be better people rather than to simply spend all of their energies forcing others to change.