“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me. For whoever is not against us, is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea’.” (Mark 9:38-42)
You know, I totally “get” why some people steer clear of organized religion. As a 50-something-year-old woman, I have certainly seen my fair share of hypocrisy and over-zealousness. And in more than one church. In my case, it seems to be centered on my choices of music:
The minister and his wife who visited our apartment in St. Louis when I was 14 or 15 years old, saw the posters of Kiss and REO Speedwagon on the walls of my bedroom…and came back a few days’ later with holy water to sprinkle around my room??!!? It’s a wonder I wasn’t traumatized away from any church right then and there (although I do remember refusing to go to that church again after they left…)
The Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister concert my Uncle Brian and I attended when I was 17 or 18 years old. Young Christians approached us, as we waited for my stepfather to pick us up, with pamphlets and warnings of fire and brimstone. They even questioned the hoop earrings I wore because one had a star and the other a half moon on them; they thought there was some “hidden” meaning to them. Nope. I spotted them in a booth at the local flea market one Sunday afternoon and thought they were pretty. End of story.
The uncle who had a conniption fit seeing “DOKKN” (shortened variation of DOKKEN) on my license plate because they were a metal band. He asked me what they sang and I made the mistake of listing one of their latest singles at the time, Kiss of Death. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that that was devil worship…until I calmly explained that they were terming HIV/AIDS as a “kiss of death,” a warning against promiscuity and what it could lead to (Brown, 1987; Hunt, 1988).
In later years, the minister who stated emphatically in a sermon that there was “no such thing as Christian rock”. I beg to differ. If the devil can quote Scripture to suit his needs, then surely God in His infinite wisdom and mercy can use even rock and roll to further His Kingdom.
I also “get” the excitement one feels being a Christian, especially when one first accepts Jesus as their Savior. You want to share your faith with the world, which is what we are called to do, but I am reminded of the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:2: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now.” Too often over-zealous Christians push and poke and prod because they don’t really understand that it is just that pushing, poking and prodding that often turns people away…not just from that particular congregation but from God altogether. It’s standard Psychology 101: the more you protest, the more they want it (whatever you’re deeming their vice); if you push too hard, or hold on too tightly, people sense a trap and run away. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t correct our brethren if we see them going astray; certainly the Bible tells us that is our responsibility. However, when we hammer incessantly, especially on a “new” or “young” Christian who is still finding their feet in the church about their lifestyle choices, we often close the very door we are trying to open. They’re still drinking that milk St. Paul tells us about.
And, yes, many in the rock and roll genre do glorify things like promiscuity, infidelity, drug use and alcoholism. There are many, especially in the metal arena, who flirt a little too much with the adversary when indulging in their theatrics, looking to shock and garner a bit of free publicity for themselves. I am certainly not defending their actions. And, yes, a young person, especially one with no religious background whatsoever, might be lured by the “coolness” of that theater aspect. It’s the same mindset that compels people to read thriller novels or watch horror movies. For the young, and often impressionable, that might not be a good combination. However, let’s also give kids…from 1 to 92 as the old Christmas carol says…a bit of the benefit of the doubt. For many, they’re just looking to relax, unwind and enjoy a bit of music.
I mentioned earlier about an uncle who initially freaked over a song title but calmed down and apologized when I explained what it really meant. I think that’s the key. If we’re going to pick apart every word, every movement, every nuance of entertainment, searching for the negative, we will find it. But, for the average person listening/viewing, is that what they’re getting out of it?
For me, though I’m pretty all over the place with music today (i.e. I listen to most styles of music, not just one genre), when I was a teenager, it was strictly metal (REO Speedwagon being the one exception; I was in love with Kevin Cronin…both as an artist and as a teenage girl with her first attack of hormones). I was growing up in a household with alcoholism and a stepfather who often became violent after imbibing and who wanted a bit too much to do with me, if you take my meaning. The loud, blistering guitars and earth-shaking drum sequences reflected the anger and confusion and the feelings of injustice churning inside of me. Banging my head to the music in the privacy of my own room; in the car; at a concert with friends seemed a healthier way to express that anger and confusion than acting out in some way…like hurting others, or hurting myself.
As for the lyrics, I really listened to them. I can honestly say, there were very few that I found “questionable”…even with a Christian background. And those that I did find questionable, I stopped listening to.
Despite everything that was going on in my home, I had a great-grandmother place a tiny Bible in my hand when I was born. Years later, I used to sneak into my aunt’s CCD classes to listen…because I wanted to know Him better. I remember receiving this pink rectangle of wood in CCD that had a pewter bust of Jesus mounted on it. It hung on the wall in my bedroom for years. Whenever things got really bad in our house, my 8, 9, 10 year-old self could be found kneeling before it…praying for the scariness to end, praying the only way I knew how; it’s the only thing that gave me strength to keep on keeping on. In short, I had a foundation of faith from a very young age. And I have always maintained that if my faith is so small and weak that a mere song lyric can tear it away, it wasn’t much of a faith to begin with.
Granted, there are many who do not have that foundation of faith. However, again, what are they hearing? What are they getting out of the music? Sometimes it’s not the lyrics but simply the music itself that lifts a blue mood or helps us to relax and focus on a task. And it means nothing more than that to the listener. In other words, maybe sometimes in our quest for saving souls, we take things a little too seriously. And that’s what pushes people away…instead of bringing them into the church, whatever the denomination. In short, whatever our religious beliefs, we cannot substitute our version of holiness and worship for someone else’s. Your time or method of prayer; the passages of Scripture that speak most to your heart; the religion you practice (Catholic, Baptist, Congregationalist), etc., are what work for you. They are a part of your personal relationship with Jesus. These are the paths God has led you down to worship Him. If there were any one perfect religion, then we would only ever have a Catholic church, or a Baptist church, or a Lutheran church. Not a Catholic church AND a Baptist church AND a Lutheran. We fight amongst ourselves about whose version of dogma and/or doctrine is correct and wonder, yet again, why so many turn away.
And now that I’ve had my little rant, let me get back on subject…
Music and ministry…or a rockin’ religion. Why is that a bad thing? Why would I not be able to maintain a close relationship with Jesus Christ just because Within Temptation CD’s sometimes spin in my CD player? We can substitute WT with Megadeth (Dave Mustaine’s born-again, btw!) or Ozzy Osbourne or Doro. And, these days, I’m listening more and more to some of those “no such thing” Christian rock bands: Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli, Lauren Daigle, Barlow Girl, MercyMe and Big Daddy Weave, for starters. Regardless, music lifts my soul. If the lyrics sung to it are messages of love, and especially God’s love, then I say, “Hallelujah!” If some of these artists are hitting mainstream audiences, crossing over into rock, pop and/or hip-hop genres, sharing messages of the gospel to those young ears–young ears who may never hear about Jesus from their parents, grandparents or any other traditional role model, then I say, “Amen!” They are not against Him, they are for Him. And we need the seed of hope they are planting for tomorrow.
But what a seed! By singing about Jesus, and reaching millions through the medium of rock and roll, maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring some of those young ears into the church. And guess what? Once they are there, those vices–if, indeed, rock music could really be considered one–will fall away all on their own as Jesus touches their heart and they open themselves to the Holy Spirit.
My love for rock music, even metal, has never fallen away…no matter how great my faith grows. In my youth, we really didn’t have a contemporary Christian, or Christian rock, genre. I do remember being in my early-20’s when I first heard Chritian metal artists, Stryper. I remember them being extremely talented artists but, to combine Christianity and heavy metal was unheard of before them. Instead, in those moments of scariness, when I knelt before that make-shift altar at home, and prayed, He often sent those answers to my heart in the form of a song lyric…because music always brought me joy.
I plan on having this one sung at my funeral someday. It is REO Speedwagon’s “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” They do not mention God or Jesus at all but these lyrics helped to bolster a young, impressionable girl…who believed she might be going to hell for the fornication that was never her choice at all:
Sooner or later you will find a way
To feel like sunshine, even on a cloudy day
To feel like morning in the dead of night
Sooner or later it’s gonna be all right
Now don’t go thinking your life’s a mess
Rather start thinkin’ in terms of happiness
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again
It takes time sometimes to figure out
That there’s nothing to worry about
And that there’s plenty to be thankful for
It takes time sometimes to know the score
See, everybody’s got a smile inside
So put it upon your face and wear it with pride
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again
Songwriters: Kevin Patrick Cronin
Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again lyrics © Hori Pro Entertainment Group
Sometimes that loud, blistering guitar and earth-shaking drum sequence is the only thing loud enough to shut out the pain and loneliness and confusion long enough that one can get “quiet” and listen to Him speak.
May God bless you & keep you!
Brown, C. (1987). “Kiss of Death.” Back for the Attack. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC.
Cronin, K. P. (1978). “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish. Hori Pro Entertainment Group.
Hunt, D. (1988). “Dokken & Co. Is Back for the Attack.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018 from: http://articles.latimes.com/1988-01-31/entertainment/ca-39417_1_don-dokken